Pennsylvania's longest serving member of Congress is dead. John P. "Jack" Murtha died this afternoon at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington Virginia of complications following gallbladder surgery January 28.
A former Marine, Murtha was the first Vietnam War combat veteran to be elected to Congress. He won a special election in February 1974.
Murtha was particularly effective in bringing appropriations and federal investments back to his home of Johnstown especially contracts with the defense industry.
Johnstown Mayor Tom Trigona, who knew Murtha from when he first ran for Congress called it "a very sad day....a tragedy for the area....he was the heart and soul of Johnstown for a long time."
Trigona says that no one is irreplaceable but in the nation's system of seniority "that statement might not be true when it comes to Murtha.........it will be very difficult to replace him."
Trigona says he saw Murtha just last month at the Congressman's annual reception for incoming cadets to the military academies and that his (Trigona's) grandson was so impressed that Murtha took time to take a photo with him and urged his grandson to keep up his grades so that he (Murtha) might be able to help him enter the academy.