(Adds quote from former Obama adviser David Axelrod)
Nov 6 (Reuters) - Former Illinois congressman Lane Evans, a champion for U.S. veterans who had suffered with Parkinson's disease for years, died late on Wednesday in East Moline, Illinois, his guardian said. He was 63.
Evans, a Democrat who represented the Quad Cities in northwestern Illinois, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and served until 2007.
"Former Representative Lane Evans was one of the most decent people I've met in public life," David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Twitter.
Mike Malmstrom, who was on Evans' staff and later served as his legal guardian, said Evans died at Hope Creek Care Center where he had been living for nearly two years.
"The disease itself had come to the point that it took its toll," Malmstrom said in a telephone interview.
Doug House, chairman of the Rock Island County Democratic Party, said the congressman was a dear friend who left larger-than-life footprints.
"Lane will be sorely missed by many," House said in a statement. "Lane shunned the trappings of congressman and was by choice known as 'Lane' to everyone."
Evans was born in Rock Island, Illinois, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971. He was a lawyer in private practice.
"Lane Evans was a true champion for veterans. He was a tireless advocate for our community and a strong leader for us in Washington," Paul Rieckhoff, chief executive of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America nonprofit, said in a statement.
Rieckhoff said Evans was one of the first members of Congress to take on issues like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury in veterans. (Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)