Former Sen. Kay Hagan, famous for becoming North Carolina’s first Democratic female senator, was unexpectedly found dead at her home on Monday at the age of 66.
Her death came after a lengthy battle with encephalitis caused by the rare tick-borne Powassan virus. She was first hospitalized with encephalitis, a complication of the virus that causes swelling of the brain, in 2016.
Hagan’s family announced in 2017 that Hagan’s recovery was slow, but she had improved significantly since her diagnosis in 2016, and was even able to make a public appearance earlier this year for the groundbreaking of a control tower at the Greensboro airport she had secured funding for while in office.
Her family issued a statement announcing her sudden death on Monday.
“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning. Kay meant everything to us, and we were honored to share her with the people of North Carolina whom she cared for and fought for so passionately as an elected official. Most of all, we already miss her humor and spirit as the hub of our family, a role she loved more than anything. Nobody could light up a room and make people feel welcome like Kay.”
Former Sen. Hagan served the state of North Carolina from 2008 until 2014, when she lost the seat to Republican Thom Tillis.
Tillis tweeted in response to the news, “Susan and I are absolutely heartbroken by Senator Kay Hagan’s sudden passing and extend our condolences and prayers to her loving family and many friends.
“We join all North Carolinians in remembering her dedicated and distinguished record of public service to our state & nation.”