It is always a sad moment when a distinguished former member passes. But this one hits closer to home. From the time of my first memories, Charlie Lemmond has been part of my life. Over the years, he was a neighbor, a father figure, a role model, a mentor, a catalyst, a counselor, a boss, and finally, my predecessor. Always, he was a dear and devoted friend.
So my reflection today comes with deep respect and a healthy dash of reverence.
As a measure of the change within this Senate, only Senator Greenleaf was here in 1985 to greet Charlie, winner of a special election to replace the legendary Frank O’Connell. Across 21 years of Senate service, Charlie’s impact was more personal than political. He was a man of moderate views and temperament, not a partisan warrior craving the spotlight. He preferred reasonable practicality over rigid philosophy.
We will encounter few individuals as committed as Charlie was to doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons. For him, public office was really a simple equation: civic duty + integrity = quality leadership.
His approach to public service was decidedly old-fashioned, rooted in the ways of more agreeable times, when common courtesy and civility were the norm. Results oriented, where bipartisanship was a custom, negotiation was the tried and true way of working things out, and consensus building was standard practice. Whether he was in the legislature or in the community, team play was the rule. When it needed to be, he would work with those he held less than an exalted view of.
Attorney, judge, state Senator, these titles meant a lot, and Charlie endeavored to live up to the professional and public standards of conduct that came with them. When the legislature or the legal profession fell short, he took the misconduct personally, because he believed in the team.
When the Senate had to confront its responsibilities during the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, Charlie was a natural pick to be part of the group managing the process. Sure, he had judicial experience, but it was much more the judicious manner in which he thought and acted that recommended him. In this serious charge, he was at his diligent and dependable best.
He was not a frequent speaker on the Senate floor. But when he spoke, there was a clear purpose, there was an important message, and his words were well-chosen. In the district, he was popular and much sought after. His combination of insight, intelligence, and humor carried him through celebrations, ceremonies, legislative updates, roasts, every occasion imaginable.
Nor was he an excessive introducer of bills. When he put his name on something, it was to effect. Pennsylvanians take for granted the guarantee of a public comment period during open meetings. This was not part of the original Sunshine Law, nor was it included in the modern rewrite. Charlie set out to correct this, and working with both Republican and Democratic leaders, he accomplished it. Negotiated it, with those pushing it and those to whom it would apply.
No piece of legislation gave him more personal satisfaction than the law requiring hearing screenings for newborns.
His contemplative and deliberative style was legendary. With two or more sides to these issues, he did not want to disappoint. Thus, he was always looking for more information or a fresh angle that might just turn conflict into something closer to settlement. Facing a difficult choice, he asked more questions than the SAT.
Consistent with other aspects of his character, Charlie was a man of faith. There was his personal faith, but there was also faith in family, in community, and in the future.
All who knew Charlie will find many times and many ways of remembering him. We will hear his voice and his chuckle, we will picture how his face lit up when pleased or amused, we will recall advice he gave and when he asked for ours.
Whenever someone pronounces themselves to be delighted, we will think of Charlie. Whenever we see a bottle of Hank’s root beer, we will remember that is what Charlie gave visitors to his Senate office. Whenever a citizen stands up at a school board meeting or a council meeting and says their piece, we will thank Charlie. Whenever a child benefits from early diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairment, we will be grateful to Charlie. And whenever someone acts in a distinctly statesmanlike manner, we will say – just like Charlie.
These are the lessons and legacy of a learned and influential man. We are grateful for his service, his example, and his friendship. We wish him eternal peace and extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Barbara, his children Chuck, Judy, John and David, his brother George, and their families.
Please join me in raising your bottle of Hank’s in tribute to Senator Charlie Lemmond.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson