01/30/2013 16:58 EST | Updated 04/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Former Sudbury Liberal MP Diane Marleau dies

Local politicans are sending their condolences following the death of Diane Marleau.

The former Liberal cabinet minister from Sudbury passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 69.

Marleau's death caught her long-time friends off guard — friends like Brent St. Denis, who knew Diane Marleau from the time they shared on Parliament Hill.

St. Denis was a Liberal MP for the now-dissolved Algoma-Manitoulin riding, during the time Marleau held the federal seat in Sudbury.

He said he was astonished when he heard of her passing.

“A person of her ability and her commitment [was] plucked from life far too soon, far too soon,” he said.

St. Denis said her death came as a shock because “she was very fiery. She didn't get pushed around by anybody."

But she was pushed down by a fatal disease. The Sudbury Liberals report Marleau had been battling cancer for the last year.

Marleau earned a reputation as a city councillor before being elected as Sudbury's MP in 1988. She left politics after she was defeated in 2008 by current MP Glenn Thibeault.

Thibeault said, despite their political differences, he respected her.

"There was always a kind word or the opportunity for us to have a conversation."

The former Liberal cabinet minister served as an MP for Sudbury for 20 years after her 1988 election.

She was also Minister of Health, and did stints as Minister of Public Works and Minister for International Co-operation.

"Diane spent 25 years working tirelessly as an elected official for our community,” said Thibeault, who still sits as an NDP MP for Sudbury.

"Her hard work both in and for Sudbury will not be forgotten and, regardless of our political allegiances, no one could doubt Diane's commitment to the community.”

'Always giving'

St. Denis said Marleau will be remembered as someone who “really cared about Sudbury.”

“I can tell you from personal experience, sitting beside her in Ottawa, that she never failed to raise the issues of Sudbury whenever there was an opportunity and an issue that was relevant to the community she represented,” he said.

"She was always giving, helping to fundraise for one cause or another. She will be remembered as someone very committed to her community."

Sudbury Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci said he and Marleau’s “shared love of Sudbury served as a bond throughout our ups and downs. I am proud to have known her and privileged to have worked with her. Sudbury has lost a true advocate. It’s a significant loss."

Bartolucci and Marleau also worked together on Sudbury’s City and Regional councils for a number of years.

“Diane had strong ideas as do I, and we often had healthy debates over politics and our community,” Bartolucci said in a press release.

“We can honour her legacy by working together to ensure the voice of Sudbury is heard at the federal and provincial levels of government. She will not be forgotten.”

Marleau leaves behind her husband, Paul, and their three children. Her funeral will be held at St. Andrew's United Church in Sudbury, on Saturday at 2 p.m.