SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan died Wednesday morning following a long illness, according to a release from Kernan’s Chief of Staff.
According to the release, Kernan is survived by his wife Maggie, and seven siblings who live in the state of Maine and the Washington, DC area.
Kernan served as Indiana’s 48th Governor following the death of Gov. Frank O’Bannon in 2003, and then made history by appointing Kathy Davis as Indiana’s first female Lt. Governor.
Prior to his political career, Kernan served as a United States Navy Lieutenant. The release states that he and his co-pilot were shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam in 1972. He spent 11 months as a POW in Hanoi, including at the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison.
“Indiana mourns the loss of Joe Kernan, a bone fide American hero, decorated Navy officer, and truly selfless statesman who always placed the interests of his fellow Hoosiers first,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb.
The release says arrangements are being made by Welsheimer’s Funeral Home in South Bend. Kernan had reportedly expressed a preference for Welsheimer’s because the funeral home sponsored his little league team in 1958 when he was 12 years old.
There will be no public services for Kernan due to COVID-19.