SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WOWO): The 48th Governor of Indiana, Joseph E. Kernan, died today following a long illness. He was 74.
Kernan’s political career started in South Bend in 1980 when he served as City Controller, then was elected to his first of three terms as mayor in 1987. He served as Lt. Governor for two terms, first being elected in 1996, and took over as Governor in 2003 after incumbent Frank O’Bannon died unexpectedly of a stroke. Kernan retired from politics in 2005.
He also served as a U.S. Navy Lieutenant in the Vietnam war and spent 11 months as a POW in Hanoi during the war in 1972, was an investor in the South Bend Silver Hawks baseball team, and continued to work as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame and through his own consulting firm until his death.
Kernan is survived by his wife, Maggie, and seven siblings.
“Indiana mourns the loss of Joe Kernan, a bonafide American hero, decorated Navy officer, and truly selfless statesman who always placed the interests of his fellow Hoosiers first,” said Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. “Distinguished isn’t a strong enough word to describe him. Without regard for personal cost, Joe Kernan devoted every ounce of his life, time and again, to upholding the oath he took, and serving the country and state he loved. Undeterred after being shot down and tortured in Vietnam, he returned and led his beloved City of South Bend as mayor for three terms, and our state as our 47th lieutenant governor. When duty called him to step into a role he didn’t seek, he served as our 48th governor. Through his decades of servant leadership and sacrifice, Joe Kernan modeled all the best of what it means to be a Hoosier and his legacy will continue to live on in each of us whom he inspired. Janet and I ask Hoosiers across our state to join us in lifting up in prayer Mrs. Kernan, their incredible family, and all whose lives he touched.”
Kernan passed away at 5:30 a.m. this morning. Arrangements are being made by Welsheimer’s Funeral Home in South Bend. There will be no public services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Veterans Fund at the University of Notre Dame. through giving.nd.edu, by phone (574) 631-5150, or by mail: University of Notre Dame, Department of Development, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.