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Editor’s note: This letter to the editor was written by Ashley Schultz, a friend of Kevin Cronin’s. Cronin, a member of the Racine County Republican Party, died Sunday from complications of having pancreatic cancer.

On Sunday, February 1st, we lost one of the best after his courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Today on World Cancer Day, I’d like to honor Kevin Cronin, and encourage everyone to take the occasional break from the political debates, the name calling, the bickering…and remember that in the end, we’re all the same.

There are a lot of us who have been on opposite sides at one point or another. Whether it’s a campaign, or disagreeing on an issue, emotions run high in politics and friendships suffer. But if we can learn anything at all from Kevin, it’s that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I first met Kevin when we were supporting different candidates during a Republican primary. Despite the fact that I was a staffer for “the other guy” he refused to accept less than friendship from me. I remember eyeing his campaign shirt and trying to walk away, but he introduced himself and handed me a beer. And that was that — we were friends for life.

That was the kind of person he was. He was also the kind of person who didn’t mind if you were a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian —  he accepted us all. He didn’t care if you supported another candidate, he just wanted everyone to treat each other with respect. But he did care if you dissed his beloved Chicago Bears. Not too long ago he picked a side in a primary after a staffer ripped on the Bears shortly before the election. Some people thought he was joking. Nope, he was 100% serious.

He didn’t have an easy life. He was hit with ups and downs like you wouldn’t believe — I’m sure I don’t even know the half of it. But meeting him you would never know it. Most of his friends have heard a “Kevin story” at some point or another, and I bet they were laughing at the end of it (no matter how crazy or tragic it was!) He once convinced me that he was going to work for Tammy Baldwin, and that he’d have to ride a bike to get there because of the conservative bumper stickers on his car.

The last few years he had some really hard times, and it was tough to watch — but not too long before his diagnosis things were looking up. The cancer was the final challenge Kevin faced, and I strongly believe he was given those bumps in the road so that he was prepared to face the ultimate battle with strength and peace.

It wasn’t easy. There were some tough moments where we knew he realized the gravity of the situation, even though he’d never admit it.  There’s one time in particular where his doctors came to speak with him, and despite the disheartening news he just looked at me and smiled. He was stubborn, and if you tried to tell him what to do, cried, or brought him vegetables, you’d risk getting thrown out of the room. He wanted to be surrounded by positive people who could take his mind off the cancer.

He opened his life up to countless friends and sometimes even strangers who didn’t know him well but wanted to help.  Having gone through a period in his life where he felt like it was him against the world, I think being surrounded by so much love and concern was what helped him fight every day. His family, friends, and beloved cat Angel kept his spirits up. Some friends truly rearranged their lives and schedules to be there for him.

Aside from his many lifelong friends and family, a large community of fellow Republican activists rallied around him, helping to make sure he had rides to appointments, home-cooked meals, and anything else he needed. The incredible amount of support was a testament to what a unique and awesome person Kevin was.

There’s so much we can learn from his life, I couldn’t possibly sum it up in a blog post. But one thing is for sure, Kevin is a reminder that we should have fun, work hard, and treat one another with kindness. Unless they are dissing your football team — then all bets are off.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.