Christine Stuart file photo
Rep. Betty Boukus after the Nov 15 Bond Commission meeting (Christine Stuart file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — A veteran lawmaker, who was remembered by her colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a friend and dedicated public servant, died Friday morning.

State Rep. Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Boukus, D-Plainville, 73, who recently lost her re-election bid to William A. Petit Jr., was remembered by her colleagues as someone who fought selflessly for the best interest of her constituents.

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said she “was the sweetest, most caring person you will ever meet in public service. She was the epitome of what the public expects from public servant.”

News of her sudden death spread quickly through the halls of the state Capitol.

Boukus had been battling cancer for some time, but her sudden death caught everyone by surprise.

A tireless public servant, Boukus always approached her work “with a smile on her face and a clever comment up her sleeve,” according to Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin.

Aresimowicz said Boukus’ “personality could fill an entire room.”

Sharkey said her experience and knowledge as a lawmaker were invaluable “but having her as a friend was the true gift.”

He said she was “the rare person who knew the importance of giving back to society more than one takes from it.”

She approached her job with kindness, but Sharkey said, “at the same time she was tough as nails.” He said she never took any grief from anyone and people always knew where she was coming from in her approach to the job. She was always thinking about what she could do for others.

Boukus, who was the bonding subcommittee co-chair, was given a living tribute last month at what was to be her last Bond Commission meeting.

Boukus, who had came down with pneumonia on the campaign trail earlier this year, was told by Rep. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, that even when it would have been okay to take a break, “you never did phone it in.” Boukus had been quietly fighting cancer on and off for years, but never let her health interfere with her work or her cheerful disposition.

As bonding subcommittee co-chair, Boukus visited almost every site in the state that received bond funds. Often accompanying her on those visits was Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, who remembered those trips as Thelma and Louise driving around the state in Boukus’ “smoking hot” red convertible.

Boukus, who was known for interrupting Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, chairman of the state Bond Commission, called the governor a “visionary” on Nov. 15 at the last Bond Commission meeting.

“It was an honor and privilege to serve with so many of you,” Boukus told the members of the Bond Commission. “… I have absolutely loved working with you.”

Malloy remembered Boukus fondly on Friday.

“With every meeting of any committee that she attended, she brought the ray of sunshine into the room, even on the gloomiest of days,” Malloy said. “The State of Connecticut has lost one of its most vociferous advocates and honorable public servants, and we are all deeply saddened by her loss. On behalf of the people of our state, I would like Betty’s family to know how much we appreciated her spirit, her generosity, her character, and her service. She will truly be missed.”

Malloy ordered the Connecticut flag to be flown at half staff until sunset on the date of her interment, which has yet to be determined.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman thanked Boukus’ family for sharing her with them.

“My thoughts are with Betty’s husband, Gary, her children, and grandchildren,” Wyman said. “I want to thank them and her entire family for sharing her with her Capitol family. She did lasting good work for Connecticut.”

Boukus served on the Plainville Town Council as both the vice-chair and chairwoman before being elected to the House of Representatives.

For more than a decade she organized the annual State Capitol Secret Santa Collection for the Rocky Hill Veterans Home and Hospital.