SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragic deaths of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and St. Joseph County GOP Chair Zach Potts. The two Republican leaders of our community were killed in a traffic crash that also took the lives of two others. Today, REAL News Michiana is sharing the words of current GOP Chair Tyler Gillean who has worked diligently to keep their legacies alive by continuing the gains and conservative movement they both started and to which they dedicated much of their lives.
We all remember where we were when we “heard” what happened…
It’s a day we will never forget. Even typing this note brings back the memories and emotions of that day – I had just had a conversation with Zach earlier in the morning, we were giggling about our usual nonsense and having a lighthearted conversation then discussed grabbing dinner once I returned from Florida. We ended our conversation and went about our lives – never knowing it would be the last time I ever spoke with Zach.
Life is full of shocking moments, where you’re reminded out of the blue that all of this can be gone in an instant, but oddly enough – we forget how sudden things change until they happen? It’s a weird feeling to describe unless you have lived through it.
Two pillars of our community: Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and GOP Chairman Zach Potts were lost this day one year ago with two others. These two were larger than life figures to all of us. Stalwarts in the conservative cause, pioneers in building this Republican Party into what it is today.
Jackie Walorski never backed down from her beliefs, she was tenacious, fearless and inspiring. She always knew what to say – she had a witty story, a good anecdote or a little wisdom to leave you. When a conversation with Jackie concluded you immediately knew that was someone special. Jackie made everyone she met feel like a million bucks, she listened, she cared and she fought for all of us.
Jackie was a champion of the pro-life movement; she was a devout Christian and wife to Dean who loved her dearly. She was a force for all of us and is dearly missed – one of the most incredible women to have ever held office for the Republican Party.
Zach Potts was quiet, he was cool, he was cunning, he always had a plan two or three moves ahead of what others were processing. Zach Potts was the closest thing to a genius I’ve ever encountered. Zach’s best trait? He was dedicated. He was dedicated to his family, his faith and his country. He loved the Republican Party almost as much as he loved his beautiful fiancé Ashlea. Zach inspired you to keep moving forward, to chip away at our common goals and to fight to give voters an alternative to the status quo.
I’m fighting really hard at this moment to not type out paragraphs and paragraphs about what Zach meant to me, but there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t pause and think about him and how much I miss him and his friendship. Behind me currently on my mantle are Zach’s lapel pins he wore along with a framed photo given to me by Ashlea where Zach, in his loud colored socks, has his feet on a desk in some ornate office in Washington D.C., – I see these items every morning and take a second to remember my lost buddy. Wish I could say time heals all wounds, but so far it hasn’t.
These were great people… gone far too soon. Their memories and legacies will live on through our party forever.
Today is a somber day, but it’s a day that we can reflect on what these people meant to us, but more importantly a reminder to love the people around you. Cherish what you have, reach out to that friend or family member, grab coffee or lunch. Take every opportunity you can to live life. Because as this tragic accident demonstrated, it’s so precious.
God bless you all, Tyler Gillean, GOPSJC
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