On Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R) of Indiana's 2nd Congressional District was killed in a car crash in Elkhart County while returning from a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Claypool, Ind., for a soybean processing facility.
The crash also killed the two other people in Walorski's vehicle: her communications director Emma Thomson and district director Zachery Potts, the driver of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle that Walorski's collided with, 56-year-old Nappanee resident Edith Schmucker, died at the scene as well.
Walorski's funeral was held on Aug. 11
A public funeral service was held for Walorski at Granger Community Church on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.
The congresswoman was buried at Southlawn Cemetery on U.S. 31 south of Kern Road in South Bend in a public burial ceremony.
Residents watched the 15-mile funeral procession from Grissom Middle School at the intersection of Kern and Elm Roads and other spots along the route. The procession traveled from the church to the cemetery along Cleveland Road, Capital Avenue and Kern Road.
The burial ceremony was handled by the U.S. Army and included a flag folding, a gun volley and the playing of taps. At the cemetery, Walorski's casket was transferred to a horse-drawn carriage, which took it to the burial site.
Rudy Yakym was named Indiana Republicans' nominee for the 2nd Congressional District race
On Aug. 20, 2022, Rudy Yakym, Walorski's former campaign finance director, was nominated to succeed Walorski and represent Indiana's Republican Party in the 2nd Congressional District race in November.
Yakym, who served as Walorski's campaign finance director in 2011 and 2012, was endorsed by Walorski's widower, Dean Swihart.
Indiana Republicans nominated Yakym for both the general election to succeed Walorski and a special election, which also takes place Nov. 8, to finish out Walorski's term, which concludes at the end of the year.
Yakym will face Democrat Paul Steury and Libertarian William Henry in both elections.
"Rudy will be a strong voice for northern Indiana and continue Jackie Walorski's legacy of fighting for conservative values in Washington D.C.," Indiana GOP Chair Kyle Hupfer said in a provided statement.
Yakym was chosen in the first round of voting from a dozen candidates at the caucus ― including former Attorney General Curtis Hill, Milford State Rep. Curt Nisly and former state Rep. Christy Stutzman ― who sought the nomination.
Hill was one of the most closely-watched candidates at the caucus.
Tribune reporter Carley Lanich wrote: Once a rising star of the Republican party, (Hill's) momentum scuttled after four women — including three Democrats and one Republican — accused him of groping them in an Indianapolis bar in 2018. In the days leading up to the caucus, Victoria Reardon — the daughter of one of those women — penned an open letter urging state Republicans not to support the former attorney general whose law license was temporarily suspended after the Indiana Supreme Court found he violated professional conduct rules.
Congress voted to rename the St. Joseph County VA Clinic in Walorski's honor
On Thursday, Sept. 8, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation to change the name of the St. Joseph County VA Clinic in Mishawaka to the "Jackie Walorski VA Clinic."
On Friday, Sept. 30, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced by the Indiana congressional delegation shortly after Walorski's death.
Walorski supported the VA clinic's opening in 2017. She served on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and "was a passionate advocate for all her constituents, but especially veterans in the area," the new law states.
Walorski worked with former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) to secure the new 89,000-square-foot VA facility for veterans in the region. After many years in South Bend, the VA opened the $38 million facility in Mishawaka in 2017 near St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in order to improve and expand services for local veterans, Tribune reporter Marek Mazurek wrote.
Elkhart County police report showed 'excessive speed' was a contributing factor in the crash
In a report released by the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department on Sept. 16, 2022, police said excessive speed was a contributing factor in the crash that killed Walorski.
According to the report, police determined Zachery Potts, the driver of Walorski's vehicle, was driving about 80 miles per hour when the vehicle crossed over the center line and hit Schmucker's car, which was traveling in the opposite direction. Police say evidence indicates Potts was trying to pass a slower-moving flat-bed truck, causing him to cross the center line.
"Our investigation has determined that the cause of the crash was driving left of center with a contributing factor of excessive speed," Elkhart County Sheriff Jeff Siegel wrote in the report. "The at-fault vehicle was the Toyota RAV4 driven by Zachery Potts."
Investigators said data from the Toyota's "black box" shows Potts was going 82 miles per hour five seconds before the crash before taking his foot off the gas pedal. He was "coasting" at 77 miles per hour in the milliseconds before the impact.
The speed limit on the stretch of Indiana 19 where the crash occurred is 55 miles per hour.
The Sept. 16 report contradicts what the Elkhart County police initially released in the hours after the crash on Aug. 3. At that point, police had said Schmucker crossed over the center line and hit Walorski's vehicle. The next day, police said they were mistaken, and Potts had crossed the center line, hitting Schmucker.
At a speech on Sept. 28, Joe Biden asked 'Where is Jackie?'
During a speech on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, President Joe Biden asked whether Walorski was in attendance.
"Jackie, are you here? Where's Jackie? I didn’t think she was ― she wasn’t going to be here," Biden said.
Walorski served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus, and a video tribute later honored her at the conference, according to Politico.
"No amount of spin from the White House can justify President Joe Biden forgetting the tragic passing of Jackie Walorski ― the latest gaffe that calls so much into question," Hupfer said.
In August, Biden issued a statement following Walorski's death. He said, he and Jill Biden were "shocked and saddened," and he appreciated Walorski's help in planning the hunger conference.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended Biden, saying Walorski was "on top of mind" for the president because of her work on hunger. Additionally, Biden was preparing to host Walorski's family at the White House two days after the conference.
"I don't think it's all that unusual to have someone top of mind," Jean-Pierre said.
Email Tribune staff writer Claire Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Five things that have happened since Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski died