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Bishop Nash/The Herald-Dispatch Ken Hechler, former US Congressman and West Virginia Secretary of State, enters the room to cheers as he celebrates his 100th birthday among friends and supporters Saturday, September 27, 2014, at Marshall University in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON – Longtime Huntington resident, ex-congressman and former secretary of state Ken Hechler is hospitalized in serious condition, according to his wife, Carol.

Hechler, 101, now living in Romney, West Virginia, was rushed to a nearby hospital Wednesday night, before falling nonresponsive and eventually being transferred to another facility in Cumberland, Maryland.

Carol Hechler sought “lots of prayers for (her) dear husband” via Facebook late Wednesday, before updating his condition with midday Thursday with The Herald-Dispatch.

She spoke of his love for Huntington and West Virginia, but also shared a personal side of the man who never married until late in life. That’s when he also became stepfather to her son, after not having any children of his own.

“It’s really difficult to take a 98.9-year-old bachelor and turn him into the perfect father and husband, but he’s pulled it off pretty much without a hitch,” she said. “He’s the most caring, devoted father and husband that one could ever ask for.”

Hechler, hospitalized just prior to his 101st birthday, was “hell bent” on attending a party to celebrate the occasion just after his release. He then fell ill Sept. 20 and has been in and out of medical facilities ever since, his wife said.

The New York native was educated at Swarthmore College and Columbia University before serving as an U.S. Army combat historian during World War II. He then served in the Truman administration and other positions in Washington before joining the faculty at Marshall University.

Hechler, a Democrat, was first elected to Congress in 1958 and served until 1977. He was West Virginia Secretary of State from 1985 to 2001. He then lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, running on a platform opposed to mountaintop removal mining, following the death of Robert C. Byrd.

Hechler attended a 100th birthday party last September held for him at Marshall University.

Follow reporter Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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