GRAY — Eight months after he announced he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer, and three weeks after he resigned from the Legislature, former state Rep. Dale Denno died Tuesday night.
Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, announced Denno’s death Wednesday morning. The House District 45 Democrat had vowed last summer to fight the disease as he ran for, and won, a second term in Augusta.
“He continued to work as hard for his constituents as he was able to, and when he felt he couldn’t do that to his own satisfaction, he chose to focus solely on his health and family,” Gideon said. “It was extremely difficult to say goodbye to him, but we are so grateful he made that decision and that he was surrounded by those he loved and who loved him most during these days.”
Denno, 68, on March 26 announced his resignation from the House, saying it was “no longer realistic for me to continue in my current role as state representative, and I want only the best representation for the people.”
A special election to fill his seat is scheduled for June 11.
First elected in 2016, the Cumberland-Gray representative had no plans to slow down after his diagnosis and start of treatment. He said he had “strong energy and good spirits.”
Last month, he called being a state representative one of the greatest honors of his life.
“I will always be grateful to my friends and colleagues in the Legislature, and especially the folks in Cumberland and Gray, for placing their confidence in me and offering me nothing but best wishes in good times and bad,” Denno said.
Gov. Janet Mills paid tribute to Denno in a statement Wednesday.
“He served his constituents with honor and distinction, fighting every day in the State House to improve their lives and build a better, brighter future for our state,” Mills said. “While we have lost a cherished friend, we undoubtedly are better off because of Dale’s dedicated service, and we remain forever grateful for his contributions to our state.”
House Majority Leader Matt Moonen, D-Portland, and Assistant House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, in a statement, cited Denno’s many contributions.
“The Honorable Dale Denno made innumerable contributions to his community and to our state during his time in the Legislature, serving at the Department of Health and Human Services, teaching at St. Joseph’s College, managing the Preble Street Soup Kitchen and in so many other roles,” they said.
“But personally, what we will always remember about Dale was the kind of colleague he was. Dale’s wit was unparalleled,” Moonen and Fecteau said. “Whether in caucus or in committee he could always lighten the mood with a smart and funny quip that also enhanced the conversation. Dale was kind and giving. Other legislators always knew they could go to Dale for help, advice and honest feedback. Dale created an atmosphere of which we all wanted to be a part. He would bake for us, he would make us laugh and he made us proud to serve beside him. He will be so missed by all of us in his legislative family.”
Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.