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State Sen. Donnelly Dies After 8-Month Fight With Cancer

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Sen. Kenneth Donnelly of Arlington, a former firefighter elected to the Senate in 2008, died Sunday after an eight-month battle with a brain tumor, according to his Senate office. He was 66.

A Democrat and the Senate's assistant majority leader, Donnelly represented Woburn, Arlington, Billerica, Burlington and Lexington in the Senate's fourth Middlesex seat.

Last summer on the final night of formal sessions for the Legislature for the year, Donnelly was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital after "experiencing difficulties."

Two days later, the longtime Lexington firefighter underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. He was released from Mass. General on Aug. 4.

Donnelly went on to win re-election in November, and at the beginning of the year took the oath of office to begin his fifth term in the Senate.

"Absolutely devestated to hear about the passing of my friend Ken. He was a great man, a great friend, and he will be missed," Rep. Marc Lombardo, a Republican who represented Billerica with Donnelly on Beacon Hill, wrote on Twitter Sunday night.

Donnelly was born in Cambridge and moved to Arlington at age 7, where he attended public schools and later started a family with his wife Judy, according to his campaign biography. Donnelly worked for 37 years in the Lexington Fire Department and first joined the Senate in 2009.

On Beacon Hill, Donnelly worked on municipal health and pension reform, and recently had promoted legislation boosting the state minimum wage and improving the mental health care system. As recently as Thursday, Donnelly had an op-ed on the state's mental health system published in the Boston Globe.

Donnelly leaves his wife of 43 years, Judy, his children Ryan, Keith, and Brenna; and his five grandchildren. Details on wake and funeral arrangements will be announced when they become available, his office said.

With reporting by the State House News Service's Matt Murphy

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