Ben Davol of Stonington, a political campaign strategist who served as the state campaign manager for John McCain during the 2000 Republican presidential primary, died Saturday during a charity bicycle run in New Haven.
Fellow Stonington native Scott Bates, the deputy secretary of the state and chairman of the Stonington Democratic Town Committee, confirmed Davol's death and said he was deeply saddened by the news and loss of someone whom he called a personal friend.
Davol, a father of two, had worked as a Republican campaign strategist but Bates, a Democrat, believes Davol was "politically independent" and a "champion of the political process."
"I can tell you personally, in an age when politics is viewed with cynicism and public service held in contempt, he saw both as noble pursuits," Bates said. "He loved our town, our state and our country and really believed he saw the good in just about anybody."
"He was a joy to be around. I could talk politics with him all day. His hero was John McCain and I know why. He believed in him and had the same set of values in country over party," Bates said.
Davol was participating in the Closer to Free Ride on Saturday, a fundraiser for the Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.
"Yale New Haven Hospital and the Closer to Free bike ride family were saddened to learn of the sudden passing of a 58-year-old male rider during this morning's annual ride," Yale New Haven Hospital said in a statement.
A friend, David Cruthers, posted a photograph of Davol on Facebook at the beginning of the ride.
"At the New Haven-Hamden border, Ben suffered a cardiac event and died," Cruthers wrote in the post. "He died riding to raise money to help cancer patients; in other words, he died while doing good. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him are left stunned and tremendously saddened ... Ben’s heart failed him today, but his friends know it was made of gold."
It was Davol's fourth such ride, according to his online profile associated with the charity ride.
"With so many friends and family struck with cancer the least I can do is ride for the cause. The way I look at it, riding 100 miles is much easier than chemo," Davol wrote.
Davol was the owner of Dromana Strategies, a communication and public policy consulting firm and a freelance writer and commentator who occasionally wrote columns for The Day.
Davol's online biography shows he spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., working as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and then as a senior executive for two national trade associations, the Glass Packaging Institute and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
Davol had also worked on Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons' successful campaign for a seat in Congress. Simmons served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001 to 2007.
Simmons was not immediately available for comment for this report but is quoted on Davol's website as saying, “Ben’s early and strong support of my congressional campaign, and his excellent political skills were critical in defeating a ten term incumbent.”