Former US Rep. Mark Souder dead at 72 after cancer battle

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Mark Souder, a Republican who represented northeastern Indiana in Congress for more than 15 years, has died. He was 72.

Souder disclosed in January that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer.

Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana noted Souder’s death Monday during remarks on the floor of the Senate.

“Anyone who met Mark was struck by his intellect, his innate grasp of policy details and perhaps most importantly, his passion for service, for serving Hoosiers in particular,” Young said Thursday.

“You see, Mark Souder loved northeast Indiana. He loved his constituents. He loved the land, its people and its unique traditions. He was a strong advocate for Hoosier veterans, in particular, and our national parks during his service in Congress,” Young said.

Souder described himself as an “ultraconservative” and was running for a ninth term in the U.S. House when he abruptly resigned in May 2010 after admitting to an extramarital affair with a woman who worked in his congressional office.

Throughout his time in Congress, Souder made evangelical Christianity a centerpiece of his public persona. It was an image that played well in his Fort Wayne-area district, which has a strong base of religious conservatives. Souder was known for his outspoken views on religion and his uncompromising conservative positions on social issues such as abortion.

He said after a 2008 hearing on abstinence-only education that the only reliable way young people can protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs is by “abstaining from sex until in a committed, faithful relationship.”

As a lawmaker, Souder was best known for his work on drug enforcement issues and his opposition to online gambling.

Souder stood alone during an emotional news conference about his resignation in 2010 during which he apologized for his actions, saying his wife and children were “more than willing” to stand with him, but that “the error is mine and I should bear the responsibility.”

“I am so ashamed to have hurt the ones I love,” he said as he battled tears. “I am sorry to have let so many friends down, people who have worked so hard for me.”

Souder was a top aide to former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats. He later defeated Democratic Rep. Jill Long in 1994 to capture the congressional seat previously held by Coats.

Souder disclosed in January that a biopsy taken during surgery revealed a large cancerous mass on his pancreas.

“We accept God’s authority,” Souder said in a Facebook post at the time. “We continue to ask for the wisdom for the doctors. But God’s Will be done.”

After leaving Congress, Souder ran the family’s longtime country store business in the small town of Grabill near Fort Wayne, along with writing political commentaries, numerous articles on baseball history, and co-authoring a book on the history of Fort Wayne’s television stations and personalities.

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