Former CT state Sen. Edith Prague dies at age 96

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State Sen. Edith Prague, a Columbia Democrat, is show at the opening day of the Senate in February, 2012. She had died at age 96.

State Sen. Edith Prague, a Columbia Democrat, is show at the opening day of the Senate in February, 2012. She had died at age 96.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

HARTFORD — Edith Prague, a former veteran state lawmaker from eastern Connecticut who twice served as commissioner of the state Department of Aging, has died at age 96, officials said.

A reliable liberal who was the co-chairwoman of the legislative Labor Committee, Prague, from the town of Columbia, served in the Senate from 1995 until 2013, following four terms in the state House of Representatives.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and former colleague Edith Prague,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said in a joint statement with Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, of Norwalk.

“To say that Edith Prague was energetic, determined, principled and loyal would be a grave understatement,” Duff and Looney said. “During her time in the General Assembly, she was a relentless fighter in her advocacy for workers, for the elderly, and for her constituents. If you found yourself allied with her on an issue of passion, you were in luck. If you were on the opposite side of her, you knew you were in for a battle. But along with her passion was a profound empathy and a deep respect for others.”

Duff and Looney said Prague “often served as a guiding light and voice of conscience for the Senate Democratic caucus.”

“Edith Prague was a state treasure, she was a faithful crusader for working people and the elderly, and the positive impact of the public policies that Edith championed and passed into law will be felt in Connecticut for decades to come," said state Sen. Cathy Osten, who now represents that district.

Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, remembers assisting Prague in the 1994 primary campaign that vaulted her to the Senate, where she often teamed up with the late Sen. Edwin A. Gomes, of Bridgeport, a retired steelworker union representative, in pursuing progressive legislation.

“Edith definitely made a difference and didn’t care what anyone thought about her,” Swan said Thursday. She drove so many people bonkers, it was beautiful. I loved Edith. She was true champion for working folks, and she and Ed Gomes were quite the tag team.”

“Edith Prague is the jewel of eastern Connecticut,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a noontime statement. “She is a legend, whose feisty and caring personality will never be forgotten. She was as compassionate as she was bold, and through her entire life had an energy that was nothing short of infectious.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who served with Prague in the legislature, remembered her as a “powerful voice for workers,” who continued to support workers on picket lines into her 90s. “As commissioner of the Department on Aging, she was unafraid to speak truth to power, no matter the consequences. Simply put, she was a model public servant.”

According to Ballotpedia, Prague graduated with an education degree in 1965 from from Eastern Connecticut State University in 1965 and earned a master’s in social work from UConn 10 years later. Prior to her election to the state House of Representatives in 1982, she served on the Columbia school board.

She was widowed and had four children.

Prague’s predominantly rural senate district included the towns of Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague. Prague suffered a stroke in late 2011, but returned to the Senate in time for the start of the 2012 legislative session.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT