House leaders paused Wednesday to honor Paula T. Nowakowski, a longtime aide to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose sudden death of a heart attack last weekend prompted a rare moment of unity felt throughout the entire chamber. She was 46.
In his emotional remarks, Boehner described his aide as “tough as nails— and “a brilliant strategist.—
“Her mother, Teo, and her brother, Gary, are with us today. And Mrs. Nowakowski, please accept our condolences and thank you for the shining light that was your daughter,— Boehner said. “For 46 years, that light shined brightly and touched countless lives and she’ll never be replaced in this institution, nor will she be forgotten.—
Boehner recalled Nowakoski’s love for the Detroit Red Wings and said he and many of his staff will wear Red Wings pins in her honor for the balance of the year.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recalled Nowakowski’s “beautiful, beautiful smile— and said her death shocked the Capitol Hill community.
“We were in a state of disbelief, especially for someone so vibrant, so full of life, with this brilliant intellect and strong personality, to leave us so young,— Pelosi said. “She left us, but she has made her mark.—
Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also rose to express their sorrow to Boehner and to Nowakowski’s family, who were seated in the chamber during the tribute.
“Her sage advice and counsel made her an invaluable resource to our Members each and every day and frankly to this institution,— Cantor said. “Our party and our nation owe Paula a tremendous amount of gratitude.—
Hoyer said he would never forget Nowakowski’s “professionalism courtesy and kindness— as she helped Members through the transition after Democrats took power in the House in 2006.
“The absence she leaves behind reminds us that Congress is not just an inanimate branch of government, but a living and vibrant community of public servants and quite often friends,— Hoyer said. “Paula’s absence will be felt in this community and especially in Leader Boehner’s office for years and years to come.—
Services for Nowakowski will be held on Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday, the vigil will be 6 to 9 p.m. at the Arlington Funeral Home at 3901 N. Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Va. Public viewing and last respects will be held 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on 313 Second St. SE in Washington, D.C. A Mass for Nowakowski will begin at noon. Nowakowski will be interred at Columbia Gardens Cemetery at 3411 Arlington Blvd. in Arlington. She is survived by her mother, sister, brother and longtime companion, Michael Smith.