Edith Prague, lawmaker and commissioner, dies at 96

Edith Prague

Edith G. Prague of Columbia, a fierce and fierce advocate for older Americans and low-wage workers for more than 30 years as a member of the Connecticut House and Senate and twice as state commissioner in aging, died Thursday. She was 96 years old.

His death was announced by the Senate Majority Office.

Prague didn’t go easy, anywhere. She lived the poetry of Dylan Thomas, his belief that “old age should burn and rave at the end of the day”. She fought governors, fellow legislators and, more consistently, the notion of retirement, a status that was ultimately thrust upon her by a confluence of strokes and family and doctor worries.

“My only choice is to retire or die. I have to retire. Believe me, I don’t like it. It’s my baby – this department”, Prague said The Day of New London when she left the state as an 88-year-old commissioner for aging in 2014. “A lot of people are looking forward to retirement, but I’m not one of them.”

Prague was 86 and the oldest member of the General Assembly when she announced she would not seek re-election in 2012, a year in which she played a visible role in the abolition of the penalty. of death and has taken the lead in a bill of collective bargaining rights to certain home care workers and child care providers.

“I left here with emotion that night,” Prague said, referring to the collective bargaining bill. “All these workers were partying, cheering in the hallways. It doesn’t get any better than that.

As co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, she led the six-hour debate. She stood exhausted that night, waiting her turn outside the Capitol’s main gate, saying it was one of her proudest moments in General Assembly.

The previous Christmas, she had had the first of her small strokes. Her only visible concession was that she stopped traveling to the Capitol from her home in eastern Connecticut and missed late-night votes.

His opinions came unvarnished. She once suggested that a murderer and rapist accused in the invasion of the Cheshire home of Dr William Petit’s wife and two daughters be hanged from a tree by some part of his anatomy. His comments prompted a request for a mistrial, which was denied.

She was one of two senators who reversed their position and backed out of voting to repeal the death penalty after emotional encounters with Petit. She said she couldn’t vote while the Cheshire case was pending.

“In fact, I believe in the repeal of the death penalty,” Prague said at the time. “For Dr. Petit, for me to do one more thing to cause him some kind of anguish, I can’t do it.”

But, eventually, she will pass a bill that abolishes the death penalty for future crimes. The state Supreme Court later struck down the portion of the law that left 11 men on death row, including the two men convicted in the Petit case.

Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz and Senate leaders praised Prague on Thursday and expressed their condolences.

“To say that Edith Prague was energetic, determined, principled and loyal would be a grave understatement,” Senate Speaker Pro Tem Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said in a statement. joint.

“Edith Prague was a treasure of state, she was a staunch activist for workers and seniors, and the positive impact of the public policies Edith championed and enacted will be felt in Connecticut for decades,” said said Senator Cathy. Osten, D-Sprague, who succeeded him.

State Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, who served with her in the Senate, said her friend “was tender and kind. But when it hit one of her favorite subjects, she became a pit bull.

Prague was a member of the House of Representatives for eight years when Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. hired her in 1991 to be Commissioner of Aging. He fired her in 1992 when she refused to cut her budget and fold the agency into a larger department during a budget crisis.

She was elected to the Senate from the 19th District in 1994, knocking out an incumbent for the first time in a Democratic primary. In 2008 and 2010, she was supported by the Working Families Party. She did not leave the Senate until the Department of Aging was reinstated under the administration of Governor Dannel P. Malloy.

Prague applied for the position and served until his health deteriorated.

McDonald said Prague’s passion never waned, nor did his disdain for retirement. In June, he took her to visit the rose garden in Elizabeth Park. She was in a wheelchair, but her conversation was lively, her interest in public affairs lively.

But he recalled his scowl when asked to enjoy his retirement.

“Andrew, I hate retirement,” she said. “I wish I had never retired.”

Berta D. Wells