SITKA — A former speaker of the Alaska state House, Ben Grussendorf, has died in his hometown of Sitka at age 69.
The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports that Grussendorf died Friday at Sitka Community Hospital. Trudy Prewitt of Prewitt Funeral Home in Sitka confirmed the death and said services are pending.
No cause of death was announced but Prewitt said Grussendorf "had been ill for a while."
Grussendorf was also a current member of the Alaska Board of Game. In the 1970s, he served two terms as mayor of Sitka.
He was elected to the state House as a Democrat in 1980 and re-elected nine more times, serving as speaker in 1985-1988 and 1991-1992.
Originally from Minnesota, Grussendorf came to Sitka in 1966 as a high school teacher.
Gov. Sean Parnell praised Grussendorf in a statement, saying, "His wit, humor, and respectful leadership are characteristics we will all miss."
He is survived by his wife, Karen, and two children.