FORT WAYNE — After a several month battle with pancreatic cancer, former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, 72, passed away Monday morning.
Souder began his career in federal government as a staff member for Dan Coats, during Coats’ terms as both a congressman from northeast Indiana and then as a senator.
Souder left Coats’ staff to run for election to Congress. He won the 1994 election over Democratic incumbent Jill Long and then was re-elected seven times.
“Mark Souder loved northeast Indiana and was a strong advocate for Hoosier veterans and our national parks in his time in service,” said Sen. Todd Young on Twitter.
DeKalb County Republican Party Chair Rick Ring echoed the sentiments of Young.
“I worked with him a number of years, while working in city government,” Ring said. “I always found him to be very supportive and a very positive mentor in my early days of being involved in government. He will be missed.”
Other state representatives and those running for state offices shared their condolences and memories of the former congressman on various social media platforms.
“He was very sincere in everything he did and he looked out for us,” said Suzi Weicht, Angola, who was chair of the Steuben County Republican Central Committee during part of Souder’s time in Congress. “I liked Mark very much. He cared about Indiana. He cared about this region of the state. He listened to us.”
The Souder family made the announcement on Facebook Monday: “It is with great sadness we share the passing of Mark Souder, husband, father, grandfather and brother. This morning he went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Mark was a strong leader and passionate about his faith, family and his country. We want to thank you for all the kind words. prayers and support over the past months.”
Souder was presented with a Sagamore of the Wabash award by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year. The award honors Souder’s work as northeast Indiana’s congressman from 1995 to 2010.
State Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, requested the designation for Souder and said approval is rare for the state’s highest award.
“I very much appreciate Martin arranging this,” Souder said during an interview in February. “It’s a great honor to get one of those. I never really viewed myself as a Sagamore, but I talk enough.”
In that earlier interview Souder said the highlights of his career included advocating for northeast Indiana’s defense contractors, the General Motors plant in Fort Wayne and national parks.
In 2008 he took a “political risk” supporting a bailout for General Motors during the recession. He said he is the most proud of his efforts for national parks.
He teamed up with a congressman from Washington state to form the Congressional National Parks Caucus.
On election nights, he always visited Steuben County first in what was the 4th congressional district because the county consistently delivered the first returns.