Barbara Gill, a Republican politician from South Portland and longtime member of the Maine Senate who fought tirelessly for health care and education causes, died Monday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 82.

Mrs. Gill was elected to the Maine House, representing South Portland, in 1974 and served one term. In 1976, she was elected to the Maine Senate, representing South Portland and Cape Elizabeth. She served seven terms before retiring in 1992. Her obituary, which was published in Thursday’s newspaper, said she served on the Legislature’s committees for health institutional services, education, corrections and state and local government.

“Barbara was a wonderful, compassionate person with a warm sense of humor who cared deeply about her family, her community and her state,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement. “My heart goes out to her daughter Jo and to the other members of Barbara’s family. I hope they will take comfort in knowing that their mother made such a difference to so many people.”

Mrs. Gill got her first taste of politics as wife of the John “Ted” Gill, who served a stint in the Maine House. At the time, the couple lived in the Thornton Heights neighborhood of South Portland and operated the family business, Gill’s Pharmacy. He was active in local politics and community activities, while she helped run the store and take care of their four children.

Tragedy struck in 1972 when he died unexpectedly at the age of 44. She was asked to run for his seat in the Legislature but declined. Instead, she was elected to the South Portland School Board and served three years. At the urging of her friends, Mrs. Gill ran for her husband’s former seat and was elected in 1974.

Her daughter Jo Gill Richards of South Portland remembered her mother’s early years in office. She described her Friday as resilient, dedicated, no-nonsense and determined to make a difference.

“Her first term, she served with people like Jock McKernan and Olympia Snowe,” her daughter said. “There were a lot of people that took my mom under their wing and she soared. She got involved in what she believed in: health care issues, education and corrections. Those were her committees throughout her tenure.”

Throughout her years in office, Mrs. Gill worked at the Osteopathic Hospital of Maine, Brighton Medical Center and Community Health Services. She retired in 2002. Her daughter said she loved interacting with the public and helping people.

“She was a natural at it,” her daughter said. “It was an extension of her personality. It’s very easy to do a job when you love what you are doing. She was very lucky to work in fields where she loved what she was doing.”

Mrs. Gill began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease around 1994. In her later years, she enjoyed traveling and researching her Polish and Irish heritage. Most recently, she lived at South Portland Nursing Home.