BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Patricia Byrne Young, the widow of former North Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. Milton Young, has died, friends said Friday. She was 87.

Young had suffered from Alzheimer's disease in recent years, said Bob Christman, the deputy North Dakota agriculture commissioner and a former member of the senator's staff. He said she died Sunday in Venice, Fla.

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A native of Bowman, in southwestern North Dakota, Young became the senator's personal secretary in Washington, D.C., at age 22 after working for three years as a court reporter in Fargo.

Gov. Fred Aandahl had appointed Milton Young, a former state legislator, to the U.S. Senate in March 1945 when the incumbent, Democrat John Moses, died in office. Young went on to serve 35 years in the Senate, the longest stint in North Dakota history.

Patricia Young "was one of the first people (Sen. Young) hired," said Andrea Winkjer Collin, author of a biography of Sen. Young. The newly appointed senator had called local GOP district chairmen to ask for recommendations on office staff, and Patricia Byrne, the daughter of M.S. Byrne, a politically influential attorney in Bowman, was one of the people recommended.

She married Sen. Young in December 1969, six months after the death of Young's first wife, Malinda. Milton and Malinda Young were married for almost 50 years.

The couple retired to Sun City, Ariz., after Milton Young did not seek re-election in 1980. He died in May 1983 at age 85.

An Oct. 22 service for Patricia Young is planned at the Holy Rosary Church in LaMoure, N.D. Sen. Young was a native of the area and is buried in nearby Berlin, N.D.

Christman described Patricia Young as a kind, gentle woman who enjoyed golf and bridge.

"She was the same person when she left Washington, D.C. , in 1981 as when she came there in 1945," he said. "She was never affected by it."