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Paula Nowakowski, Top Aide to Boehner, Dies at 46

Paula Nowakowski, a longtime aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), died at her home in Northern Virginia on Saturday night of an apparent heart attack. She was 46.

[IMGCAP(1)]Nowakowski’s unexpected death rattled the tight-knit Capitol Hill community, which knew her as one of Boehner’s closest advisers since she came to the Hill more than a decade ago.

Boehner issued a statement on his Web site on Sunday announcing the news, calling it a “shock.—

“It is with profound sadness and shock that I announce the passing of Paula Nowakowski, my longtime chief of staff, trusted aide, and friend, who died suddenly last night,— Boehner’s statement said. “Words cannot adequately express the sorrow and disbelief I and every member of our team are grappling with today in the wake of this stunning news.

“We will remember Paula as she would want to be remembered — a tireless worker, faithful friend, rabid Detroit sports fan, whipsmart strategist, warrior for freedom, and devoted Catholic who counted President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II among her greatest heroes. She will never be replaced, or forgotten. I ask for your prayers for Paula’s family.—

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush both called Boehner to express their condolences, Boehner aides said.

Born in St. Clair Shores, Mich., in July 1963, Nowakowski displayed a commitment to her home state that was well-known among lawmakers.

“Paula’s devotion to country made her a tireless worker and passionate advocate for working families — particularly those facing difficult struggles in her beloved Michigan,— House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement Sunday. “I will remember her strong belief in a balanced approach to governance, and her efforts as a consensus builder — which embodied the wishes and principles of our founders.—

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed his sympathies for “this tragic loss of our friend.—

“Paula had some of the finest qualities a public servant can have: she was committed to advancing the cause of freedom, she cared deeply about the people she served, and she was a patriot,— McConnell said in a statement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the entire Capitol Hill community was “shocked and saddened— by the news.

“As Chief of Staff to Republican Leader John Boehner, Paula earned the respect not only of her Leadership and Conference, but all House Members on both sides of the aisle,— Pelosi said in a statement. “She served Leader Boehner both in his current position as well as previously at the Committee on Education and the Workforce with great distinction.—

She added: “Paula was a thorough professional who loved the House and worked in a constructive and bipartisan fashion to implement policies to help the Congress function efficiently. On behalf of the entire House, I express our deep sadness to Paula’s family, friends and our colleague, Leader John Boehner.—

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Nowakowski “a dedicated, trusted, and widely-respected aide — and I know that her absence will be felt in Leader Boehner’s office, and among all those who worked with her, for a long time to come.—

Nowakowski went to work for Boehner in 1995 as the communications director for the House Republican Conference. She briefly left Boehner’s office from 1998 to 2000 to work as the senior vice president for the American Insurance Association, but she returned in 2001 to serve as his staff director for the House Education and Workforce Committee, according to the Insider’s Guide to Key Committee Staff of the U.S. Congress. Nowakowski became Boehner’s chief of staff in 2006.

A tribute to Nowakowski is expected on the House floor on Wednesday, according to Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman. Members of Boehner’s also staff set up a Facebook page in her honor titled “In Remembrance of our Friend Paula Nowakowski.— “All are invited to honor Paula’s memory in this space with stories and remembrances, thoughts and prayers,— the page says.

Arrangements for Nowakowski’s memorial service had not been announced as of press time.

She is survived by her mother, sister, brother and longtime companion, Michael Smith.

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