HARRISBURG -- State Rep. Dick Hess, a 26-year veteran of the Legislature from rural Bedford County, died Friday at UPMC Shadyside due to complications from recent leg surgery. He was 74.
Mr. Hess represented all of Fulton County, as well as portions of Bedford and Huntingdon counties, and led his Republican caucus on transportation issues as chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Prior to being elected to the General Assembly in 1986, Mr. Hess served 15 years as Bedford County's prothonotary and clerk of courts. He began his career in public office in 1965, as chief clerk to the Bedford County commissioners.
Despite Mr. Hess' years in Harrisburg, he remained a presence in Bedford and was always approachable, said Kirt Morris, chairman of the Bedford County commissioners.
"He was a very down-home person. You could go to a meeting or see him on the street. He was just as friendly, and as cordial as could be ... never placed himself on a pedestal," said Mr. Morris, who also knew Mr. Hess through attending the same church, Bedford United Methodist.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Friday ordered all Pennsylvania flags lowered to half-staff at the Capitol and at commonwealth facilities statewide in honor of Mr. Hess.
"Dick Hess was a champion of economic progress, moral values and individual rights -- principles he represented unfailingly in his 26 years in the General Assembly," Mr. Corbett said in a statement.
Mr. Morris also recalled Mr. Hess as an advocate for the state's rural counties.
"He had a good feel for what rural Pennsylvania needed and always fought for us," he said. "Dick was instrumental in helping us receive funding" for roads, bridges and development aid, Mr. Morris said.
Mr. Hess is survived by his wife, Shirley, a son, Jeff, and three grandchildren.
Kate Giammarise: email@example.com, 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.