As most of you have probably already heard, Schuylkill County, the Republican Party, and the PA Senate lost one of their own today as State Sen. James Rhoades (R-29) died as a result of complications from a car accident early this morning.
This is both a personal tragedy for Rhoades many family and friends across the Commonwealth and politically for a local party who is now without its leader and a state party that could ill afford to lose his seat in the Senate. Today, is not the time to talk about the political side. I’ll be blogging on that topic extensively in the coming days. Rather, it is a time that we should be remembering the man and keeping the health and safety of his wife Mary in our prayers.
I can’t say that I knew Jim Rhoades well because I only met him for the first time earlier this spring at a fundraiser for Toni Gilhooley. As my readers may remember, I did not have many good things to say about him. I criticized his policies and tactics within the party, painting him as an Emperor Palapatine type figure within Schuylkill County. When I finally came face to face with him, I fully expected a verbal dress down much like a drill instructor gives to a new Marine recruit. I was wrong.
Jim Rhoades was nothing but warm to me. The very first thing he said to me was, “I have heard that congratulations are in order?” in referring to my wife’s pregnancy. Before talking about politics, we discussed the importance of family, the state of Catholicism in the county, and my own personal faith. When he did get down to talking about politics, he actually listened to what I had to say (even the criticisms). One thing he told me that I will never forget was this:
“Hank, you may have some views that I don’t necessarily agree with. You may say many things that tick me off. Many people in the party may think you to be a son of bitch and they may be right, but in the end you are still MY son of a bitch.”
I cannot tell you what it meant to hear that.
Most recently, we spoke at the GOP kickoff dinner. He made a point to make his way over to me and pat me on the back for passing the bar and ask me about my newly born son. Jim Rhoades did nothing but make me feel welcome again in the Republican party. For a man to do that after taking hits from me over the internet says volumes about his character.
I will leave the eulogys to those who knew him best and a listing of his political accomplishments to those who fought the battles with him. On this day, in this article, all I want to say is: Thank you Sen. Rhoades, you will be greatly missed.