Former state Sen. Joseph H. Harper, D-New Britain, is celebrating his 450-pound weight loss with a fundraiser for an autism charity associated with the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, the institution that guided his weight loss.

Harper weighed 736 pounds when he left the state Senate in January 1995 after 16 years in the legislature, most as the co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He now weighs less than 280 pounds.

He lost the weight without bariatric surgery, relying on diet and exercise. He said it was a struggle with gains and losses over 20 years, but he stabilized his weight after retiring in 2010 as the hospital’s vice president of government relations.

“This is my way of giving back,” Harper said in a statement issued by the hospital. “HSC helped me conquer my obesity without surgery, now I want to assist HSC in helping individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder conquer their challenges.”

The charity created at Harper’s request will fund services at the hospital for children on the autism spectrum.

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, who was one of Harper’s closest friends when both served in the state Senate, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are expected to speak at the fundraiser June 26 at the Hartford Club.

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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