I had the honor of serving in this Senate with Jim Rhoades for just under two years, but I worked with him and watched him in vigorous action for nearly a quarter century.
He was true to his background, true to his training, and true to his community. When you understood his deep commitment to personal faith, you also came to understand his fundamental faith in people.
Jim Rhoades may have offered more life lessons and more words of wisdom from football than anyone in our experience. We will forever hear the trademark phrases that rolled out when he was wound up on a subject.
He always preached playing offense. In trying to create opportunity for communities, in trying to help people deal with their problems, he worked as hard to get the ball across the political goal-line as he did on the gridiron.
But he truly excelled at playing tenacious and often immovable defense, defending jobs, defending industries, defending institutions, defending local interests, defending a way of life. Even if you did not agree with his point of view, you had to respect his dogged determination.
He was proud of the special character of the region he represented. Whether the issue was jobs, or education, or health care, he made sure that the Coal Region was part of the discussion. And he wanted to make sure that the people and the places who built the Pennsylvania of yesterday would also have a part to play in building the Pennsylvania of tomorrow.
While his professional achievements were extensive and noteworthy, the stories his kids told at the funeral were profoundly affecting, about a father who struck the right balance in life and provided the right example.
Lee Iacocca said: “No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?”
With the abundant love and affection that Jim Rhoades gave his family, his neighbors, and those he worked with, he left a legacy that is substantial, admirable, and lasting.
My deepest sympathy goes out to his loving family, his staff and the citizens he so admirably served. He will be missed.