Even if you didn’t agree with Jerry Guerin, you probably liked him anyway. One of Aiken’s most prominent conservative political activists, he had a twinkle in his eye and a willingness to listen to other people’s opinions.
“There was always a respect and an understanding between us,” said Jane Page Thompson, a Realtor and political activist who shared many, but not all, of Guerin’s views. “If he felt like he and I were going to disagree, he would call me up or send an email and ask me, ‘Why are you taking this stand?’ I would explain my position, and he always respected that. That was what was great about his leadership style. It was a civil discourse that politics lacks today.”
A native of Ireland who immigrated to this country in 1958, Guerin died Tuesday at the age of 75. His political efforts included serving as chairman of the Aiken County Tea Party and organizing rallies to spread the organization’s views.
“He was a shining example of what every American needs to understand, which is that a simple disagreement on an issue does not enemies make,” Thompson said. “Our Constitution gives us the right to have our opinions and voice them, but it also demands that good Americans respect each other’s opinions even though they differ with them.”
Guerin especially enjoyed working with young people, Thompson added, and made them feel welcome when they expressed an interest in conservative causes.
“He always had an eye on the future,” she said.
David Lobb, a former vice chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party, moved to Aiken in 2005 and met Guerin soon afterward.
“My favorite memory of him is when he and his wife would come to the St. Patrick’s Day party that we have every year,” Lobb said. “My wife is Irish, and it’s just beautiful to see the Irish celebrate this holiday.”
Lobb, who called Guerin a “fantastic man,” also said: “His involvement with local politics and conservative ideals were something that we looked up to. This is a great loss for our community.”
Claude O’Donovan, another former vice chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party, described Guerin as a diligent worker and a strong proponent of the Tea Party line.
On a more personal note, O’Donovan said, “He was colorful and had a wonderful Irish accent. My last name is O’Donovan and I don’t have that accent, so I always envied him. He very much loved golf, but I didn’t get to play with him.”
O’Donovan and his wife, Sunny, founded We The People Aiken with Debbie Nix, who recalled meeting Guerin in 2005 at a health care rally. They discovered they had a lot in common and ended up working together politically.
“Jerry will be remembered as a man of deep faith who loved this country and stood for what he believed,” she said. “Although he was in his 70s and a small-business owner, he still found the time and energy to be politically active on a local level. Jerry made a difference with his life.”
A Requiem Mass for Guerin will be held today at noon at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church.