ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) – Many said goodbye Thursday to Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski at her funeral and interment.
Walorski, two of his employees and a Nappanee woman were killed. in an accident in Elkhart County In the past week. Walorski served on the House Ways and Means Committee. She was first elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd congressional district in 2012 after previously serving three terms in the state legislature.
There was a large turnout in Michiana on Thursday as family, friends, legislators and the community honored and paid their respects to the late congresswoman.
LEGISLATORS AND DIGNATARIES ARRIVE FOR THE FUNERAL
People came from far and wide to attend Walorski’s funeral on Thursday morning.
Two private planes carrying members of Congress arrived at South Bend International Airport before the service. Two buses escorted them to Granger Community Church.
The funeral began at 11 am at Granger Community Church. His wake was held on Wednesday.
Speakers included Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, Missouri 2nd District Congresswoman Ann Wagner and Ohio 2nd District Congressman Brad Wenstrup.
Jackie’s husband, Dean Swihart, also made comments, saying he is touched by the outpouring of support and kindness the family has received since her death. Meanwhile, Swihart, who is a music teacher at the School City of Mishawaka, also filled the church with music by playing saxophone near the end of the service.
During her remarks, Swihart described what Jackie liked to do in the little free time she had. Shortly before the accident, Walorski called Swihart to tell him that he was on his way to his house and that he wanted to cool off in his backyard pool.
“He loved riding his cool chopper bike that looked like a Harley Davidson,” Swihart said. “With fists hanging off the jumpsuit, what do you call them? Monkey perches. He loved the pontoon. He loved palm trees. He loved the privacy. He traveled so much with Congress that he was happy to stay home under our fake palm tree. And he was private enough in our backyard that we could swim and the world didn’t know about it, and it was just wonderful.”
Swihart also emphasized that she didn’t wait until the last minute to get right with God.
“Remember that this is a celebration of life, because Jackie is not dead in the way that you imagine,” Swihart said. “Right now, she is more alive than all of us put together. Put together in this room. She is in an alternate location. At this moment, she knows perfectly well the things that we find difficult to understand.
“He lacked patience,” Swihart added. “She didn’t like it when we said that she didn’t like to wait for anything. And I think her impatience has been shown today. She just had to win us all to heaven.”
Governor Holcomb remembered Walorski, who referred to herself as an optimistic, enthusiastic and energetic Happy Hoosier during her remarks.
“The thing about Jackie is that she walked the walk,” Holcomb said. “She was that patriot. I dare say I mean no offense, no one loved this country more than Jackie. Once again, whether it’s standing up for law enforcement or our veterans, those who were hungry or homeless, or needed a lift, I think that’s what’s left for me as I process this combination of passion and compassion.”
McCarthy said we can honor Walorski’s life by being a little more like her.
“For my members, (that) doesn’t mean you run the meeting, like Jackie did,” McCarthy said. “That means you have the heart, the passion, the integrity and the faith. Not for a job, but to serve.”
Wagner became emotional at the end of his comments.
“To my friends and colleagues in Congress, we have truly lost one of the best of us,” Wagner said. “We will honor the memory of Jackie Walorski by putting one foot in front of the other, in our service to God and country.”
Wenstrup agreed with Swihart’s sentiments that Walorski’s funeral is a celebration of life.
“The Devil of death cannot defeat the God of eternal life,” Wenstrup said. “Jackie is in heaven. She flies with the angels, probably landing now to dip her feet in the pool.”
POST-FUNERAL SERVICE REACTION
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people turned out Thursday to pay their respects to Walorski.
16 News Now heard from those who paid their respects to the late congresswoman as they left the funeral. Many who attended called Walorski a colleague of hers, others considered her a friend of hers, and some considered her both.
There was a strong presence of veterans, a group Jackie advocated tirelessly for during her time in office. Jack Springgate spoke with one veteran in particular who was helped by Jackie on a much more personal level.
Joe Steenbeke and his dog, Tess, wouldn’t be together today if it weren’t for Walorski’s efforts. Joe was Tess’s original manager in the military, but when Joe left the service, he and Tess were separated for over five years.
Thanks to Walorski’s help, Joe and Tess were reunited after the dog retired from his career as a bomb-sniffer. Three years later, Joe still can’t find the words to describe what Walorski’s efforts meant to his family.
“I still don’t know how to describe it, but it’s something she did to literally complete our family,” says Steenbeke.
There were also people who knew Jackie before she headed to the Indiana Statehouse and Washington, DC. It’s those connections that really show how much she cared about the place she’s always called home.
“One of my favorite memories was being at a real estate sale in Elkhart, and her and her mom walked in,” says Jackie Clindaniel. “We’re like ‘Jackie, Jackie,’ and I met her mom. She was a down to earth person. She was never that celebrity, that politician.”
One of the things most people say they appreciated about Thursday’s service was that it shone a light on who Walorski was as a person above all else.
“The service was just fantastic,” says Linda Silcott. “God was glorified. This was such an important part of his life. Just everything about her, the commitment of her, the servant attitude of her, all of these things were just wonderful.”
The funeral was followed by a procession to Southlawn Cemetery, where Walorski was buried. There was also a garrison flag along the route at Jackson Road and Elm Road.
The community watched the procession at Grissom Middle School, where the public was advised to spectate. Dozens of community members lined the roads, holding signs and waving American flags as they bid Walorski one last farewell.
And while many who attended have only met her in passing or spoken briefly with her at an event in the past, they say they felt compelled to attend.
“I felt like I had to do it, in my heart, I had to be here to see it,” says Lori Young. “Jackie did a lot of things for veterans, and we belong to a group of veterans, the Combat Vets, so we thought we should go out there and pay our respects to him.”
Others who spoke to 16 News Now said Walorski was warm and welcoming. They also said that she was always open to talk and listen.
“She has touched a lot of people,” says Curtis Kennedy. “Take all those values and add them and extend them to other people. She was a good hearted soul, be a good hearted soul for others. She listened to people when they needed help the most. Listen to people when they need help the most. Take the things that you see that you enjoyed about Jackie Walorski, introduce them and spread them to other people in the community.”
Meanwhile, those who had the opportunity to work with her and call her a friend say that Walorski was one of a kind and would be humbled by all the respect and support from the community.
“I guess it was maybe 90 seconds after I spoke to her,” says Roger Huizenga, a retired Walkerton municipal judge who volunteered for Walorski’s campaigns. “She is exceptional. She is unique. I still have my Jackie for Congress t-shirts and will keep them forever.”
Several others who attended Walorski’s procession said his hard work and support of Hoosiers will not be forgotten.
“Thank you so much for all these years and all this time that you have given to this community,” said community member Marjorie Deranek. “And love and compassion and fighting. I remember his smile. I loved her hair. Her hair was always this great, great style. She was so warm, so kind and welcoming.”
When a serving member of Congress dies, the ceremony resembles that for a member of the military who dies in the line of duty.
More than 100 people gathered at Southlawn Cemetery Thursday afternoon for the graveside service, which included the folding of the flag, a gun salute, tapping and more.
A coffin, which is a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage originally used to transport ammunition during military battles and, when necessary, to transport the wounded or dead from the battlefield, carried Walorski to his resting place. final break.
All branches of the military were represented when Walorski received full military honors, which was very appropriate considering how he fought to improve the lives of veterans and service members.
However, many other members of the community were there to celebrate other aspects of Walorski’s legacy.
“We just remember Jackie’s work in the community, always delivering GCC food or working with families with Right to Life,” says Todd Zeiger of South Bend. “Just a member of the community. And today’s service was a great farewell to her and her great Christian faith. It all meant a lot to us today, so we just wanted to come out and pay our respects.”
Meanwhile, Walorski’s family members said they were grateful for the support and kindness they have received since his death.
“Everyone has been absolutely wonderful,” says Anna Swihart Miller. “It feels so good to know that so many people care. And our family is made up of Dean, Jackie, my husband and I, and our son. She would always come in, she would always give us a hug, always ‘How are you?’ Being united is simply the best feeling. Really is. It’s the best feeling.”
“Do you know we were at the funeral home yesterday, or at the church yesterday, and there were people walking by who didn’t even know her?” says David Walorski, Jackie’s brother. We tried to talk to a lot of people and they were like, ‘Well, I’m nobody.’ I’m just a constituent. I love her, but I never met her. And that was it. That’s just a little of everyone you know.
“And I think as far as the community, we as a family would say thank you for all this outpouring of support for the military,” he added. “You know, the entire army took their leave, appropriate, for her. And I think probably today, if you know if she could look over the railings of heaven with some friends of ours up there, she’s probably looking at that procession and she’s probably going ‘Can you believe she’s doing that for me?’
Jackie was buried near her father and grandfather.
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