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Former Massachusetts Congressman John Olver dies at 86

John Olver, Official Portrait, from the 111th Congress
Former Massachusetts Congressman John Olver

Former western Massachusetts Congressman John Olver has died. An online obituarysays Olver died at his home in Amherst on Thursday. He was 86.

Olver spent more than four decades in politics, starting in the Massachusetts State House and ending up in Washington, D.C. The Democrat represented the westernmost part of Massachusetts in Congress from 1991 until 2013.

The Pennsylvania native graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York at the age of 18 and later earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He taught chemistry at UMass Amherst before launching his political career.

Olver was known as one of the House’s staunchest liberals.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the death of my friend and longtime colleague, Congressman John Olver. A humble public servant with the heart of an activist, John was truly a champion for the people of Western and Central Massachusetts," Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, a Democrat from the 2nd District, said in a statement. "His quiet demeanor and wry sense of humor concealed a razor-sharp understanding of the issues facing the American people and a deep faith in our ability to solve them together."

“John Olver dedicated his life to public service, working as an educator at the University of Massachusetts before beginning his political career, including twelve years in the Massachusetts Legislature prior to his election to Congress. Over the course of his twenty-two years in the U.S. House of Representatives, John was an effective leader and steadfast advocate for the people of western and central Massachusetts. His approach to policymaking was a good lesson for those in public life. He lacked any malice and had the purest of intentions, focusing solely on delivering for the people he felt privileged to represent," said Congressman Richard Neal, who spoke with WAMC Friday afternoon. “John was a devoted husband to his wife, Rose, of fifty-five years, and a loving father to their daughter, Martha. On this solemn occasion, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Olver family.”

A memorial service is scheduled at UMass Amherst April 16.

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