More than a decade ago, U.S. Rep. Paul E. Gillmor and his wife, Karen, attended a Christmas party at the Norwalk VFW. It appeared Karen had gained some weight, but neither she nor her husband announced the reason she was pregnant with twins.
The fact the congressman didn't say anything was testament to his selflessness, Huron County Republican Party Chairman David Kniffin said.
"He just wasn't about himself; he was about making sure the people in his district were foremost in his mind," a subdued Kniffin said in the wake of Gillmor's death Wednesday. The Republican congressman, who represented all of Huron County and other counties, was found dead in his apartment by an aide.
Gillmor was in Norwalk on Thursday to attend the Century Club Breakfast, a fundraiser of the Huron County Republican Party.
Kniffin said Gillmor's last remarks at the event came in response to a comment from him. The exchange went like this:
Kniffin: "Paul, we promised we'd get you out of here by 8:45 and we're going to honor that promise."
Gillmor: "Dave, you're a great American."
Kniffin had high praise for Gillmor Wednesday. He said of all the politicians he has known, Gillmor was his favorite.
Apparently, he was a favorite among other Huron County Republicans as well; Kniffin said Gillmor attended the Century Club Breakfast four or five times, and each time the event drew its biggest crowds. Kniffin, who knew Gillmor throughout his 19 years in Congress, added Gillmor wasn't only admired by fellow Republicans.
"He was respected by Democrats and Republicans alike; I think everyone liked him," Kniffin said. "He always spoke his mind, but he was also very fair in the way he treated everyone."
U.S. Rep. and presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) praised Gillmor in a statement released by his office Wednesday.
"This is a sad day," he said. "Paul Gillmor served the state of Ohio in a professional and dignified manner for nearly four decades. He was a true and decent public servant.
"His presence will be greatly missed on Capitol Hill."
Gillmor was sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives' fifth district in January 1989. The district includes all of Crawford, Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Huron, Paulding, Putnam, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Williams and Wood counties, as well as parts of Ashland, Lucas, Mercer and Wyandot counties.
Gillmor recently served on the House Committee on Financial Services, which is responsible for banking issues, insurance, international monetary policy, capital markets and investment, government sponsored enterprises and public and private housing.
On the Financial Services Committee, Gillmor was the ranking member of the subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit, which has jurisdiction over banks, thrifts and credit unions while providing oversight over financial regulators.
Gillmor was also assigned to the subcommittee on capital markets, insurance and government sponsored enterprises and the subcommittee on housing and community opportunity.
In 2006, Gillmor was unanimously elected by representatives of the 26 NATO countries to serve as vice president of the NATO parliamentary assembly. He served as a deputy minority whip for the current Congress and was in his eighth term as a member of the Republican whip team.
Gillmor, a U.S. Air Force veteran, also served in the U.S. Senate for 22 years and as president of the Senate for three General Assemblies. He received numerous awards for his accomplishments.
Kniffin said Gillmor's real forte was quietly working to help constituents. If he did not know the answer to a question or couldn't solve a problem, he found someone who could, Kniffin added.
"He's going to be an awfully hard guy to replace," Kniffin said.