HARRISBURG, February 9, 2009 – State Senator Wayne D-Fontana today gave the floor remarks during a state Senate ceremony honoring the late Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll:
“I am very honored today to offer this resolution and to pay tribute to former Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. Catherine was my constituent, my supporter, and my friend. I was blessed to be on the receiving end of her generous and giving nature and count myself lucky to have known her.
There are so many words that could be used to describe Catherine, but a handful truly speak to the woman she was – the first being loyalty.
No one that I know could serve as a better example of loyalty. Catherine was true to her friends, her ideals, her hometown, her party and her commonwealth. She loved her hometown of Mckees Rocks and still called the Rox home. And she loved her party. We don’t talk much about partisan politics on the senate floor, but Catherine was an unapologetic Democrat – with a capital D. She was a powerhouse in Allegheny county politics – a woman whose support and insight were sought by many. And when you had her support, it was unshakeable. She would work, without stopping, for those candidates who were lucky enough to have her believe in them.
Which leads me to another word – tireless. For anyone who doubts that description, I have only one question: “Did you ever meet Catherine Baker Knoll?” For a while, it seemed as if her age was a mystery – and I’ve heard stories that her birth year changed more than once, in her favor. Regardless of her age, she was always young at heart. Her energy seemed boundless. It was nothing to receive a call from Catherine first thing in the morning or late in the evening. If she had something that she thought you could help with, she called. She called from the car; she called from home; she called from the office; she called from trips; she called from events; and she called during recess. And if she couldn’t reach you by phone, she’d track you down.
While she was tireless in pursuing the things she believed in – she was also respectful of a truthful answer. She was respectful period. She was respectful of those she worked with and for. She was respectful of everyone she met and seemed to live by the adage that everyone has something to teach, if only you’re willing to learn. Young and old, male or female, rich or poor, Catholic or Jewish, black or white – she believed everyone had a story to tell and she was respectful of them all. She used every opportunity to do even small things in a great way.
Catherine was engaging. She knew everyone and everyone knew her. She was genuinely interested in other people and it showed. She paid attention to the little things – asking those she met and knew about their lives, their families, their jobs, their interests and any other detail she may know. I cannot count how many times I received a note from Catherine to encourage or congratulate me. Photos of visitors and events were always sent due to the never absent camera – thanks to her staff or any able-bodied person in the room that she believed may have a camera. She once even tried to press a member of my staff into service for a photograph. Much to Catherine’s dismay, she was carrying a Blackberry rather than a Kodak.
While the words loyal, tireless, respectful and engaging provide their own picture of Catherine, the one that is perhaps the most telling is friend.
Catherine was our friend. The old saying is that the road to a friend’s house is never long – and Catherine believed that. She extended frequent invitations to the state house for her friends here in the senate. Whether it be a 4th of July party complete with fireworks and Mickey Rooney, or an open invitation to visit her office with school groups or other visitors, her welcome mat was always out. She was happy to see everyone and always wanted to know how you were doing – she was a friend.
When all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. I’m glad that we were able to bring them all together in her memory today.