The death of U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, killed in a car crash on 119 near Elkhart Aug. 3, has left the northern Indiana area, and friends and colleagues nationwide, stunned and grieving at the loss.
Walorski, 58, had served Indiana’s 2nd district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two congressional staffers, Zach Potts and Emma Thomson”, Ron Breymier executive director of the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association – Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council said.
The association worked closely with the congresswoman in Washington and during her tenure in the Indiana House of Representatives.
“Jackie was a tireless public servant who cared deeply for her constituents, the State of Indiana, and our nation,” he said. “Jackie was a strong advocate for the RV and manufactured housing industries. She recognized the importance of the jobs created and took pride in promoting affordable housing and recreational opportunities for Americans.”
Vice Chair of the St. Joseph County Republican Party Susan Baxmeyer described the congresswoman as larger than life, possessing an infectious personality that captured attention.
“Congresswoman Walorski was a fierce advocate for her district,” Baxmeyer said. “Never once was she without a smile, or a kind word, or a rousing and inspiring message. She poured her heart and soul into each day’s work.
“And while this district is losing an incredible representative, the bigger loss is that of a loyal friend.”
Walorski served in the state capital from 2004 through 2010 and won again in 2012.
A cause for the crash is undetermined. Some reports indicate the driver of Walorski’s vehicle may have crossed the centerline prior to the collision. However, the investigation is ongoing.
Manufactured Housing Institute Chief Executive Officer Lesli Gooch offered condolences to the families of those involved in the crash, reminding that Walorski and her colleagues dedicated their lives to finding solutions to the challenges that face the country.
“I am so very saddened to hear of the passing of Congresswoman Walorski, her District Director Zachery Potts, and Communications Director Emma Thomson,” Gooch said.
“Congresswoman Walorski was a dedicated and effective public servant and we appreciate her support of manufactured housing as a part of her work to expand the American dream of homeownership to more people,” she said. “Her lasting impact supporting families, workers, and small businesses will be felt by both those she knew personally and the countless others whose lives she impacted through her public service.”
Potts, the driver, 27, was the chairman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party, and Emma Thomson, 28, Walorski’s communications director, were killed in the crash. The fourth fatality was the driver of the other vehicle, Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, who was traveling alone south on state route 19 just beyond Wakarusa about 12:30 p.m.
Mark Bowersox is the president of MHI, and previously worked for the Indiana association in support of the manufactured housing and RV industries where each industry holds great local value as well as a national presence.
“For years, I witnessed Congresswoman Walorski’s support for manufactured housing, first as an Indiana state lawmaker and then as a congresswoman. She will be remembered by this industry for her unwavering commitment to making the lives of Americans better by helping them achieve homeownership in quality manufactured housing,” Bowersox said. “We will miss her and we extend our deepest condolences to her family and the families of her exceptional staff members who died supporting her important work. We are grateful for their public service and support for the American dream.”
Walorski grew up in South Bend, Ind., and was a reporter for the local CBS affiliate in the middle to late 1980s. She served at Ancilla College as the director of institutional advancement, and as director of membership at the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce, director of annual giving at Indiana University South Bend from and then moved to Romania start Impact International, a foundation to provide medical supplies and attention to impoverished children.
Indiana law states it is the charge of local Republican officials to pick a candidate to replace Walorski on the general election ballot. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb also has the power to schedule a special election for someone to address Walorski’s current term.