After a seven-year battle with cancer, Arlen Specter, a former Pennsylvania senator, passed away Sunday at age 82 due to complications of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, according to a statement released by his family.
"He was a fiercely independent individual that went the way that he thought was best," said Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre. "He always worked hard for local community projects."
Corman said Specter had been in the Senate for many years, and prior to that he was a lawyer by trade and worked as a district attorney.
He said Specter faced a variety of issues during his years in office but said this did not affect his work.
"He loved his job and was a very strong individual and didn't let things stand in his way," Corman said. "He took it on like any other challenge and kept moving forward."
Tor Michaels, chief of staff for Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, said the death of Specter was a great loss for not only Pennsylvania but also the nation.
Michaels said he knew Specter professionally and said he found him to be a thoughtful individual who spoke his mind, not his party.
"It was a great sadness to us and I think all Pennsylvanians," he said. "No matter what party affiliation you might be, you can't overlook the contributions he made to this state."
Though Michaels said he did not support Specter's party switch from Republican to Democrat, he said looking at his record as a whole, Specter did a good and effective job in Pennsylvania.
Specter switched parties in April 2009 and said he was becoming increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy
However, Deb Flavin, executive director of the Centre County Republican Party, said she did not think he would be remembered for his party switch.
She said much more important was his judicial committee and foreign affairs and said this would contribute to a greater legacy than changing political parties.
"He tried to put Pennsylvania first and tried to put the country first," Flavin said. "Whether you agreed with him or not, he tried to do what he thought was best."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.