Carnahan, a Democrat, was appointed to the Senate in 2001 after the death of her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, and served until 2002.
“My mother passed away peacefully after a long and rich life. He was a fearless traveler. He was brilliant, creative, compassionate and devoted to his family and fellow Missourians,” his family said in a statement.
His family did not specify the cause of death, but said Carnahan died after a brief illness at a hospice facility in suburban St. Louis.
Carnahan was born on December 20, 1933 in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the nation’s capital. His father worked as a plumber and his mother as a hairdresser.
She met Mel Carnahan, the son of a Missouri congressman, at a church event, and they got to know each other better after sitting next to each other in high school, according to the family. They were married on June 12, 1954.
Jean Carnahan graduated from George Washington University a year later with a bachelor’s degree in business and public administration, and they later raised four children on a farm near Rolla, Missouri.
She served as first lady of Missouri after her husband was elected governor in 1992 and for two terms.
On October 16, 2000, the governor, the couple’s son Roger and an aide died in a plane crash. Following Mel Carnahan’s posthumous election three weeks later, Acting Governor Roger Wilson appointed Jean Carnahan to the seat left vacant by her husband’s death.
He served from January 3, 2001 to November 25, 2002.
After his appointment, Carnahan gave a speech in the Senate in which he noted his tragic path to the chamber.
“My name was never on the ballot. “No victory celebration was held on election night.” “You are here for your victory. I’m here because I’m lost. But we are all here to do the work of this great nation.”
Roy Temple, the Carnahans’ longtime aide and Jean Carnahan’s chief of staff, said he saw Carnahan on his 90th birthday last year and told him, “Jean, you’re like a flower that blooms where you plant it.”
“He just did everything with an infinite amount of intelligence and wit and creativity,” Temple said. “Whatever he was doing—planning a party or pushing legislation—it was in his nature to do it all the way.”
Although Carnahan has only been in the Senate for two years, he has served an extraordinary time, Temple said. While there, she lost her home in a fire and was recovering from the loss of her husband and son. He was there during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he worked in Hart’s Senate Office building during the anthrax scare — Temple remembers working with him at the time, hiding in the basement of the Capitol.
“It was an unusual and stressful time and he did the job well and with great dignity,” Temple said. “It was a privilege to work with him.”
Temple Carnahan and then Sen said. Joe Biden had a connection because he was one of the few people who had suffered a similar loss and could understand what he was going through.
Carnahan was the author of seven books, including two about the Missouri governor’s mansion and a biography about her work as first lady and senator.
A private family service will be held at Carson Hill Cemetery near Ellsinore, Missouri, where Carnahan’s husband and son are buried. A public service is planned in St. Louis, with details expected to be announced at a later date.