Nancy Longley grew up talking politics and health care at the dinner table with her parents, a nurse and doctor, in a small Minnesota town.

After earning a law degree years later, Longley worked on the campaigns for former U.S. senators Rudy Boschwitz and David Durenberger and others. Then she launched a public relations career with a focus on health care issues, such as developing and overseeing an anti-smoking campaign aimed at youth for the Minnesota Department of Health in 1990s.

Longley, a nonsmoker from St. Paul, died from lung cancer at age 52 last week, four months after being diagnosed with the disease, said her husband, Chris Longley. He said she said ran almost daily for fitness, ate well and had never smoked.

He said his wife cared most about her family, her work and helping others through their Catholic church and groups such as Midwest Special Services, which helps disabled seniors find housing.

“She was very charismatic. Her personality filled up a room,” Longley said. “She was selfless, always caring about others.” Even when she was suffering from cancer last fall, she helped another woman patient while both were waiting to get into the emergency room one night at United Hospital in St. Paul.

“She saw a patient in a lot of pain waiting. She took off her coat and made a pillow for the person,” Longley recalled.

Longley said his wife was brilliant and could simplify complex subjects. He said her weakness was always being on her Blackberry responding to their three kids or her clients, even late at night. He said she wasn’t very technical, so she didn’t notice when he turned off her Blackberry while they were in Colorado skiing on vacation.

“We always had so many things to talk about,” said her husband, a corporate law attorney. “She was my best friend. She laughed at all my jokes.”

Longley met her husband after graduating from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. They were both working on Rudy Boschwitz’s 1984 campaign, the former senator recalled.

“She was a devoted, conservative Republican, a small-government person,” Boschwitz said Sunday. “They have a lovely family.” Boschwitz, 82, said he will remember Longley’s positive outlook, energy and laughter.

Longley got involved in health care policy while working for former U.S. Sen. Durenberger, a leading voice on health care during the early 1990s, then served as finance director for the state Republican Party. She also worked on the 1996 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.

Longley worked for Himle Horner public relations before joining Weber Shandwick in 1999, where she became executive vice president for health care practice. She also was a commentator for Minnesota Public Radio and served on the boards of several charities, including Minnesota Chamber of Commerce PAC Board and Midwest Special Services.

Longley is survived by her husband and children: Christopher (Kit), 24, Mariko (Mari), 21, and Charles, 14; her father, Dr. Hideo Mori, of Spring Valley, Minn.; her mother, Grayce, of St. Paul; and brothers Robert Mori, of Tokyo and Kent Mori of St. Paul. She is preceded in death by her sister, Ann Mori.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Thomas More Church, Lexington and Summit avenues, in St. Paul.