PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A former Rhode Island state senator who was in office for more than two decades has died.

William Walaska was 71.

Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio says Walaska died Monday after a battle with cancer.

Ruggerio says Walaska’s legacy will benefit Rhode Island for generations to come, especially his work on environmental protection, port development and the economy.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo says he’ll be remembered for his decency and his love and commitment to serving the state.

Walaska talked of his fight against a rare blood and bone marrow disease last year in championing legislation to allow people with terminal illness to try off-label medications.

The Warwick resident was senator from 1995 until last year, when he lost the Democratic primary.

He’s survived by his wife and three children.

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