Former Rep. John Y. McCollister (R-Neb.) has died at the age of 92.

“I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of former Nebraska Rep. John Y. McCollister, who was my friend and mentor for more than four decades,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a release.

The Associated Press also confirmed his death. 

His son, John S. McCollister, said McCollister died Friday morning after a long battle with cancer. 

“After 92 years, he's had a good life, and we want to celebrate it,” his son said in a statement, according the AP. “The great number of people he mentored is remarkable. He had so many close friends, and was very heartfelt in his political beliefs.”

McCollister served in Congress for three years from 1971 to 1977.

Hagel worked as a congressional aide to McCollister, and he credits the late congressman with shaping many of his views. Hagel later served as senator from Nebraska.

In 1976, McCollister ran for Senate, but Omaha Mayor Ed Zorinsky defeated him in the election. McCollister never ran for another elected office.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said in a statement Friday that McCollister counseled her, too.

“Today, Nebraska lost a principled fighter, our state Republican party lost a great leader, and I lost a dear friend. Congressman McCollister was devoted to public service for the entirety of his life, including his military service during World War II.”

McCollister served as a Navy radar officer in the Pacific during the war.