MIAMI — Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio temporarily suspended his campaign Sunday after the death of his father at Baptist Hospital in Miami.
Mario Rubio, 83, suffered from emphysema and lung cancer.
On the campaign trail, Rubio frequently spoke of the sacrifices made by his Cuban immigrant parents. His father's mother died when he was 9 years old, and he went to work the day after her funeral. He spent most of his life as a bartender but also worked as a street vendor, security guard, apartment building manager and crossing guard.
"He was by far the most unselfish person I have ever known, always focused on others, and never on his own well-being," Rubio said in a statement. "He was especially determined to provide his children opportunities he himself never had."
Rubio served as the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House before term limits forced him to leave office in 2008. Written off when he first began his Senate bid in 2009, Rubio forced Gov. Charlie Crist to bow out of the Republican primary or face near-certain defeat. Crist is now running as an independent. He and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami are Rubio's chief competitors in the Nov. 2 election.
"He was very proud of my public service," Rubio said of his father. "And over the last 18 months he became an expert channel surfer, constantly searching for my next television interview."
The Rubio campaign said his father was surrounded by family Saturday night in his final moments: his wife of 61 years, Oria, and his children Mario, Barbara, Marco and Veronica.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the League Against Cancer, Liga Contra El Cancer, at ligacontraelcancer.org.