Rudy Clay's death Tuesday afternoon signals not just the death of the man, but also another bit of the old guard Democrats in Lake County.
Regardless of whether you agreed with his politics, it's hard not to agree that his heart was as large as his sideburns.
Clay's most recent tenure was as mayor of Gary, but he held other political offices as well, including as state senator, county recorder, county councilman and county commissioner.
His love for God and for his constituents were obvious to anyone who knew him.
Anytime Clay addressed a group, he praised God, and often when he talked to individuals as well. It's clear he felt blessed to represent Gary and Lake County.
He loved meeting his constituents, too. Whenever there was a public meeting, it seemed, Clay was eager to go as the people's representative.
"I can't think of anybody who more thoroughly loved the process that is often onerous. He just loved it. He loved being in public service, and he loved being in the spotlight," Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said Tuesday.
Republican Dan Blankenship, who lives in south Lake County, was in neither Clay's district nor his political mindset, but Blankenship liked the man.
"I remember bringing my young daughters to a county commissioners' meeting, and when Commissioner Clay saw them in the audience, he offered them some of the doughnuts from the commissioners' stash of doughnuts," Blankenship said Tuesday. "My daughters were so thrilled and just thought he was the coolest guy. I still remember how nice he was at all of the meetings, even when I was there to tell him I disagreed with the way he was voting on commissioner issues."
From sharing doughnuts with children to arranging to build a bridge for an entire community, Clay was eager to help.
Clay was a part of the Democratic Party's old guard, serving as a mentor and even for a time as Lake County party chairman.
As mayor, Clay was forced to begin the process of bringing the city's spending in line with its revenue -- a painful though necessary process as the transition to a new era in Lake County politics began.
Many disagreed with his politics, but they knew he had a big heart.
Rest in peace, Rudy Clay, and thank you for your commitment to Gary and Lake County.