Remembering Jackie Walorski through her impact on Michiana individuals

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:33 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -We continue to mourn the loss of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski here in Michiana.

While she was certainly known for her contributions to the Republican party and her work in Washington DC, she was also known for her unwavering passion for the people in the Hoosier State that she served.

Our own Jack Springgate spoke to some of the people who received some of that compassion firsthand.

One of those individuals is our former Chief Meteorologist Mike Hoffman. We look back at a moment that showed how much she truly appreciated the efforts of people like Mike in the place she always called home.

Just take a look at how much emotion she spoke with when recognizing Mike on his retirement from WNDU after 27 years at the station.

“I want to present this to you Mike for your future endeavors. Thank you for what you’ve done and who you are. It’s your leadership, it’s who you are in the community, it’s how many people know you and see you, and just being a man of integrity and full leadership for generations in our community. I just wish you the best,” Walorski said while at the station in 2021.

Knowing about that gesture to his family, we reached back out to Mike to hear why that recognition from her still impacts him today. Here’s what he said.

“As far as her being honored to recognize me, that’s a neat thing to think about. I have her congressional record here hanging on my office wall so that’s important to me--it’s humbling to me--but she was just a genuine person,” Mike said.

He’s certainly not the only person who told us how genuine their interactions with Congresswoman Walorski were.

These are some pictures we got from former South Bend Councilman Dr. Oliver Davis showing some of the times he and Jackie reached across the aisle to work together.

While he admits as a Democrat that they didn’t often agree as politicians, he says they had immense respect for each other as individuals.

Back in 2019, Dr. Davis said Walorski helped him get over the final hurdle to earn his Ph.D. in social work from USC by hearing out his presentation on how to use multimedia to explain homelessness to middle schoolers.

He told us that memory always comes to mind whenever he sees the letters ‘D’ and ‘R’ that come before his name.

“So, every time I look at that, I look at the people who helped me become Dr. Davis: mom, dad, cousins, teachers, mentors, other people-- and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski will always be a person who made me who I am,” Dr. Davis said.

You can find his full statement along with reactions from other Michiana leaders on Walorski’s passing here.

Congresswoman Walorski not only had a passion for her people back home, but she also had a tremendously huge heart for those who served.

This is back in 2018 when Walorski took the time to honor and recognize Vietnam veteran James Stemmler and Desert Storm veteran Thomas Hollis.

She presented Stemmler with the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars among the six other awards she recognized him with. She donned Hollis with the Valorous Unit Award and Kuwait Liberation Medal.

Then a year later went beyond the call of her office to reunite a military service dog with her first handler in Marshall County. At that point, they had been apart for 5 years.

Without help from the Congresswoman, Joseph Steenbeke and his dog Tess might have never met again.

Just take a look at what that moment meant to Walorski and Steenbeke.

“To every veteran, Joe has paid such a price for the freedom of our country,” Walorski said back in 2019.

“To have so many people fight for me to get this dog back for me, it showed that people really care with how we live and how we grow and heal,” Steenbeke said.

We again express our deepest condolences to her family, as well as to the loved ones of Zach Potts, Emma Thomson, and Edith Schmucker.

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