State Rep. Donatucci Dies Suddenly

State Rep. Robert Donatucci, a member of the General Assembly since 1980, died overnight, apparently from sleep apnea.  Donatucci, 58, was a graduate of Bishop Neumann High School and Temple University.  He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Donatucci's brother, Philadelphia Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, said his younger brother was content to be the lesser known politician in the family, working consistently for his district without raising a fuss.  "He never wanted to be in the limelight," Donatucci said. "I guess we complimented each other that way."

The legislator was diagnosed with sleep apnea at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in August, Donatucci said, and that appears to have contributed to his death overnight.  Donatucci said his brother, as chairman of the state House Committee on Liquor Control, was preparing for hearings anticipated next year on Governor-elect Tom Corbett's proposal to sell the state store system.

"He was gearing up for a fight," Donatucci said. "That's what he was into. That was his love. He was just an old-fashioned politician."

Gov. Rendell this morning ordered flags to fly at half-staff at the state capital in Harrisburg and in Donatucci's district.

"Rep. Donatucci was a gentleman -- and a gentle man -- who devoted his life to his family and public service," Rendell said. "He was a loyal Democrat who also understood that to govern is to compromise. He will be remembered for his ability to reach across the aisle to form consensus in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians."

Lynn Benka-Davies, a top aide to the legislator, recalled Donatucci as a devoted family man who spent most of her first job interview seven years ago asking about her family.  In Donatucci, she found a boss who helped her balance the demanding schedule of the legislature with her home life.

"He understood the importance of your family and being there for them," Davies said. “He never stayed in Harrisburg. He went home every single night, whether it was 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon."

Donatucci represented the state's 185th District, which includes parts of southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County.  He served as chairman of the state house's Committee on Liquor Control.  Donatucci, a Democrat, was re-elected to another term last Tuesday by a margin of five to one over a Republican challenger.

After the jump, you can read a statement from McCall on Donatucci's passing:

Speaker McCall statement on the passing of Rep. Robert Donatucci

HARRISBURG, Nov. 9 – House Speaker Keith R. McCall, D-Carbon, released the following statement on the news of the passing of state Rep. Robert Donatucci of Philadelphia. 

“This is a very sad day for the Members of the House of Representatives, the people of the city of Philadelphia and the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For the past 30 years he fought tirelessly for the people of his district and was a quiet, resolute force in the Legislature.

“Representative Donatucci’s service as Chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee is distinguished by a relentless effort to prevent underage drinking and make sure state law was always at the vanguard of consumer protection and customer service.

“I offer my deepest condolences on behalf of the House Democratic Caucus and the Legislature to his wife and children and I hope all Pennsylvanians will keep the Donatucci family in their prayers.”