Senator Baker Mourns the Passing of Pat Solano

(HARRISBURG) – Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) issues the following statement:

“Today, I give a sad but fond last farewell to Patrick Solano.  He was a friend, confidante, advisor, and mentor – a second father really.

“Pat was a political guy, a policy guy, but most of all a people person.  He cared deeply about his community, about the environment, about opportunity in our region.  He was fully committed to and practiced the precepts and principles of public service.  He was equally adept, whether serving in a state government position, acting as counselor to governors, or calming political disputes on his home turf.

“He took delight in his family and his friendships.  He had faith in his ability to find the better angels in those on both sides of the political fence, locating common ground where no one else was looking.  He encouraged a lot of good people to aspire and participate and contribute.

“His mind was the Wikipedia of Pennsylvania politics reaching back nearly a century.  His advice and wisdom were frequently prefaced by a trademark phrase: “And let me tell you another thing…”  Every day of his adult life he added to his incredible treasure chest of recollections and stories.  His way of relating was entertaining no matter how many times he told his favorites.

“We have too few like Pat around, the canny and savvy master mechanic who made sure the gears of good government were properly lubricated and operating, who exuded respect and generosity of spirit toward others.

“This marks the passing of another of the Greatest Generation.  Pat was the flight engineer for a bomber crew that completed numerous missions during World War II.  He was forever a proud American.

“A little more than a year ago, we held a tribute for him in the state Senate.  Below is what I said on a memorable day of recognition that Pat had well earned.”


It is fitting for us to honor Patrick Solano, for his sense of honor and duty and patriotism during World War II.  We have many times said how important it is for us to understand the lives and lessons from those who remain of the Greatest Generation.  Pat is eminently worthy of our salute and gratitude. 

It is especially fitting for the state Senate to host this ceremony, for Pat has a record of more than forty years engaging here, working with leaders and members on both sides of the aisle, Marty Murray and Dick Tilghman, Bob Jubelirer and Ed Zemprelli. 

Historian Stephen Ambrose wrote an enlightening book about the bomber crews of WW II titled The Wild Blue. That volume really impresses the difficulties, the hazards, and the stress of what Pat and others experienced.  The B-17 Flying Fortress had a ten-man crew, and Pat was flight engineer.  They completed 23 missions over Germany.  That involved dropping 184 bombs on military targets to help demolish the capacity of the Nazis to continue the war.  Pat earned several medals for his distinguished service.  There is a key point to be made in respect to the tremendous responsibility these fliers shouldered and their exemplary execution of their mission.  When the war ended, none of the crew had yet reached the age of 21. 

This service is a commendable record.  But in Pat’s case, it is merely the opening chapter of a remarkably full life centered on honor, duty, and patriotism.  He was of an age when we still realized that smart politics could yield good governance, and that the reverse was true as well.  His was an era where participation meant constructive action in the arena, rather than sniping from the sidelines. 

Tribute articles credit him with counseling 10 governors.  Some might read this as him providing therapy for their distress, particularly over the shaky legislative relations they all lamented and occasionally cursed.  In truth, it has been more at finding ways to prevent and repair political problems, irrespective of the parties involved.  The better word is confidante.  Pouring oil on roiled waters.  Having folks step back from standoff and allowing negotiations and accommodations to proceed.  Turning lose-lose confrontations into win-win outcomes.  A specialty was doing whatever was necessary to advance important projects that communities and leaders wanted – securing priority, garnering funding, clearing bureaucratic obstacles, doing political missionary work. 

One of those governors, in a misplaced spasm of housecleaning, fired Pat.  The governor was probably surprised to quickly receive a letter signed by every member of the Senate, indicating that the administration would be well served to find him another spot.  It was done, and Pat proved an invaluable piece for the governor who mistakenly judged him a relic. 

With Pat, as you may know, one story leads to another.  His landing place was the old DER, and this was fortuitous because it was time when environmental issues were achieving a new level of significance and controversy.  Air, water, old mines, waste disposal, incineration, new laws and regulations and greater oversight, were all in play.  It was a difficult transition to a time of greater awareness and activism, and Pat’s skills were in high demand. 

When the Ridge administration determined to divide DER, Pat was on hand for the birth of DCNR and was indispensable in getting it up and running and fulfilling the mission as we envisioned. 

Pat of course had a special commitment and devotion for northeastern Pennsylvania.  There was one Senate district he prized above all, fortuitously the one I serve.  From Newell Wood, to Frank O’Connell, to Charlie Lemmond, to me, Pat was always there with support, guidance, experience, wisdom, and perhaps best of all, an endless catalog of funny stories to spice our discussions and encourage us to keep going. 

It is said that Pat retired in 2002.  Well, maybe officially.  But unofficially he never quit doing what he does – dispensing advice to whoever will listen, for the general good. 

Pat often chalks his success up to luck.  Every time he does that, I am reminded that Branch Rickey, who brought Jackie Robinson to the big leagues, observed: “Luck is the residue of design.”  Pat was bright, he was shrewd, and he was nimble in adjusting to circumstances and finding a way to a productive end. 

We could spend a good part of the day talking just about his wonderful marriage, his extensive family of whom he is so proud, and the endless community causes, problem solving, and opportunity creation in which he has eagerly engaged.  As his friend Dick Tilghman would say, when you have the votes, do not talk it to death. 

So, here is my final commendation.  Throughout my professional life, Pat has been an integral part of it.  I have the utmost respect for all he has done and accomplished, for the manner in which he conducted himself, and for his incredible devotion to country and state, in the military, in public service, and in the life of local communities.  I will forever cherish his friendship and his contributions.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Flessner

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