State flags will fly at half-staff Wednesday in honor of Representative Carl Gatto of Palmer, who died today (Tuesday) at the age of 74.
Casey Kelly has more.
According to his biography on the Legislature’s website, Gatto was born in New York City on December 29, 1937. He moved to Alaska in 1968, and was a career paramedic and firefighter with the Anchorage Fire Department.
A visibly shaken Representative Bill Stoltze announced his death on the floor of the Alaska House.
“It’s with a great deal of sadness that inform the members of this body, the people of the valley, and the people of Alaska, that our friend and colleague Carl Gatto – Representative Gatto as I want to remember him – passed away about an hour ago,” said Stoltze.
A Republican, Gatto was first elected to the House in 2002 and served five terms representing his Mat-Su Valley district. He chaired several committees, most recently House Judiciary.
Gatto was battling prostate cancer this session, and was often absent from the Capitol while receiving treatments. He suffered kidney failure last week.
Stoltze said Gatto leaned heavily on spirituality and family in his final days.
“Our sympathies to his wife Cathy, who I’m so grateful he got spend his last days with,” Stoltze said.
Gatto also is survived by two daughters and two sons.
In what amounted to a farewell speech on the House floor just a week before he died, Gatto thanked his colleagues for their support during his illness.
“People would send cards,” he said. “Cards after cards after cards, and some of them, I said, ‘Who the heck is this?’ And when I got the bottom of the card, it said, ‘Alaska Democratic Party!’ I said, well, ‘If you can go there, they must be real, and honest.’ So, I want to thank you enough, and thank each and every one of you with a special thanks.”
Governor Sean Parnell released a statement saying, “Alaska has lost a great public servant who will be remembered for his wit and wisdom, his commitment to education and veterans’ issues, and his unwavering support for the people of the Mat-Su.”
Parnell ordered flags lowered to half-staff today. They will be raised to full staff on Thursday.