MARSHALL - Gary Kubly, who worked tirelessly and quietly as a compassionate voice for rural Minnesota issues in both the House and Senate during his political career, died Friday at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, a message sent to legislators Saturday said.
He was 68.
Kubly suffered from cardiac-like symptoms Wednesday morning and was taken to Regions. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (neurological amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2010.
"That's a terrible disease," said former state DFL Sen. Jim Vickerman of Tracy, who shared an apartment during session with Kubly in the Cities when both were serving. "It's a disease I don't want anybody to have to put up with. Gary was a good guy; I knew him very well. He will be missed. I thought maybe by some miracle he could pull ahead, but he's one of those people who will move on to a better place."
The Minnesota Farmers Union announced Kubly's death Saturday and released a statement saying it was saddened by the news. "He always fought hard for rural Minnesota and will be missed," the statement read. "Sympathy to his family."
Kubly lived in Granite Falls and served Senate District 20. He was elected to the senate seat in 2002. He was elected to the House in 1996 and was re-elected in 1998 and 2000 before making the move to the Senate. He was a ranking minority member of the Agriculture and Rural Economies Committee and was a member of the Capital Investment and Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committees.
"He knew how to put politics aside and he did what's good for veterans and good for agriculture," said Vickerman.
Kubly hadn't planned on seeking re-election this year.
Kubly's faith played a large role in his life. He served as a Lutheran pastor at two churches in his district before he first won office in 1996.
"One time when we opened up session, he spoke at the St. Paul Cathedral and gave a sermon there," Vickerman said. "We used him a lot in the Senate when we needed a chaplain to speak."
Vickerman said Kubly was one of the rare politicians who had a knack of getting along with just about everyone, despite what side of the political aisle they sat on.
"Gary got along with everybody, as far as I know, and that was a plus," Vickerman said. "That's pretty hard to do. I prayed for him a lot when I first learned he was in bad shape a while back; he wanted us to pray for him and we did. He'll be remembered for all the good things that he did. I don't think he did a bad thing that I know of."
District 20B Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, said he first got to know Kubly as chairman of the Chippewa County DFL.
"On a personal basis, I considered him a real friend," said Koenen. "This is a big loss. He was a great voice for rural Minnesota and was the type of person who did what he said he would do - you could count on him. He was genuine and honest and I think most people could sense that."
Koenen said as a candidate, Kubly was full of effort and never took his job half-heartedly.
"At one point he had talked to his colleagues in the DFL caucus about resigning, and it was unanimous that no one wanted him to resign," Koenen said. "Even last year and this year as his health continued to decline, he always put everything he could into the job."
"Senator Kubly was a man who embodied every ideal as a person and in public service," Sen. Thomas Bakk said in a statement. "He worked hard. He was honest. He shared credit even when he was the one who did the heavy lifting. To Gary Kubly, it simply did not matter where you came from, only where you ended up. He got a lot of things done that way, and everyone in Minnesota is better for it. I had the honor of serving with Senator Kubly in both the Minnesota House and Senate. As a Lutheran minister, he often led the Senate in our opening prayer, and I will always remember his inspiring messages. But Senator Kubly didn't just talk about cooperation and respect for all people. He lived it."
Services for Kubly will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Granite Falls Lutheran Church.