Former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) died at age 66 on Oct. 28 at her house in Greensboro.
Hagan died in her sleep at her house, her family said in a statement released to the media.
“We are heartbroken to share that Kay left us unexpectedly this morning,” Hagan’s family said.
“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.”
“We are deeply grateful for the support shared with our family as Kay worked to regain her strength these last few years after her illness, and we appreciate your continued prayers,” the statement said.
The cause of death was encephalitis, or inflammation from the brain, from a years-long battle with Powassan virus, a virus transmitted by ticks for which no vaccine or treatment exists.
Hagan was elected to office in 2008, beating Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, but lost the next race in 2014 to Thom Tillis.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all American and state flags at state buildings, facilities, and grounds to be lowered to half-staff through Tuesday night in honor of Hagan.
“Kristin and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend Senator Kay Hagan. I’ve known Kay since our days in the legislature together,” Cooper said in a statement.
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.
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) October 28, 2019
Brooke and I are deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely loss of Kay Hagan. Our prayers are with her family.
My full statement: pic.twitter.com/Byc1Fw4Z8R
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) October 28, 2019
“Kay was a fierce advocate for North Carolina, and she represented our state with courage and grace her entire career. She made it a mission to inspire young people—especially young girls—to enter public service, and she served as a role model to so many. North Carolina is mourning one of our best today,” he added.
Tillis and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) also expressed their condolences in statements.
“Susan and I are absolutely heartbroken by Senator Kay Hagan’s sudden passing and we 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 and nation,” Tillis stated.
“Brooke and I are deeply saddened by the sudden and untimely loss of Kay Hagan. Kay dedicated much of her life to serving North Carolina, and she will be remembered for her tireless work on behalf of the home and the people she loved,” Burr said.
“In our time as Senate colleagues, we worked across the aisle together frequently on issues that we both knew would determine what type of country our children would inherit, from conservation to our common defense. She tackled everything she did with a passion and a sense of humor that will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”