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Industry, Colleagues Mourn Loss of RV Advocate Rep. Jackie Walorski

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The RV industry lost a beloved advocate yesterday after U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, 58, R-Ind., was killed in a car wreck with three others near Nappanee, Indiana.

According to the Goshen News, the incident occurred after noon on Aug. 4. Walorski was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives and represented Indiana’s 2nd District. Two of her staff members also died in the wreck: Zachery Potts, 27, Mishawaka, was Walorski’s district director; and Emma Thomson, 28, Washington, D.C., was her communications director.

The occupant of the other vehicle, Edith Schmucker, 56, Nappanee, was pronounced deceased at the scene, The Goshen News reported.

For more details about the wreck, click here for the Goshen News story.

The RV Industry Association said yesterday that as a founding member of the RV Caucus, Walorski was “a true friend and champion of the RV industry and she served as a passionate and powerful voice for all of her constituents in Indiana’s 2nd District.”

“The drive and enthusiasm Congresswoman Walorski had for the RV industry and the people of Indiana’s second district was unmatched,” said RV Industry Association Chair Jeff Rutherford. “There is no one who more consistently advocated on behalf of the RV industry in Congress and we as an industry are better off for it. This is truly a sad day for all who knew her, and we wish to express the heartfelt condolences of the entire RV industry to Jackie’s family and the families of Zachery and Emma during this incredibly difficult time.”

RV Women’s Alliance President Susan Carpenter noted that Walorski was set to be on hand in Elkhart, Indiana, this week to hand out certificates for the first all-female RV technician class.

“We at the RV Women’s Alliance are saddened by the great loss of Jackie Walorski,” Carpenter said. “Representative Walorski was always supportive of our efforts and was a champion of everything the RVWA set out to accomplish. She was a great advocate for the industry and an example of true servant leadership to our members and is already greatly missed.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Walorski.

“As the representative for the RV Capitol of the World, Congresswoman Walorski had a deep understanding and passion for the RV industry and the people in it,” said RV Industry Association President and CEO Craig Kirby. “She championed numerous RV-related endeavors on Capitol Hill, including founding the House RV Caucus, sponsoring and introducing key legislation on behalf of the industry, and delivering positive testimony during congressional hearings. Jackie not only lit up a room with her passion for Indiana, she commanded any room with her incredible intellect and understanding of how business and manufacturing drive the U.S. economy. She has left an indelible mark on the RV industry, and we are very grateful for her service to her district and the country.”

Phil Ingrassia, RVDA president, said Walorski was a strong proponent of the recreation industry.

“Rep. Walorski was a thoughtful and energetic leader for her constituents and the entire RV industry. She understood the RV business and how RV travel enhances the lives of millions of Americans. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, she was truly one of the driving forces to improve funding for outdoor recreation across the country,” he said. “RVDA sends its condolences to Rep. Walorski’s family, friends, and colleagues as well as those of her district director, Zachery Potts, and communications director, Emma Thomson. May they rest in peace.”

Walorski’s office released a statement, stating: “She has returned home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers,” the statement continued. “In addition to the devastating loss of Congresswoman Walorski, it is with a broken heart that I announce the passing of two dedicated members of her staff, Zach Potts and Emma Thomson. They were the epitome of public servants who cared deeply about the work they performed on behalf of the constituents of Indiana’s Second Congressional District.”

Additional Comments from Local and National Leaders

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana: “Jackie Walorski was a tireless advocate for the Hoosiers she represented and a kind friend to everyone she met. She faithfully served her constituents and her Lord and Savior, and I trust she is now wrapped in the arms of Christ. This is a devastating loss, and we grieve for her two staff members – Zach and Emma – who had their whole lives ahead of them. Please join me and Maureen in praying for the families and friends of those lost on this tragic day for Indiana.”

U.S. Congressman Jim Banks (R-Ind.): “My heart is broken for Dean, the Walorski family and all who knew and loved my friend Jackie. Jackie was a true public servant — selfless, humble and compassionate. She was a devout Christian, a passionate advocate for life and a leader among Hoosier representatives. Everything Jackie did was to serve others. Before Congress, she served in the Indiana Statehouse and she and her husband served as missionaries in Romania where they provided impoverished children food and medical care. From my first day in Congress, Jackie showed me kindness and grace. She had a heart of gold, and I will miss her dearly. Please join Amanda and I in praying for her Jackie’s loved ones and the friends and family of her two staff members who also lost their lives in this tragic accident.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb: “Janet and I are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two staffers — Emma Thomson and Zach Potts — earlier today. Our broken hearts go out to her husband, Dean, and the entire family during this time of unimaginable mourning. At every level of public service Jackie was known to be a positive force of nature, a patriot, and a relentless policymaker with an unwavering loyalty to her constituents. Jackie’s record of achievement is impossible to quantify. She will be remembered as a fighter with a huge heart that always went the extra mile, and I’ll treasure the times we walked a few of those together. Every waking moment for her was energetically devoted to improving the lives of all Hoosiers better, the epitome of a good and faithful servant. She, and the example she set, will be missed every day forward.”

Elkhart Mayor Rod Robertson: “I am shocked and saddened to learn of Rep. Jackie Walorski’s passing and the passing of her staff members. This is a devastating loss for Elkhart, Indiana, and for the nation. Jackie was a warrior for Hoosiers in Washington and her collaboration and passion was felt right here in Elkhart. Her dedication to serving our community will be hard to replace. Her family, her colleagues and her staff are in my prayers.”

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar: “I am shocked and very saddened by the sudden passing of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her two staffers, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, in a car accident today in Elkhart County. Congresswoman Walorski was such a pleasure to work with — both in her tenure at the Indiana Statehouse and in Congress. She always fought hard for her constituents and was a trusted ally in advocating for policies to better the lives of Hoosiers. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce sends its sincere condolences to the congresswoman’s family and the families of all lost today.”

President Joe Biden: “Born in her beloved South Bend as the daughter of a meat-cutter and firefighter, she spent a lifetime serving the community that she grew up in – as a journalist, a nonprofit director, a state legislator and eventually as a member of Congress for the past nine and half years. … We send our deepest condolences to her husband, Dean, to the families of her staff members, Zachery Potts and Emma Thomson, who lost their lives in public service, and to the people of Indiana’s Second District who lost a representative who was one of their own.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence: “Karen Pence and I are heartbroken by the tragic passing of our dear friend Rep. Jackie Walorski. She served Indiana in the Statehouse and the Congress with integrity and principle for nearly two decades and will be deeply missed.”

 

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