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.
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