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Former Attorney General Joe Mazurek dies

HELENA (AP) — Former Attorney General Joe Mazurek died Tuesday due to complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 64.

The well-known Democrat was diagnosed with the disease in 2007, prior to his 60th birthday, and forced to retire from active legal practice just a couple of years later. He died at an assisted living facility in Helena after the disease progressed rapidly in recent months, according to his former law office.

Mazurek was first elected state attorney general in 1992, after serving for more than a decade as a Helena state senator, and served two terms. Mazurek ran for governor in 2000, but lost in the primary to Mark O'Keefe.

Mazurek, known by colleagues throughout his years in public office as a conciliator trusted by both sides, was called "a tireless champion for Montana" by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a former state legislator from Big Sandy.

"He will be sorely missed and always remembered as an advocate for our rights, our public health and safety, and Montana's clean air and water," Tester said in a statement.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus said Mazurek was "a true Montana statesman."

"Joe was an honest and decent family man who was not just a friend to Montana, but a personal friend of mine," Baucus said.

After his political career, Mazurek returned to private practice in Helena, but had to retire several years ago as the quickly-developing brain disease took hold.

Crowley Fleck partner Dan McLean, a longtime friend of Mazurek's, said his colleague had a big heart and left a lasting imprint on many he helped over the years.

"Joe was known, and really loved, by everybody," Mazurek said. "We all loved him very much. He was an outgoing and very energetic guy."

McLean said Joe was very aware of his initial decline when the disease set in and was the "consummate professional" when he decided to stop practicing law due to his diminished abilities.

The Mazureks became involved with the McLaughlin Research Institute in Great Falls, a nonprofit organization researching the disease. The institute established a fund in Mazurek's name, and the family told the story of his battles as a way to help raise awareness.

An article published earlier this year by the institute said that Mazurek, a man once known for his file cabinet-like memory, had progressed to a point where his speech was mostly unintelligible and he was forced to live behind a locked door for his own safety.

"It's a devastating disease," Mazurek's wife, Patty, said in the article. "You notice little pieces of him all the time that are gone. That's why they call it the long goodbye."

Mazurek is survived by his wife and three sons, Jeff, Tom and Dan. Funeral arrangements are pending.


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