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Former Pa. Rep. Foglietta Dies at 75

Former Rep. Thomas Foglietta (D-Pa.) died late Saturday morning at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa., according to hospital officials. He was 75.

Foglietta had been hospitalized since Oct. 30 after suffering breathing problems days after elective shoulder surgery, his nephew Michael Foglietta said. Foglietta had a history of pulmonary problems, Michael Foglietta said. He was surrounded by his family when he died, said Jeffrey Bext of the hospital’s relations office.

Foglietta represented Pennsylvania’s 1st district for nine terms from 1980 to 1997. He was elected as an Independent after serving in the Philadelphia city council for 20 years as a Republican. Foglietta registered as a Democrat after being elected to the House.

“He loved his time in Washington,” Michael Foglietta said. Every Tuesday night, the Pennsylvania Democrat went to dinner with his close friends whom he called “the gang.” The group consisted of Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), among others.

In 1955, Foglietta began his career in politics as the youngest person ever elected to a city council. At age 26, he was elected to the Philadelphia City Council at-large seat.

His goal was to become the first Italian-American mayor of Philadelphia. After 20 years on the City Council, Foglietta ran for mayor against Frank Rizzo, who had since become the city’s first Italian-American mayor. Foglietta came in third in the 1975 race.

After 17 years in Congress, then-President Bill Clinton named Foglietta U.S. ambassador to Italy. He resigned his office in November 1997 to take the ambassadorship.

Rep. Robert Brady (D), who succeeded Foglietta after he resigned from Congress, described him as very encouraging. The two kept in touch over the years and had a breakfast meeting a few months ago.

“The Congressman has said he considered Mr. Foglietta a man of great dignity,” said Karen Warrington, Brady’s communications director. “He was always a gentleman with a kind of old world charm.”

“He served well the people of the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States,” Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) said in a statement. “His good works and memory will live on in the hearts and minds of those of us who knew him well and called him a friend.”

Foglietta graduated from St. Joseph’s University and Temple Law School.

He is survived by two nieces and three nephews.

There will be a viewing Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia. A funeral Mass will follow the viewing.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to Friends of Foglietta Plaza, 730 Fitzwater St., Philadelphia, PA 19147.