Ex-Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan in care facility with Alzheimer’s
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan has lost the ability to speak due to Alzheimer’s disease and is living in a care facility, according to a report confirmed by his former press secretary Wednesday.
Kernan, 74, was diagnosed with the form of dementia several years ago, Tina Noel, who was Kernan’s gubernatorial press secretary, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
Kernan’s wife, Maggie, has only been able to see him through a fence from the patio of his care facility, reminding her of his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, according to a Notre Dame Magazine article posted online Tuesday.
“When I see him like that, I think, ‘You’ve always wanted your freedom,’” Maggie Kernan said. Her husband spent 11 months as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam after his Navy reconnaissance plane was shot down in 1972.
Noel said Kernan’s family isn’t giving additional interviews about his illness.
“Maggie has been Joe’s rock, and they have both been supported by their many extraordinary friends in the South Bend area,” Noel said.
The Democrat won three elections as South Bend’s mayor before being elected lieutenant governor with Gov. Frank O’Bannon in 1996. He took office as governor in 2003 after O’Bannon died from a stroke.
Kernan was governor for 16 months before he lost the 2004 election to Republican Mitch Daniels.
The University of Notre Dame graduate and a catcher for Notre Dame’s baseball team in the 1960s also led a group of investors who owned South Bend’s minor league baseball team for about five years before selling it in 2011.