State Rep. Robert Donatucci dies at 58

STATE REP. Robert Donatucci, a 30-year veteran of the General Assembly, died Monday night, apparently from complications due to sleep apnea. He was 58.

Donatucci leaves behind a wife, Maria, and two children.

Donatucci's brother, Philadelphia Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, said his younger brother was diagnosed with sleep apnea at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in August.

Donatucci said his brother, as chairman of the state House Committee on Liquor Control, was preparing for hearings anticipated next year on Gov.-elect Tom Corbett's proposal to sell the state store system.

"He was gearing up for a fight," Donatucci said. "He was just an old-fashioned politician."

Gov. Rendell yesterday ordered flags to fly at half-staff at the state Capitol 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 Donatucci aide, recalled how he had spent most of her first job interview seven years ago asking about her family. In Donatucci, she found a boss who was a devoted family man 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," Benka-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 was re-elected last week by a 5-to-1 margin to another term representing the 185th House District, which stretches from Broad Street and Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia southeast to Darby Township in Delaware County.

State law calls for the House speaker to issue a writ within 10 days of a vacancy for a special election to be held at least 60 days after the writ is issued.

Speaker Keith McCall, a Democrat, has until Nov. 30, the end of the legislative term, to issue that writ. If he does not act, Republicans will do so after Dec. 1 since they took control of the House in last week's election.

Funeral services were incomplete yesterday.