One of the best bits of advice I received as a new Capitol reporter in the 1980s was to get to know Leo V. Donohue, who died Friday at age 86, nearly 20 years after his retirement as the Democratic state auditor.

Not only did a visit to Donohue’s office on the ground-floor of the Capitol occasionally yield early news of some brewing scandal, but Donohue seemingly could provide historical context for anything at the state Capitol. If you wanted to confirm a tale about Ella Grasso or John Dempsey or a forgotten debate, Donohue was your man.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman issued this statement: “He dedicated his career to improving the transparency and accessibility of state government. Leo was an intelligent, articulate and passionate individual who made a significant, positive and lasting impact on the State of Connecticut.”

Yeah, he was that. But also was the Capitol’s informal historian, gossip and sage, the guy who had seen it all and remembered most of it.

He grew cranky as a part-time newspaper columnist in retirement. I never thought the warmth of the man made it onto paper. I’ll remember him in his office, forever patient and generous with a young reporter, telling stories in the softest of voices, a hint of a smile on his lips.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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