JUNEAU - The mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough died of cancer Tuesday morning at a hospital just outside Wasilla, borough spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said. Curt Menard was 64.
Menard, a former state legislator and retired dentist, is the husband of state Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla.
On Monday, Menard spoke of him during the invocation on the Senate floor. She recalled how her husband "with great sacrifice, encouraged me to take up the banner and fight for the good."
"Lord, you did not do so by mistake. As much as I love Sen. Curt Menard, I pray for a special touch as I know you love him more," Linda Menard said.
Menard's legislative staffer Michael Rovito said she left Juneau later that day and arrived in time to visit with her husband before he died at the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center about 40 miles north of Anchorage.
Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, asked for a moment of silence Tuesday morning during a committee meeting.
"Their lives have touched all of our own," Keller said later. "He's well known and I imagine the impact on Wasilla is pretty big."
Menard was diagnosed in 2003 with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.
He underwent treatment for a year, and the cancer was in remission for about two years.
He took medical leave in 2007 after tests discovered that the cancer had returned with a tumor in his neck. Menard was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and at the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center.
Sullivan remembered Menard as a warm person who loved to laugh and share anecdotes about his life as a legislator.
A former pilot, he lost his right arm in 1975 to an electrical shock while he was attempting to mark power lines on a small hayfield he used as a landing strip, according to a 2007 Anchorage Daily News article.
He had a hook in place of his arm, but Sullivan said Menard didn't want people to be afraid of the prosthetic devise.
"So right when he met you he'd say, 'I'm going to give you the hook' and he would rib you with his hook to make you feel at ease with his arm. Your first meeting with him, he would do that," Sullivan said.
Borough Manager John Duffy called Menard a folk hero in the dental world because he trained himself to work with his left hand and his hook, and would often travel to rural Alaska to perform dental work in the villages.
Sullivan said he had not been looking well lately but continued to work at the office.
"He refuses to stop working even when he's not feeling well," she said. "That's the kind of guy he was. He was a really hardworking man who wanted to give back to the community."
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, released a prepared statement with his condolences. The former Anchorage mayor said he and Menard worked together on numerous issues and projects together through the Tri-Borough Commission.
"I have known Curt for years and admired how he always put partisan politics aside to work what was best for his community and the people of Alaska," Begich said.
Menard had been a resident in the Mat-Su since 1972. He was a state representative and senator for the region from 1986 to 1994. He was elected mayor of the fastest growing region of Alaska in 2006.
His son, Steve Menard, serves on the Wasilla City Council.