(LaPorte, IN) - Former Indiana State Senator and current LaPorte School board member Jim Arnold said he cried when learning about the death of former governor Joe Kernan who he described as one of the finest public officials “he ever met or ever will meet.”
Arnold said he was the LaPorte County sheriff when their paths first crossed and over the years he remained in contact with the former three term mayor of South Bend.
Arnold said he once attended a minor league baseball game in South Bend with Kernan and they were the last ones to leave the stadium because of all of the vendors shaking his hand and telling him they wished he was involved in local politics again.
He said Kernan who treated strangers like friends seemed just as receptive in his interaction with them.
Arnold also said Kernan was once invited to stop by the Veterans of Foreign Wars branch in Rolling Prairie on his way back to South Bend after a speaking engagement in Michigan City.
He lived up to his promise and had a beer with everyone.
“If there was one thing that made him so well-loved he always had his feet on the ground. He would never, never ever refuse to talk to anybody about anything they wanted to talk about,” he said.
“He was just a one of a kind. He can’t be replaced,” Arnold said.
LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said he was also taken back at how the former governor was so friendly and down to earth.
He first met him when Kernan was the guest speaker at a ceremony for local veterans in 2004.
Mrozinski, who also saw combat duty in the Vietnam War, later ran into former governor at other functions including one where his nephews growing up at the time were invited by Kernan to have a seat next to him.
“Very nice man. He was a true American no doubt about it,” he said.