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State land reformer Sen. Flake dies after fall

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Veteran state legislator and longtime cattle rancher Jake Flake died Sunday morning after a fall at his home in Snowflake, his son said. He was 72.

The Republican state senator was recovering from eight cracked ribs he suffered May 24 after being bucked from a horse on his ranch.

“He was doing well. He was alert and fine this morning, but as he was walking around the house, he fell down and he stopped breathing,” said son Travis Flake, 35, of Snowflake. “His heart stopped and they were never able to get him going again. . . . It was a shock to all of us.”

Travis Flake said doctors told the family they aren’t sure what caused the death.

“They don’t know,” he said. “They think when he fell down, because his ribs were broken already, that may have done it right there. They’re not totally sure.”

Flake served in the Arizona House from 1997 to 2004. He was speaker in 2003-2004, and was elected to the state Senate in 2005. He represented legislative District 5, which includes a wide swath of central-eastern Arizona and is the state’s largest.

“In some ways he was bigger than life itself,” said Rep. Bill Konopnicki, who also represents District 5. “He was a rancher, he had been the speaker of the House, he was a legislator, he was a friend of counties, a friend of cities. He just did an awful lot of things and he’ll be dearly missed.”

Konopnicki said Flake fought for rural Arizona and helped get legislation passed on state trust land reform and agricultural issues.

“The state’s going to miss a true statesman,” Konopnicki said.

Gov. Janet Napolitano said Flake “was a leader of great strength and wisdom, who worked with passion on behalf of the people of Arizona.”

Flake was born and raised in Snowflake, a small eastern Arizona town named for Flake’s great grandfather, who founded it.

Flake and three of his brothers bought the ranch they grew up on, running cattle throughout the Southwest and Mexico.

Travis Flake said his father would want to be remembered for his love of family. “He loved his country and his state, but his greatest legacy was his family,” he said.

Flake is survived by his wife of 48 years, Mary Louise Flake; 12 children, 55 grandchildren and a newborn great grandchild.

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