Former State Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi (D-Farmington Hills) has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 83.
The Italian immigrant served not only in the state House, but as mayor of Farmington Hills, as well as on the council there and on the school board. He was a former labor union newspaper reporter as well who served time in the U.S. military in World War II, assisting in the relocation of Italian prisoners of war.
He was also a lion when it came to pursuing LGBT issues in the state house, leaders from gay rights groups said.
“On LBGT issues, he has always been a leader always up front in the battle for equality in the legislature,” said Sean Kosofsky, former director of policy for the Triangle Foundation. “He didn’t need to be lobbied on our issues. He just got it. For an older Italian American elected official you might think he might need some briefing on these issues. But he didn’t. He is a social justice guy to his core.”
Kosofsky said Vagnozzi’s death was a “colossal loss” for the people of Michigan.
He also noted the former state representative had taken a traditional Republican district and made it Democratic then used that position to push a progressive agenda, something Kosofsky said “takes courage.”
Michigan Equality’s former executive director, Derek Smiertka, first came in contact with Vagnozzi when he ran the campaign of a Republican opponent for the state house.
“You just respected him from the moment he opened his mouth to the moment he walked out the door,” Smiertka said.
He said Vagnozzi was a “hero.”
“He was one of the more honorable people in Lansing and the state,” Smiertka added.