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Congresswoman remembered for a life of Christian service

Jackie Walorski was a staunch advocate for families and life

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., during a news conference in the Capitol in April Getty Images/Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Congresswoman remembered for a life of Christian service

Dean Swihart and Jackie Walorski were on their first date at a 4-H fair in Indiana when he asked her an unusual first-date question: Would she ever consider selling her belongings and moving overseas as a missionary? She said yes.

It was 1994, and when Dean asked Jackie to marry him, she said yes again. The couple married the next year. Four years later, Jackie’s older brother, David Walorski, vividly remembers them pulling up to his house in their red Corvette and announcing their departure for Romania. They left their careers—Swihart as a high school music teacher and Walorski as a university fundraiser—sold their car, and headed overseas.

Walorski’s sense of calling eventually led her back to the United States and into the halls of Congress. Her life unexpectedly ended on Aug. 3 at 12:30 p.m. when the car she was riding in swerved across the centerline of an Indiana state highway and collided with another vehicle. She and two staffers—Zachery Potts, 27, of Mishawaka, and Emma Thompson, 28, of Washington, D.C.—died in the resulting crash, along with the other driver, Edith Schmucker, 56, of Nappanee, Ind.

Friends and colleagues WORLD spoke with remembered Walorski as a passionate advocate for life—from tending children in the villages of Romania to fighting for the unborn in Washington, D.C. Walorski’s approach to politics mirrored her work in Romania. She saw her role representing her Indiana district as a new mission field and applied a similar emphasis on Christian service, meeting tangible needs and advocating for children and families.

At an Aug. 4 prayer vigil in Elkhart County, Ind., community members, friends, and family gathered in a parking lot outside Jimtown High School to remember Walorski and the other victims. Walorski’s staffers, Potts and Thompson, were both on promising career paths in conservative politics. Potts, a fellow Hoosier, joined Walorski’s team in 2015, becoming her district director in 2020. Thompson was hired as Walorski’s communications director last year after working for Republican lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Michael Burgess, and Rep. John Joyce.

Swihart recalled Walorski’s compelling presence in Romania and in politics. At 6 feet tall, she “took charge of every room she walked into,” he said, but it was because “she learned her position in Christ.”

In Romania, between 1999 and 2003, the couple established a foundation that supplied food, medicine, and leadership training to Romanian children and families. David Walorski, his wife Karen, and other family members visited frequently bearing luggage filled with medical supplies. Indiana churches and a local food ministry also donated to their work, Christ Chapel South Bend pastor Stephen Sumrall said.

Months after the 9/11 attacks, Rebecca Dan Walsh, founder of Casa Shalom, a 25-year-old Christian ministry the couple partnered with in Romania, said Walorski was packing food boxes when she announced, “I feel God is calling us back to the U.S.”

Walorski was first elected to the Indiana statehouse in 2004 and served for six years. She won five consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, earning a spot on the House Ways and Means Committee.

During her political career, Walorski, the daughter of an Indiana firefighter and Air Force veteran, sought to bring “Hoosier commonsense to Washington.” She emphasized pro-life and veteran causes, education, gun rights, and the economy. Walorski opposed certifying 2020 presidential election tallies in Arizona and Pennsylvania and voted against impeaching President Donald Trump. Her final public comment on July 29 touted tough-on-crime policing over gun restrictions.

Colleagues and friends say part of Walorski’s legacy was her unwavering pro-life stance.

When Indiana lawmakers passed a near-total ban on abortion on Aug. 5, state Rep. Dale DeVon, a Republican, credited Walorski’s influence: “A lot of legislators voted in her honor.”

The day before her death, she toured Bella Vita Pregnancy Center in the rural town of Knox, Ind. Bella Vita founder and CEO Rebecca L. Bailey, a longtime friend of Walorski’s, said they discussed ways to make adoption more affordable and how their Christian faith informed their pro-life views.

Since its opening in 2010, Walorski regularly texted, called, and visited Bella Vita “to see how we were doing and how she could help us,” Bailey said.

Indiana voters will select a short-term representative to serve in Walorski’s district until the next session of Congress. Back in rural Indiana at the prayer vigil, Swihart praised Walorski’s work as a missionary and politician: “I could not be more proud of the life my wife has lived. She lived her faith. She knew who she was.”

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.


Grace Snell

Grace is a staff writer at WORLD and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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