Last week, we reported that Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) was killed along with two of her aides and a fourth person in a horrifying car crash. The congresswoman was 58 years-old.
Dean Swihart, who was married to Walorski for 27 years, has now broken his silence about her passing.
“A lot of people know Jackie as Jackie, or Jackie Walorski,” he said, at a vigil for his wife, according to a Facebook Live video by the South Bend Tribune. “I know Jackie as Jackie Swihart, my wife…Jackie took charge of whatever room she walked into, and it wasn’t because she was six foot tall.”
During the emotional speech at a vigil at Jimtown High School in Elkhart, Indiana, Swihart reminisced about how they first met in 1994, shortly before he took her to the St. Joseph County fair on what was their first date.
“She says: ‘I met the man I’m gonna marry,’” Swihart said at the vigil. “She knew that on the first date. I’m slow.”
Swihart and Walorski married in 1995 and surprisingly moved to Romania in 2000, remaining there for four years, according to The New York Post. While there, they started Impact International, which is an organization aimed at helping children which also provides medical supplies.
Walorski became involved in politics after they moved back to Indiana in 2004.
“I could not be more proud of the life my wife has lived,” Swihart said. “She lived her faith. She knew she was. She wasn’t going to be talked down she wasn’t going to back down.”
Walorski was a passenger in an SUV along with her press secretary Emma Thomson, 28, and St. Joseph County Republican Party chairman Zachery Potts, 27, when they crashed head-on with a car driving in the opposite direction last Wednesday, according to Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office. Thomson and Potts also died, as did Edith Schmucker, the 56 year-old driver of the other car.
“Jackie was a politician,” said Tim Henke, organizer of the vigil. “But I guarantee tonight, if I went around to every one of you and let you talk, you would say ‘Jackie was my best friend.’ When Jackie looked at you, she looked with eyes of hope.”
At the end of the vigil, Swihart told the crowd, “Jackie’s in heaven, she’s celebrating, and I’m so happy. I’ll see her again. I’ve got more resolve than ever.”
Since Walorski’s death, a bill has been introduced that would rename the Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic in Mishawaka, Indiana the “Jackie Walorski VA Clinic.” She spent two terms serving on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, according to WANE.
“I can think of a no more fitting tribute than to name a VA facility in Indiana’s 2nd district after my friend Rep. Jackie Walorski,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Jackie fought tirelessly to serve veterans in her district and renaming this facility in her honor ensures Rep. Walorski’s legacy of public service will live on for a long time to come.”
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) joined this legislation as original cosponsors, along with the entire Indiana delegation.
Please join us in saying a prayer for the families of Walorski and the other victims during this difficult time.