State Sen. Gary Kubly, a Lutheran minister who served in the Minnesota House and Senate for 16 years, has died after a battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 68.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk sent a note Saturday informing lawmakers of Kubly's death Friday. Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, had been hospitalized at a St. Paul hospital since Wednesday after suffering cardiac-like symptoms.
Bakk spokesman Amos Briggs said the senator learned of his colleague's death from Kubly's family, who authorized the note before it was released.
In it, Bakk described Kubly as caring person and skilled legislator who served with dignity and respect.
"He worked hard. He was honest. He shared credit even when he was the one who did the heavy lifting," Bakk wrote. "To Gary Kubly, it simply did not matter where you came from, only where you ended up."
Kubly served three terms in the House, starting in 1996. He then switched to the state Senate in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
He was diagnosed last year with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- ALS -- a neurological disorder that kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Kubly began to use a walker, and as his voice weakened he began using an iPad to communicate.
Gov. Mark Dayton extended his condolences to Kubly's wife and three children.
"Gary was a dedicated public servant and an outstanding leader," Dayton said in a statement. "He lived his life with quiet strength and principled dignity, as evidenced by the remarkable courage with which he faced his final illness. He is an inspiration to all of us, who knew and worked with him."
Kubly grew up on an Iowa farm and served in the Air Force, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. He met his future wife, Pat, while they were teaching in Texas.
The couple moved to Minnesota, where Gary Kubly attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul. He served as pastor at two churches in his rural district, ending his full-time pastor job when he won his House race.
"The original reason he ran for office was to keep rural issues on the front burner," Pat Kubly told the Star Tribune in January. "His initial area of concern were the large, industrial feedlots in Renville County."
He worked on legislation that involving feedlot safety and odor problems, and also worked to ensure tax burdens didn't fall disproportionately on rural communities, she said.
"He's always said his favorite part of the job is solving problems for his constituents," his wife said.
Two months ago, a reporter asked Kubly what he was most proud of during his time in the Legislature.
"The work I have done to reach out to both sides," he replied. "You treat people with respect because you might need them later."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)