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The late Larry Rasky, Boston PR pro and confidant of Biden, had coronavirus at time of death, family says

Larry Rasky.
Larry Rasky.Milbert Brown/Globe Staff/File

The family of the late Larry Rasky, a top Boston public relations executive and confidant of Joe Biden who died Sunday at the age of 69, confirmed Friday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Will Rasky, his son, broke the news in a statement released by Rasky Partners, his father’s firm.

“On Thursday night, we learned that my dad, Larry Rasky, tested positive for COVID-19,” Will Rasky said. "My dad had other underlying health conditions that medical professionals urge us to keep in mind. Our family, Larry’s colleagues, and others had already taken precautions in advance of learning the result, and we continue to follow all public health guidance. Not being able to gather with family and friends has made mourning Larry’s death all the more difficult, so the impact of the pandemic was already felt. That said, Larry’s spirit and legacy have kept us all tied together.”

The elder Rasky helped guide the campaigns of several top Democratic candidates, and was close to Biden, the former vice president and current front-runner for his party’s Democratic presidential nomination. Last fall Rasky had helped launch Unite the Country, a super PAC to support Biden’s White House bid.

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“He was a real friend,” Biden told the Globe by phone Sunday evening. "He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing.”

At earlier, difficult political junctures “he gave me confidence,” Biden said. “No matter how down I was going into something, that ridiculous laugh of his would always make a difference. He always knew when to kid and when not to kid.”

Massachusetts Democratic politics can feel like a family, said former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, on whose early US Senate campaign Mr. Rasky had served as communications director, “and Larry was one of the heads of the family, without any question.”

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Mr. Rasky, he added, “was one of the most experienced, most capable, most well-liked, and in a way iconic” members of that group, which stretches back to the 1970s.

When Mr. Rasky joined those ranks more than 40 years ago, though, he was finishing what he described — honestly but with a slight PR flourish — as “a long and unillustrious” academic career that brought him an Emerson College bachelor’s degree at age 27.

At the end of the 1970s, he was working security in a building that housed the campaign headquarters for President Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid and Joseph Timilty’s final run for Boston mayor.

As top campaign workers came and went, Mr. Rasky spoke so knowingly about politics that he was soon sent to Iowa, where he worked on Carter’s primary campaign before becoming deputy press secretary for the Carter-Mondale national campaign.

The rest of his career became the stuff of public relations legend in Boston, the state, and the nation, much of it through firms he founded or cofounded: Paradigm Consultants, Rasky & Co., Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, and Rasky Partners.

He had served as Biden’s press secretary when the then-US senator from Delaware ran for president in 1988 and was a close adviser for Biden’s subsequent bids.

Mr. Rasky’s list of candidate-clients formed a who’s who of Democratic elected officials in Massachusetts, among them Kerry; Raymond L. Flynn, a mayor of Boston; and a state treasurer, Robert Crane.

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“I think the reason people loved him was his deep loyalty to his friends and the causes he believes in,” said US Senator Ed Markey, for whom Mr. Rasky had worked when Markey was a member of the US House of Representatives. “It’s something that just drew people to him, and it’s why so many people are missing him today.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.