Joe E. Kernan had a great many unique experiences during his lifetime. Most likely, he found them to be a mixture of good, bad, and in between. They included time spent in athletics, the military, business, and politics.

A Roman Catholic, Kernan was the oldest of nine children. Originally a native of Chicago, he and his family later moved to South Bend, Indiana. His father was a World War II Naval aviator. His mother was a communications representative for Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. As a handler of the account for The Pentagon, she held special security clearance.

Joe E. Kernan would also have an active life. And it seems now he can rest.

Took after his father

Kernan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1968. From there, he obtained a degree in Government. After graduating, he became an officer in the U.S. Navy. Following in his father's footsteps, Kernan served as an aviator.

For a time, he was stationed at Naval Air Station Albany. There, he was a member of the famed reconnaissance squadron RVAH-7. Later, Kernan was deployed to serve in the Vietnam War stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. In 1972, Kernan was shot down while flying a mission. At one point, he was taken as a prisoner of war held in the notorious 'Hanoi Hilton.'

After just short of a year, Kernan was released and continued with active duty.

After retiring from active duty, he was a reservist for several years. During his career, he received two Purple Hearts. Along with other decorations, including a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Navy Commendation Medal.

Reached the highest levels of Indiana politics

Kernan would become involved in several businesses, including The Procter & Gamble Corporation.

In 1980, South Bend Mayor Roger Parent appointed Kernan as the city's comptroller. Kernan himself was later elected to three terms as mayor. In the third election, he won a record-high percentage of votes cast, with over 80 percent. His tenure included luring the College Football Hall of Fame away from Cincinnati. It remained in South Bend for several years, before leaving for Georgia.

In 1996, Lieutenant Governor Frank O'Bannon chose Kernan as his running mate in the Indiana gubernatorial election. Their moderate Democratic ticket prevailed, making O'Bannon the new governor and Kernan the lieutenant governor. During the second term, O'Bannon suffered a fatal stroke in 2003.

Kernan was elevated to the governorship. During his term, he became a vocal supporter of full-day kindergarten. In 2004, he lost his bid for a full term to Republican Mitch Daniels. Daniels had directed the Office of Management and Budget under U.S. President George W. Bush.

After his political career ended, Kernan bought and became the president of the South Bend Silver Hawks. A minor league baseball team and a member of the Midwest League.

Kernan later sold the team, and it has since changed its name to the South Bend Cubs. He also joined the faculty of his alma mater in Notre Dame.

Battled Alzheimer's disease later in his life.

Joe E. Kernan died on July 29 in South Bend. It came after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease. WNDU recently reported that he had lost the ability to speak.

Tributes to Kernan have come from both Republicans and Democrats, as noted by The Indianapolis Star. One of them from the Democratic side came from Pete Buttigieg. A former Presidential contender and fellow mayor of South Bend. In part, Buttigieg remarked on Kernan's compassion. Former Indiana Governor and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh said Kernan was 'always positive and upbeat.'

Many high-profile statements came from Republicans.

Current Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb called Kernan 'a bona fide American hero.' U.S. Vice President and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence called him a friend. He also said Kernan was 'always kind' and 'always willing to work together.' Mitch Daniels, Kernan's former political rival, had very high praise for him. Kernan was 'at times my ally, opponent and adviser, but always a friend to me,' Daniels said.