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Sen. Tomassoni shares intent to lead through Lou Gehrig's disease diagnosis

In a letter published in the Mesabi Tribune, Tomassoni wrote that he has been facing the disease for "a while now."

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After 16 seasons of professional hockey in Italy, Sen. David Tomassoni has served in the Minnesota State Legislature, representing the Iron Range since 1992. (David Oakes / Minnesota Senate)

Minnesota Sen. David Tomassoni announced in a letter published in the Mesabi Tribune that he intends to continue representing District 6 while facing the effects of Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"I want you to know that I am a person living and working with ALS," Tomassoni wrote in the letter. "I have had it for a while now as I worked all through the entire legislative session feeling its effects. I intend to look at each day as the best day of the rest of our lives and I’m going to live with this disease. Further, I am going to continue representing you to the best of my abilities like I have always tried to do in elected office."

ALS is a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and can affect the ability to speak and move.

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Sen. David Tomassoni

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Tomassoni, an independent from Chisholm, is currently declining requests for interviews about the diagnosis, according to his press secretary.

“Sen. David Tomassoni is one of the most beloved members of the Senate and it is nothing short of a shock to learn of his ALS diagnosis," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a statement. "I ask everyone to keep David and Charlotte, and their family, in your prayers. I offer my encouragement to David and his family, and just to know today the whole Senate is fighting alongside you.”

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Democrat Sen. David Tomassoni, of Chisholm, left, talks with Republican Senate Leader Paul Gazelka, of Nisswa, during a Senate floor debate on taxes April 3, 2017. (Maureen McMullen / Forum News Service)

Tomassoni has represented District 6, which includes part of St. Louis and Itasca counties, since 2001. Prior to that, he served four terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

"There is no sugar coating it — this is a tough disease, and I will feel the effects of it in my speech, my movement, and my life," Tomassoni wrote. "Initially, I decided to not let anyone know about it but dealing with it upfront and becoming an advocate seems to be the right direction to go."

Tomassoni cited changemakers, like theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who gave back to the community while living with the disease, and he promised to do the same.

This story and a photo caption were updated at 10:50 a.m. July 19 to correct Sen. Tomassoni's political party. He became an independent in November 2020. It was originally posted at 5:29 p.m. July 17. The News Tribune regrets the error.

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Bygones is researched and written by David Ouse, retired reference librarian from the Duluth Public Library. He can be contacted at djouse49@gmail.com.