JAFFREY — Douglas Ley, who represented Jaffrey and other area towns in the N.H. House for eight years, including a recent stint as majority leader, died Thursday night.
Ley, a Jaffrey Democrat, was 62. He started chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, which had spread to his liver, in late May but was moved to hospice care in recent days, his family said on a webpage detailing his treatment.
“My dad was a good man and it brings me to tears hearing & seeing how many folks he touched and how many people care about him and our family,” Ley’s son, Ethan, wrote Friday on the webpage.
He is also survived by his wife, Mary, and son, Isaac.
First elected to represent Cheshire County District 9 — which covers Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey and Roxbury — in 2012, Ley served as majority leader from 2018-20, when Democrats had control of the House.
Rep. Richard Ames, D-Jaffrey, who represented the same district for Ley’s entire tenure, called his death a “huge loss.”
Ley was passionate about organized labor and was a voice for civility in the House, according to Ames, who also noted Ley’s devotion to his family.
“Doug Ley was a good man, and he contributed immensely to the work of the Legislature,” he said Friday. “And in so many ways, he contributed to the larger community.”
Ley, who held a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin Madison, had taught that subject at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge since 1991, a year before he moved to Jaffrey, according to his House biography.
He was also serving a four-year term as president of the AFT-NH teachers’ union when he died.
In a news release Friday, Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and Deputy Senate Minority Leader Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said they were “heartbroken” to hear of Ley’s passing.
“Doug was a champion for all Granite Staters and his fierce dedication to the betterment of New Hampshire will be missed by all,” they said. He was a passionate leader to our House colleagues and leaves behind a legacy of fighting for working people and working families. On behalf of all the Senate Democrats, we extend our sincerest condolences to his wife Mary, his sons, and all of his loved ones.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the national AFT teachers’ union, called Ley a “tireless fighter for students, educators, workers and their families.”
“Doug’s mission in life was to ensure that all New Hampshire citizens had access to a good life with excellent public schools and a voice on the job through union rights,” she said. “New Hampshire has lost a powerful advocate for working families, decency and fairness.”
Former N.H. House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, who served in that role while Ley was majority leader, said Ley was a “wonderful leader, teacher, legislator, and most importantly, friend.”
“Throughout his 9 years in the [House], Doug was a respected colleague who gifted us with his knowledge, humor, quick wit, and noble values every day,” Shurtleff said in a statement Friday. “He was a careful observer and kind listener, never shying away from a conversation to negotiate a solution. Working closely with Doug over the past few years, I admired his incredible intellect and ability to bring people together. Doug’s booming laugh could often be heard throughout the halls of the State House, and it always brought joy to those around him.”
N.H. House Clerk Paul Smith said Friday that town officials will be responsible for scheduling a special election to fill Ley’s seat, if they choose.