Former Rep. John Y. McCollister (R-Neb.), a three-term U.S. congressman who helped launch Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's political career, died Thursday at age 92.
McCollister represented Nebraska's 2nd District in the House of Representatives from 1971-77, hiring Hagel as an aide during that first year. McCollister had been suffering from cancer and died at an Omaha, Neb. hospice, the Associated Press reported.
"After 92 years, he's had a good life, and we want to celebrate it," his son, John S. McCollister, told the AP. "The great number of people he mentored is remarkable. He had so many close friends, and was very heartfelt in his political beliefs."
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) mourned the loss of McCollister, releasing a statement praising him as a "role model" who "truly led by example."
“John McCollister will be remembered by many as a former Congressman and Douglas County Commissioner, but he will be remembered by many more as a role model and friend. He dedicated his life to his family, his faith and his service to our state and nation – like so many from his generation, John truly led by example.
“He will be greatly missed. Steph and I join the countless Nebraskans praying for the McCollister family during this difficult time.”
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) expressed sadness in her statement as well, commending McCollister for his service.
“Today, Nebraska lost a principled fighter, our state Republican party lost a great leader, and I lost a dear friend. Congressman McCollister was devoted to public service for the entirety of his life, including his military service during World War II. He remained an indispensable member of his community, even in his later years. He truly loved Nebraska and was a gentleman with a great sense of humor who simply enjoyed life to its fullest.
“I was privileged to count John as an early supporter and was honored when he agreed to co-chair my U.S. Senate campaign. I benefitted from his counsel and insight from his many years of service, both in Washington and Nebraska. Bruce and I join all Nebraskans in mourning John’s passing and send our prayers and deepest condolences to all of the McCollister family.”