PEABODY — Rep. Joyce Spiliotis, a Peabody native who had represented her hometown in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2003, died of cancer yesterday morning at the age of 65.
Yesterday, local leaders remembered Spiliotis for her fierce commitment to her constituents and work on local issues, such as Peabody’s notorious flooding problems. Politicians across the region — from Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo to Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt — commended her life and service to the community.
Longtime state Sen. Fred Berry, also a Peabody native, praised Spiliotis for her “hands-on approach to politics.”
“She was the rare pragmatic politician who used her votes to take care of real people,” Berry said. “She will be missed by those folks she worked so hard to help.”
Gov. Deval Patrick ordered all flags at state buildings lowered to half-staff yesterday in her honor. Bettencourt ordered the same for Peabody’s city buildings.
Her passing, announced in the House’s informal session yesterday morning, left the entire Statehouse “shocked,” said Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers.
Rep. John Keenan of Salem said Spiliotis never mentioned her illness, even as he gave her rides home from recent Statehouse sessions.
“I’m as shocked as everybody else to learn (of her death). None of us really knew she was that sick,” Keenan said. “That’s part of who she was: a very strong individual, a straight shooter and fighter for her constituents.”
She leaves her husband, Richard Jarvis, and two daughters. The Spiliotis family declined to speak to the media yesterday but issued this statement:
“Joyce was a public figure, but a very private person. She fought her battle courageously in private, as she fought publicly for issues important to her constituents. This is a painful and personal time for us. We will have no further public comments, and appreciate the thoughts and prayers of all who loved her as we did.”