Michael Schwartz, longtime chief of staff for Sen. Tom Coburn, died Sunday. He was 63. Schwartz had Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Schwartz was Coburn’s chief of staff since Coburn was elected to the Senate in 2004. He also served as chief of staff for much of Coburn’s six years in the U.S. House.
Schwartz’s funeral is scheduled for Thursday in Germantown, Maryland.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, made the following statement on Monday:
“I’m sad to announce the passing of Michael Schwartz, who served as my chief of staff and was a member of my staff for almost 15 years.
“In a place preoccupied by titles and position and power, Mike was an extraordinary servant and faithful leader. He showed everyone _by his life, deeds and words _ that things that are unseen are the things that matter. As he battled ALS _ Lou Gehrig’s disease _ he showed us what it means to run the race and finish it strongly. Well done, good and faithful servant.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike’s wife, Rose Ann, and their children and grandchildren.”
Here is the text of a statement Coburn made on the Senate floor in November about Schwartz:
“I wish to take a moment to honor a member of my staff who is not retiring but as a result of his ailment can no longer come to work on the Hill. This gentleman’s name is Michael Schwartz. He has been my chief of staff for almost 15 years, beginning while I was in the House and here in the Senate as well.
“A lot of people on the Hill know Michael. What they know is that he is one of the kindest, gentlest people anyone has ever met. He has been a light focused on how we do things to honor other people.
“Michael has been the kind of person who has always focused on others, especially those in need. He is the kind of person who doesn’t pass up the homeless we all see around the Capitol but stops and tries to satisfy their need. He offers them money and food, but he also offers them friendship and his time. He offers them the love and dignity that comes from being reminded that we are all children of the Creator.
“Mike has also been an unapologetic defender of the family and of those who cannot defend themselves, whether that be the disability community, the unborn, the infirm, or the elderly. He has reminded me and my staff and all of us that a society is truly measured in how it treats and cares for those less fortunate.
“Mike is also a voracious reader and gifted leader. In a city where people stop learning when they gain power, Mike has shown that the closer one gets to power, the more one needs to humble oneself and learn new things. He has been mentoring staff and others for years on the Hill in both reading groups and Bible studies, where he has shared his wisdom, his faith, and his heart.
“As many in the Senate know, Mike has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. For weeks, he has been battling–actually months–to continue to fulfill his responsibilities here when most of us would have said: It is too difficult, I can’t do it. He has overcome challenges that most of us can scarcely imagine. He has done so with grace, humility, and an unbelievable level of courage. Through all this, we have watched him inspire everybody on my team with both his spirit and his tenacity.
“In these difficult circumstances, Mike has been an extraordinary servant and faithful leader. He is still the guy who cares more about other people than himself. The kindness he has shown to everyone he has encountered, whether to a homeless person on the street or a leading Senator in the halls, he has reminded our team and me that we are all equal regardless of position in the eyes of God.
“Let me close with a passage from 2 Corinthians that reminds me so very much of Mike.
“It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people–
“That wonderful word “grace,” too often a shortage in Washington, that Mike so well displays _ may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart.
“Mike, don’t lose heart.
“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“In a place preoccupied by titles and position and power, Mike has shown everyone by his life and his deeds and his words that things that are unseen are the things that matter. He has shown us what it means to run the race and finish it strongly. Well done, good and faithful servant.
“My hope is that God will bless Mike and Roseanne, their children and grandchildren, as he closes this chapter of his life on the Hill. He will still be doing projects for us because his intellect, his insight, and his knowledge are what we cannot bear to do without. So it has been my privilege over the last 15 years to be modeled and mentored by my chief of staff.
“Mike, we love you. God bless you.”