Hite gives emotional speech at Kiwanis luncheon

When state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, stepped to the podium at the Kiwanis Club luncheon today, he sounded every bit the politician with an election to win.

He even plunked out a chorus of “Happy Birthday” on the piano at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, much to the delight of the Kiwanians.

Hite does have an election to win. He will face two challengers in the May 6 primary: Milo Schaffner of 1625 Wetzel Road, Van Wert; and Corey Shankleton of 104 Church Street, Kunkle.

Hite, of 2417 Westmoor Road, was appointed to fill the unexpired term of state Sen. Steve Buehrer in early 2011, after Buehrer was named administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation by Gov. John Kasich. Hite was then elected to a term that ends Dec. 31, 2014.

He is a former state representative and teacher at Findlay High School.

But today, as Hite spoke in his home church, among friends, touting his work in the Ohio Senate, the lines between politics and home blurred and the senator, known for his ready smile, choked backed tears as spoke about “Tess’ Law.”

Hite is sponsor to a bill, Senate Bill 275, that would make March 9 an awareness day for bacterial meningitis. His five-year-old niece, Tess, died on March 9, 1999, from the disease.

[VIDEO: View Hite's speech on Senate Bill 275, made on the Ohio Senate floor on Feb. 19]

She was preceded in death by an older sister, who just a few years earlier, had died during heart surgery.

“The worst funeral I have ever been to in my life was with the first one, with Katie. The second one challenges your faith. … I know God is an awesome God, but I don’t get it, and I’m not supposed to get it. I don’t get it. I still don’t get it,” said Hite to a now silent crowd.

“We wanted to take March 9, which has been bad for my family for 15 years and turn it into something good,” Hite said.

“This disease is still out there and we need to be aware of it,” Hite said. “… If you have a son or daughter that is getting ready to go to college, please inoculate them.”

The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and every Senate member signed on as a co-sponsor. The bill is now being considered by the House.

Reporter Denise Grant will have more on this story in Thursday’s edition of  The Courier.

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