Rep. Elaine O’Brien, D-Suffield, died Friday morning after a long struggle with brain cancer. She was 58 years old.
O’Brien, who also was Suffield’s town clerk, was first elected to represent her town and parts of Granby and Windsor in the General Assembly in 2010. She had been active in local politics since 1991. As a lawmaker she served on the Appropriations, Commerce, and Transportation committees.
O’Brien was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012.
“Throughout her illness, she remained focused on the people of her district. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and constituents at this difficult time,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a press release. On Friday, Malloy directed the state’s flags to half-staff in O’Brien’s honor.
In a message posted on the House Democrats’ website, Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, said he had recently visited O’Brien while she was being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Hebrew Health Care in West Hartford.
“Elaine never once talked about herself. She only wanted to know how others were doing, and to discuss issues at the Capitol and in her District. She was so brave, driven and optimistic. During her last few weeks, Elaine kept saying how lucky she was, to have such a supportive family and so many friends. She cherished her very large family and her many friends. She missed being at the Capitol and at work. And especially to her constituents and friends in Windsor, Elaine never stopped thinking about you,” Baram wrote.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey also described O’Brien as a friend with a great sense of humor.
“Our condolences go out to her husband Justin [Donnelly], her children, and her entire family,” Sharkey wrote.
O’Brien’s House seat will need to be filled through a special election. The date of that election will depend upon when the governor issues a writ of election after he is officially notified of the vacancy by the Secretary of the State. The election will take place within 46 days of that declaration.
The last time a sitting lawmaker died while in office was in 2009.