Edith Prague, the longtime Democratic Party lawmaker and advocate for the elderly from Columbia, died Wednesday at age 96, leaving behind her a legacy of public service in elected and appointed offices, education, and social work.
An official with the Senate Democrats confirmed Prague’s death today, and immediately legislators began offering condolences and accolades for her years of dedicated service.
“Edith Prague was a dear friend of mine for nearly 40 years and I will miss her greatly,” Senate President Martin Looney said. “To say that Edith was principled and determined, loyal and energetic, would be a grave understatement. She was really just a powerhouse in so many ways. A very strong advocate for the elderly and for labor.”
Looney also described Prague as “wonderfully hard working” and “very kind.”
Prague finished up her career in her second stint as commissioner of the state Department on Aging in 2014 at the age of 88 following a stroke in February of that year that left her hospitalized for three weeks.
She told the Courant in June 2014 that she was reluctant to retire but was unable to go back to work on a full-time basis.
“My only choice is to retire or drop dead. I have to retire,” Prague told the paper. “Believe me, I don’t like it. That’s my baby – that department … Lots of people look forward to retirement, but I’m not one of them.”
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill shared a district with Prague during their time in the General Assembly. She said Prague was a “fierce advocate” for those she believed were being mistreated and called her a powerhouse in eastern Connecticut.
“To say that Edith was ambitious, steadfast, and a force to be reckoned with would be a massive understatement,” Merrill said in a statement from her office.
“She never, ever backed down,” Merrill said. “I will miss her charisma and fearlessness. I grieve with her family and all who knew her. Her legacy as a zealous advocate will live on through the countless lives she impacted.”
Prague served as commissioner of the Department on Aging for two different governors. She served as the state Senator for District 19 from 1995 to 2013 and during that period rose to Assistant President Pro Tempore. She was a state Representative from 1982 to 1990.
Gov. Ned Lamont also lauded Prague and said she’d never be forgotten.
“Edith Prague is the jewel of eastern Connecticut. She is a legend, whose feisty and caring personality will never be forgotten,” Lamont said in a statement from his office. “She was as compassionate as she was bold, and through her entire life had an energy that was nothing short of infectious. Edith absolutely left her mark on Connecticut. I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends. She will be missed.”
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said Prague was never afraid to speak truth to powerful people and institutions.
“Edith was a fierce and outspoken advocate for seniors during her time as state senator,” Bysiewicz said in a statement from her office. “During her decades in government, she was a powerful voice for workers – walking 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. David and I offer our sincere condolences to her friends and family.”
Before her service in the General Assembly, Prague had worked as a licensed certified health insurance consultant, a teacher a two different schools including a stint as an interim administrative assistant at one of them, a Medical Social Worker for Natchaug Valley Community Health Agency, and also as a columnist for the Medicare Mailbox newspaper.
Outgoing Comptroller Kevin Lembo said Prague was a “one-of-a-kind figure” in Connecticut government.
“During her decades of public service, she displayed a ferocious dedication to her constituents that made her a legend in eastern Connecticut and a profoundly successful lawmaker.” Lembo said. “The impact of her good work in the legislature and the executive branch will live on long into the future. I extend my condolences to her family and my gratitude for all that she gave to our state.”
Attorney General William Tong said Prague was a “tenacious advocate” for seniors and workers as well as a “trailblazing and fearless” progressive.
“She had a direct line to this office, and never hesitated to pick up the phone and demand help for her constituents,” Tong said in a statement. “Connecticut seniors will benefit for generations to come from her legislative leadership. Sen. Prague was always generous and kind to me, especially when I was a new legislator so many years ago. I wish her family peace during this difficult time.”
Prague also served on the Columbia Board of Education from 1977 to 1982.
More on Edith Prague
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed Monday to remove the cap on a rental assistance program for elderly or disabled residents and to allow new participants into the program for the first time since last year. The Connecticut Elderly Renters’ Rebate Program partially reimburses low-income senior citizens and disabled citizens for rental payments. Top reimbursement rates…
Lawmakers on the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee highlighted former Sen. Edith Prague’s reputation as an advocate for Connecticut’s seniors during her Tuesday confirmation hearing. Prague, an 87-year-old Democrat from Columbia, was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s pick to head the state Aging Department. She served in the position almost 20 years ago under former Gov.…
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated former Sen. Edith Prague on Thursday to a position she held nearly 20 years ago — Aging Department Commissioner. The State Department on Aging was disbanded by former Gov. Lowell Weicker and re-established by Malloy and the legislature in January. Prague will take over as head of the new agency…
With 80 million baby boomers set to retire over the next few decades, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and state Sen. Edith Prague are backing a bill that would incentivize the purchase of long-term care insurance. The two held a press conference Friday to discuss a bill Courtney has proposed that would establish a tax deduction…
A bill to repeal the death penalty wasn’t among the concepts the Judiciary Committee raised Friday but committee members say it’s something the committee will address this session. If they do, it’s going to a tight vote in the Senate. “The bill will be raised and I think it will be a very close vote…
A month after suffering a minor stroke on Christmas, Sen. Edith Prague was back at the state Capitol Friday in good health and telling reporters she’d be running for re-election. Following a press conference, Prague told reporters her daughter noticed the stroke symptoms. “On Christmas day my daughter came over and noticed that the left…
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a controversial piece of legislation last week mandating some companies to offer paid sick leave to their employees, securing Connecticut a place in the history of workers’ rights. The battle was a long one, but Malloy used his political capital to guarantee its passage. Opponents said the new law sends…
Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, told NBC Connecticut on Thursday that she has no regrets regarding her statement this week that she’d like to see accused Cheshire murder suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky hung by his “penis” from a tree without a trial. Komisarjevsky’s lawyers have since condemned Prague’s comment and asked to delay the trial three months…
(UPDATED 9:25 p.m.) A bill to prospectively abolish the death penalty will not be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote this session, Senate President Pro Tem Don Williams said late Wednesday evening. “We have a very diverse caucus and diverse opinions on the death penalty,” he explained. “There’s not the support…