GRANGER, Ind. – Political leaders on Thursday honored Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana as a determined advocate for her beliefs during a funeral after she and three other people were killed in a highway crash last week.
Numerous members of Congress were among several hundred mourners for the nearly two-hour service at Granger Community Church near Walorski’s northern Indiana home.
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke about Walorski’s work as a Christian missionary in Romania with her husband, as the director of a local humane society and as a television news reporter before entering politics.
“Tell you the truth, Jackie never had a job. She always had a purpose and a mission,” McCarthy said.
Walorski, 58, was in an SUV with two members of her congressional staff on Aug. 3 when it crossed the median of a northern Indiana highway for unknown reasons and collided with an oncoming vehicle, according to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.
Walorski, her 27-year-old staffer Zachery Potts, of Mishawaka, who was driving, and her 28-year-old communications director, Emma Thomson, of Washington, D.C., all died, as did the woman who was driving the other vehicle.
Potts was Walorski’s district director and the Republican chairman for northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County.
Walorski was first elected to Congress in 2012 after six years in the state Legislature and was seeking reelection this year in the solidly Republican district.
Much of Walorski’s funeral highlighted her Christian faith, with her husband, Dean Swihart, an elementary school music teacher, playing saxophone with other musicians as they performed several hymns.
Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri recalled becoming friends with Walorski after they first joined Congress at the same time and lived in the same Washington apartment building for many years.
Wagner choked back tears as she called Walorski “one of the best.”
“Jackie was a no-nonsense, get it done and move it or lose it woman of strength and intense integrity,” Wagner said.
Walorski was active on agriculture and food policy in Congress, often working across the aisle on those issues. A co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, she introduced legislation with Democrats to bring back a Nixon-era White House event on food insecurity.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said Walorski loved the country and was proud of her home area.
“One thing about Jackie, her step was always sure, her step was always forward,” Holcomb said. “She was optimistic and enthusiastic and, yes, energetic.”