American Veteran 04

Governor Joseph Eugene Kernan

April 8, 1946 ~ July 29, 2020 (age 74)


Joe Kernan, the 48th governor of Indiana and three-term mayor of South Bend, passed away peacefully in his beloved hometown of South Bend on July 29, 2020.
Joe is survived by his wife of 46 years, Maggie (McCullough) Kernan, a brother and six sisters, and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father, Joseph Eugene Kernan, Jr., his mother, Marion (Powers) Kernan and a sister, Mary Pat (Kernan) Harbison.
Joe was a graduate of St. Joseph's High School in South Bend. In 1968 he earned a degree in Government from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a catcher on the baseball team.
Joe was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving as a Naval Flight Officer aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. In May of 1972, he was shot down by the enemy while on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. After being held as a prisoner of war for nearly 11 months, Joe was repatriated in 1973. For his service, Joe received numerous awards, including the Navy Commendation Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Following his service in the Navy, Joe worked for both the Schwarz Paper Company and the MacWilliams Corporation. He was also South Bend's city controller from 1980 to 1984.
Joe Kernan was elected mayor of South Bend in 1987, 1991 and again in 1995, when he won with more than 82% of the vote. At the time, he was the longest serving mayor in the city's history.
In 1996, Frank O'Bannon and Joe Kernan were elected to the top two positions in Indiana government. The O'Bannon-Kernan team was elected for a second term in 2000.
Upon the death of Gov. Frank O'Bannon in September 2003, Joe assumed the position of governor of Indiana. He made history immediately by appointing Kathy Davis as Indiana's first woman lieutenant governor. Please go to to learn more about Joe's accomplishments as both lieutenant governor and governor.
Maggie would like to thank the many dear friends who became an even bigger part of hers and Joe's lives over the last few years. With their help, Joe was able to continue to enjoy some of his passions: Notre Dame football, talking politics, vacations and afternoons on the links.
She also expresses her extreme gratitude to his longtime in-home caregivers, Cheryl and Dinah, as well as South Bend's Morningview Assisted Living and the Center for Hospice Care.
Joe was a treasure to all who knew him. He was a devoted husband; military hero; embodiment of a true public servant; Notre Dame fanatic; and, champion of South Bend. The twinkle in his Irish eyes and his booming laugh won't soon be forgotten.
Due to ongoing concerns regarding COVID-19, no services are planned at this time.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Veterans Fund at the University of Notre Dame, which supports scholarships and fellowships for military-connected students. Contact the fund online at, by phone at (574) 631-5150, or by mail: University of Notre Dame, Department of Development, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556.

Palmer Funeral Home - Welsheimer Chapel is assisting family with arrangements.  Family and Friends may leave email condolences at

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Veterans Fund at the University of Notre Dame
1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame IN 46556
Tel: 1-574-631-5150

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