David Tomassoni, the former Iron Range lawmaker who was diagnosed with ALS last year, has died at the age of 69.
His death was confirmed Friday morning, coming a little over a year after he revealed he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
There is no known cure for ALS, which is a progressive, neurodegenerative illness that affects muscle control. Those with the disease may eventually lose the ability to even speak or breathe.
Tomassoni announced earlier this year he would be retiring from Senate District 6, covering much of Minnesota's Iron Range, including Hibbing, Virginia, Eveleth, and his home of Chisholm, and he was given a standing ovation by lawmakers when he bid farewell to the Senate in May, speaking with the aid of a computer.
Prior to leaving the Legislature, he helped draft and pass a bill committing $25 million to fund research into ALS.
Tomassoni has served as a state senator for 22 years. He was elected to Minnesota State Senate District 5 in 2000, and continued to win the seat when it shifted to Minnesota State Senate District 6 for the 2012 election. Prior to that, he spent four legislative sessions as state representative for District 05B, winning his first state legislative race in 1992.
At the time of his death, Tomassoni was serving as an independent, having left the DFL to form an independent caucus with fellow Iron Ranger Tom Bakk.
Even in the weeks before his death, which he spent at a hospice in Duluth, the Pioneer Press reports that Tomassoni was keeping up to date with the happenings in the Minnesota Legislature and in Congress.
News of his death is prompting tributes from both sides of the aisle.
Former DFL Sen. Erik Simonson tweeted: "Rest In Peace my friend. You never once slowed down in your advocacy and effectiveness as a public servant. Your work will be forever a part of history, and you will be missed."