Former state representative Rick Geist, who represented the Altoona area for more than three decades, died Thursday while touring Russia.

“He had a massive heart attack,” Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, confirmed late Thursday after contacting the office of Rep. Louis Schmitt Jr.

Schmitt, a Republican, is state representative for the 79th District covering much of Blair County, the seat Geist held from 1979 to 2012.

Geist was born Nov. 21, 1944, in Blair County and graduated from Altoona Area High School in1962 and held an associate’s degree in drafting and design from Penn State University.

First elected to the house in 1978, he was reelected to 15 more consecutive terms. During is tenure, he served as minority caucus chair and transportation chairman.

Since leaving office, he has operated Rick A. Geist Consulting in Harrisburg.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge issued a statement on Geist’s death.

“Michele and I were saddened to learn of Rick’s sudden passing,” Ridge said. “He was a hard-working and determined public servant whose leadership in helping us pass a critical transportation bill during my time as governor has had a long-term positive impact across Pennsylvania.

“Personally, I will always be grateful for Rick’s early support of my campaign for governor. That support meant a great deal to us.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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