FARGO - Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker died unexpectedly at his home Tuesday night after a months-long battle with kidney cancer.

He was 73.

The three-term mayor, known to some affectionately as “Denny,” inspired public trust in his ability to protect the city since his decision in 2009 to not evacuate Fargo in the face of historic flooding.

Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney, who grew to know Walaker well during the 2009 flood, said the late mayor was “the flood fighter of Fargo.”

“He’s the master at it, and I think a lot of people will remember him as that,” Mahoney said. “He has the skill set that very few of us possess.”

“The community is mourning,” said Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams, who got to know Walaker after she was elected in 2013. “The thing about Denny is you know he will always be considered a hero.”

Walaker died about 7 p.m., Mahoney said. Because of the sudden nature of the death, Mahoney said he did not know the cause.

Emergency medical personnel were called, but weren’t able to save Walaker, Mahoney said.

Via a statement from a city spokeswoman, Walaker’s family declined to comment Tuesday night.

The late mayor spent the weekend in the hospital because of a bad reaction to his chemotherapy treatment and was expected to return home Tuesday in better health. He was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a common form of kidney cancer, sometime after his re-election in June.

Walaker kept up many of his mayoral duties despite the illness. While he missed several public appearances and was sometimes represented by Mahoney, he attended recent City Commission meetings.

He was elected to mayor for the first time in 2006.