Word that former Ohio Congressman Charlie Wilson died Sunday afternoon was greeted locally with fond memories of his years of service.
Wilson, who represented the area in Congress for 14 years, died in a Florida hospital following complications associated with a stroke suffered in February.
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz was shocked to hear that Wilson had died.
"This will be a blow to a lot of people," he said, noting that Wilson had many friends throughout southeast Ohio.
Lorentz said Wilson worked closely with him on plans for riverfront park facilities for the city of Belpre.
"He was very disappointed that those plans were dropped after he left office," Lorentz recalled. "He always said if there was anything we needed to just give him a call-it was like we were old friends."
Molly Varner, chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Party, learned of Wilson's death Sunday afternoon, and said he will be missed.
"I had last heard he was recuperating after his stroke in February, and I thought then that he would probably soon be back campaigning again," she said. "Charlie was so enthusiastic and understood what a privilege it was to be elected and serve all the people of this district-Democrat or Republican-it didn't matter to him."
West Virginia Congressman David B. McKinley released the following statement concerning Wilson's passing:
"Mary and I were simply shocked to hear that Charlie had passed away," he said. "After learning of his stroke in February, we joined thousands of others to pray for his recovery. Charlie was a dedicated public servant and will be missed by all those who knew him. His family will remain in our thoughts and prayers
The Wilson family, which was at his side this afternoon, released the following statement:
"Throughout his extraordinary life, Congressman Wilson was motivated by a desire to serve his country and a passion for the causes most important to the constituents of Southeast and East Ohio. Congressman Wilson served with honor, dignity and an unwavering sense of civic responsibility to the families of our region. Charlie will be remembered for his boundless energy, his honest approach, and his dedication to improving the lives of our future generations. For 14 years Southeast and East Ohio had a champion serving as their voice in Columbus and Washington and our communities are better places for his service."
The family asks that contributions be made in memory of Wilson to the Congressman Charlie Wilson Leadership Program at Ohio University Eastern. Contributions can be sent to:
Congressman Charlie Wilson Leadership Program
c/o Ohio University Eastern
45425 National Road W.
St. Clairsville, OH 43950
Funeral details are not yet available.
Wilson was born Jan. 18, 1943, in Dillonvale. He was a small business owner of businesses operated throughout the Ohio Valley.
While still in college at Ohio University in Athens, Wilson worked as a UAW member on the assembly line at the Ford Automotive auto plant in Lorain.
In 1996, Wilson was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, where he served until 2004, when he was elected to the Ohio Senate. After two years in the Ohio Senate, he won his historic write-in campaign in 2006, filling the congressional seat vacated by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.