PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Former state Sen. William Walaska, a Democrat who represented Warwick in the General Assembly for more than 20 years, has died. He was 71.
Walaska died Monday morning after an extended battle against cancer, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said.
“As a legislator for more than two decades, Bill advocated tirelessly for people in Warwick and throughout Rhode Island,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “We will always remember Bill’s decency and his love and commitment to serving our state and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill’s wife Marsha, children Leslie, Ann Marie and William Jr., and all of Bill’s family and friends.”
Ruggerio described himself as “deeply saddened” by Walaska’s passing.
“His impact on public policy will benefit Rhode Islanders for many generations to come, particularly in the areas of environmental protection, port development, and improving our economy,” Ruggerio said. “His personal story helped to change the law last year to ensure individuals facing terminal illness can try medications for off-label purposes.”
“All of us in the Senate will miss his warm smile, his sharp wit and, most of all, his friendship,” he added.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced but will be handled by Quinn Funeral Home in Warwick, a Senate spokesman said.
Walaska was first elected to the Senate in 1994. He ran unsuccessfully for re-election last year, losing the Democratic primary to progressive challenger Jeanine Calkin, who went on the win the general election and is now serving in his old Senate seat.
Walaska attended Providence College and LaSalle Academy, and also served in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He was president and CEO of Tri-State Automotive Warehouse, an auto parts business.
Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, who served with Walaska throughout his time in the chamber, paid tribute on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10208216958490141&set=a.1350660775062.2042396.1487656931&type=3&theaterTed Nesi (email@example.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram