Rest in peace: Don Hahnfeldt, Republican lawmaker, former submarine commander, dead at 73

Republican state Representative Don Hahnfeldt has died. He was 73.

The cause of death is unknown at this time. Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran confirmed Hahnfeldt’s passing Monday afternoon, notifying members “of the passing of our friend and colleague Representative Don Hahnfeldt.”

Corcoran echoed the consensus assessment of Hahnfeldt: that he led an impressive life, which included service as a submarine commander in the U.S. Navy. A biography on his campaign website touted that under Hahnfeldt’s leadership, a group of nuclear experts confronted the challenge of dealing with radioactive waste disposal from the infamous Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Russia.

After his military career, Hahnfeldt moved to The Villages, the rapidly-growing retirement community located in central Florida. There he served as president of The Villages Homeowners Association, then as a Sumter County commissioner. In 2016, he was elected to the Florida House.

Hahnfeldt represented District 33, which includes Sumter and parts of Lake and Marion counties. Don Hahnfeldt, far left, along with other House members, is sworn in by Judge Nicholas Thompson, during Organization Session in November 2016. As a state lawmaker, “he was committed to always doing the right thing for his community and for Florida,” attested his colleague, state Rep. Joe Gruters .

Known as a traditional conservative, Hahnfeldt recently filed legislation to increase the minimum legal age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, tobacco chew and electronic vaping devices and products. He also earned extensive media coverage earlier this year for a proposal to require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

“Don was someone who served without wanting anything in return,” remarked state Rep. Randy Fine . “He was unafraid to stand up for his convictions in a world where too many struggle.”

Hahnfeldt is survived by his wife, Cheryle, his three children, Christiana, Katherine, and Jennifer, and seven grandchildren, John, Analiese, Madalyn, Thomas, Andrew, Henry, and Cullen.