CT News

“A force to be reckoned with”

Former State Senator Edith Prague, a champion for elder rights, dies at 96

By Judie Jacobson

Edith Gelt Prague of Columbia, a former Connecticut State Representative (1982-1990) and State Senator (1995-2013) who also served as Connecticut Commissioner on Aging from 2013 until her retirement in 2014, died Thursday morning, Dec. 16.  She was 96.

“Edith Prague is the jewel of Eastern Connecticut,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “She is a legend, whose feisty and caring personality will never be forgotten. She was as compassionate as she was bold, and through her entire life had an energy that was nothing short of infectious. Edith absolutely left her mark on Connecticut.”

Sheila S. Horvitz, an attorney active in Eastern Connecticut politics, interviewed Prague on her cable TV show in 2014. 

“Edith was a unique force to be reckoned with; a pioneer champion for elder rights, women’s rights and most of all, for truth and candor in political and community life,” Horvitz told the Ledger. “She felt her principles deeply and fought for them with resolve and great determination.”

Horvitz called Prague “one of a kind,” saying that she was someone who “lightened all the serious hurt in the world she cared about by being a bit of a ‘fashionista.’ When she appeared in the studio for my interview, we spent some fun time admiring her new bag.”

Born in Methuen, Massachusetts, Prague grew up during the Depression. A young girl when her father died, she went to work alongside her mother and brother in the family grocery store. It was there, according to her obituary, that she learned her first lesson in coming to the aid of those less fortunate, as she helped her mother deliver baskets of food to people in need. 

In addition to her work in the state legislature, Prague was a medical social worker and teacher — she described herself as “a social worker with power.” 

In an obituary written by her three surviving daughters, she was lauded as someone who represented her constituents “with tenacity and honesty. 

“She listened to anyone who needed to be heard or needed help in life and fought to protect the rights of people to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect and never gave up on a cause she believed in,” they wrote.

Barbara Gordon, a Democratic state central committeewoman who is active in Democratic politics, knew Prague from the time Gordon worked for Governor William O’Neill in the 1980’s and for Speakers of the House until the present.   

“Edith feared no one but many legislators feared but loved her,” Gordon told the Ledger. “She pulled no punches. She fought for what she believed in with a ferocity that was unmatched She was a giant in the state Senate. An incredible role model for women and everyone.”

Edith Prague is survived by her daughters, Shelley Prague, Benay Smith and Joanne Prague Doyle and her husband Tom; and her grandchildren, Nathan, Matthew, Sam, Josh, Chris, Brian, Katie, Tim and Michael. She was predeceased by her husband, Frank Prague, her daughter Susan, her brother George, and her sister Beatrice. 

Her funeral was held on Sunday, Dec. 19 at Temple B’nai Israel in Willimantic.

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