TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)-- The 48th Indiana Governor Joe Kernan passed away due to health complications with Alzheimer's disease this morning at 5:30 a.m. He was 74 years old.
Kernan was a decorated war hero before he got into politics. He was a United States Navy Lieutenant. When he and his co-pilot were shot down he became a prisoner of war at the "Hanoi Hilton" camp in Vietnam.
After surviving and returning home from war Kernan decided to be a businessman. It wasn't until 1987 that he served as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana for three consecutive terms.
In 1996 former Governor Frank O'Bannon asked Kernan to be his lieutenant governor. After winning the election that year the pair won the reelection four years later in the year 2000.
After O'Bannon suddenly passed away Kernan was sworn in as the newest Indiana State Governor. Kernan made history when he appointed Kathy Davis as Indiana's first female lieutenant governor. Former state representative Dave Crooks says his most memorable legislative act was his tax restructuring plan.
Friends of Kernan say that other than the legislative acts he passed he will be most known for his character.
Former State Representative Crooks said when he first met Kernan, he felt that they were instant friends. Joe Etling, Vigo County Democrat Party Chairman, also shares some of his favorite memories on his friend today.
He said the most memorable traits Kernan had was his care for people and his uplifting attitude.
Etling says, "A very positive person, someone that really was looking to be an inspiration and lift people up all the time. And so as I said, it was a very sad news, very sad news to hear of his passing."
No public funeral services will be held at this time due to COVID-19.