Former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner dies at 76

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TACOMA, Wash. —

Former Washington state Gov. Booth Gardner passed away at his Tacoma home Friday night, officials said. 

Gardner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994, and died of complications from the disease. He was 76 years old.

"We're very sad to lose my father, who had been struggling with a difficult disease for many years, but we are relieved to know that he's at rest now and his fight is done," said Gardner's daughter, Gail Gant.

Gardner was the 19th governor and served two terms from 1985 to 1993. He was known for championing education, the environment and social and health services. 

KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Graham Johnson spoke with Ron Dotzauer, who was a long-time friend of Gardner and his campaign manager during Gardner’s first run for governor. 

“He was a very, very humble guy who came from enormous wealth, who cared passionately about people and solving problems, and he gave his whole life to that,” Dotzauer said.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement Saturday on the passing of Gardner:

“ Booth Gardner was one of the great leaders of our state. He served us all with the highest standards and with never-ending humanity.”

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire assessed Gardner’s political legacy and also released a statement:

“Gov. Gardner was a progressive visionary ahead of his time. His leadership helped give us environmental and land-use laws that shaped the successful Washington of today, and he championed gay rights and basic health care access for the poor long before they were popular.”

Sen. Patty Murray released a statement on the passing of Gardner:

"I am deeply saddened today by the passing of Booth Gardner. Booth was a leader of tremendous compassion, dignity, and bravery whose service to our state will live on far into the future. He was generous in sharing his wisdom and his time, and I will never forget the lessons he taught me when I was just beginning my political career in Olympia many years ago. 

I learned so much from Booth because he was a man that led by example. He demonstrated that governing is about the people you serve - and serve with - by learning everyone's name, what issues they cared deeply about, and by taking the time to work with anyone who shared his desire to make Washington state a better place to live. Booth also showed that compromise and compassion were not competing ideals by being pragmatic when he needed be, but by always working to protect the needs of the most vulnerable. 

Booth's imprint on our state will long be seen in our classrooms and the many open spaces he fought to protect. Up until the very end of his life, Booth remained a fighter for the issues he cared most about -- those of us who knew him couldn't have imagined it any other way. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today. I will miss Booth." 

Mayor Mike McGinn's also issued a statement on the passing of Gardner: 

"Booth Gardner was a compassionate and thoughtful man. His strong values of fairness and equality led him in his decades-long work to improve our health care and education systems. Washington State is a better place because of his leadership. Our thoughts are with his family and friends." 

Executive Dow Constantine also released a statement on the passing of Gardner: 

“Washington state has lost a great leader, and its people have lost a great friend with the passing of Governor Booth Gardner.

Gov. Gardner was known as a man who could talk to anyone, because he treated everyone the same way—like a fellow human being.

His two terms in office are best remembered for the major steps forward our state took in how we educate our children, how we protect the environment, and how we care for the less fortunate in our society. 

Booth was that rare political leader who was liked by both his allies and his adversaries. He will be greatly missed.” 

Gardner also led the way in 2008 for the “Death with Dignity" law, which legalized assisted suicide in Washington for the terminally ill. 

A documentary film told the story of Gardner’s fight to legalize assisted suicide.  It's called the "Last Campaign," and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.