BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Tony Pomerleau, who rose from humble roots to become one of the state's major business figures and a prominent philanthropist, has died at age 100.

Pomerleau died late Thursday at his home in Burlington, said Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, whose wife, Marcelle Leahy, is Pomerleau's niece.

"We think of his enormous philanthropy in Vermont, his caring about Vermont and people throughout Vermont society," Leahy said in a statement. "We think of the good he has done for others, but in the end we think of a loving member of our family, and while not unexpected, it is a loss that will be felt by all of us over the generations."

The cause of Pomerleau's death wasn't revealed, but Pomerleau had been in declining health. He died surrounded by his family, his son Ernie Pomerleau said in a statement.

"Our dad often said that everything has an expiration date except him," he said. "He was so right, because I know that together, our family and the Vermont community will carry forward his spirit and legacy."

Pomerleau was a Newport schoolboy who went on to develop Vermont's first shopping centers. In 2012, business records showed Pomerleau family properties in 18 Vermont towns and three northern New York communities.

Pomerleau also became known for his charitable giving. For more than 30 years, he sponsored a Christmas party for hundreds of low-income Burlington children. He donated $1 million to recovery projects from Tropical Storm Irene.

He was a major figure in Burlington during the 1970s and 1980s, including when Bernie Sanders was the upstart mayor who became his friend.

"Tony Pomerleau, a friend for over 35 years, was one of the most remarkable human beings that I've ever met," Sanders, an independent U.S. senator who ran for president as a Democrat in 2016, said on Friday. "His love for Vermont and the city of Burlington was contagious, and his incredible generosity helped thousands of families in our state."

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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