Former legislator and St. Cloud community leader Larry Haws died today, according to his daughter, Kelly Haws. He was 72.
Haws was diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2011. His daughter said he "fought a great battle" before slipping into a coma Tuesday.
Haws worked in the St. Cloud Parks and Recreation Department for more than three decades. He served seven years on the Stearns County Board and was an avid coach for youth sports.
Haws was elected to represent St. Cloud in the state Legislature in 2005, where he concentrated on veterans and youth issues.
St. Cloud Rep Steve Gottwalt served with Haws at the Legislature for four years.
"Larry was passionate for our community, he was passionate for youth, he was passionate for vulnerable and veterans," Gottwalt said. "And we didn't always agree, Larry was a Democrat and I'm a Republican, but Larry knew how to put that aside in the best interests of our community and he always did a fantastic job."
Gottwalt said that Haws was always very generous with both his "wisdom and his wit."
"Larry was a clear example of someone who took his life and made it mean something for other people, especially for people in need," Gottwalt said. "I have nothing but respect for his life's work and, again, am just so deeply saddened that he's gone."
In his May 2010 retirement speech from the Legislature, Haws reinforced his commitment to social justice and demonstrated his characteristic sense of humor.
"Everybody in St. Cloud knows me," Haws told his legislative colleagues. "They either love me or hate me. And the ones that love me are right, and the ones that hate me should try to get over it."
Haws is survived by his wife, Faye, four children and eight grandchildren. The family is planning a celebration of his life in St. Cloud, although a date hasn't yet been set.