Vice president's mother discusses young Mike Pence and her first time in Chattanooga

Vice president's mother discusses young Mike Pence and her first time in Chattanooga

May 20th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

Nancy Fritsch, mother of Vice President Mike Pence, talks at the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Friday, May 19, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mrs. Fritsch was the keynote speaker at Friday's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Mike Pence didn't talk until he was 3 years old, when his grandfather taught him to say the phrase "You're welcome" in Irish.

Since that time, the man now America's vice president used his voice to win speech contests, work on radio programs, excel in law school, and parley a successful career as a U.S. congressman and Indiana's governor into a term as the nation's second-most- powerful leader.

"He's a very kind, thoughtful, very Christian man," his mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, 84, said Friday in Chattanooga. "What you see is what you get. That's exactly who he is. He has no airs, no pretensions. He's a simple, God-fearing man."

Amid President Donald Trump's overhaul of ObamaCare and an FBI investigation into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, Fritsch traveled to Chattanooga on Friday to speak to about 300 Republicans for the Lincoln Day Dinner. The annual celebration and fundraising event for the Republican Party often features a well-known speaker.

Fritsch said beforehand she planned to talk about her son, her family's Irish heritage, and her first trip to Chattanooga in 1956 — before the interstate highway system was constructed.

"The first time I saw Chattanooga was on my honeymoon coming to Florida," Fritsch said. "When I came down out of the mountain and saw the lights of Chattanooga — to two weary honeymooners from Chicago, it was beautiful. It was a two-lane road back then."

Fritsch said her father immigrated from Ireland and her mother's parents' came from there, too. She lived in Chicago before raising Pence and his three brothers in Indiana, where Pence attended North Columbia High School. Pence displayed an early talent for politics when he served as senior class president, and his picture still hangs in the school hallway today, Fritsch said.

Once he started speaking, young Pence was "very talkative," Fritsch said. He competed in speech contests in sixth grade at the age of 11, advancing to finals before another student finally defeated him, she said.

He also devoured history books, which he studied at Hanover College in Indiana. That developed his love for presidential figures like Abraham Lincoln — and Ronald Reagan, "of course," Fritsch said.

Fritsch said she hasn't visited the White House since Pence's inauguration in January. Pence sometimes discusses political happenings with his brothers, Fritsch said, and so far loves working with the Trump family.

"He's a great guy, he really is," Fritsch said of the president. "And I believe Michael. What I see of President Trump, I admire, very much so. He's the kind of the man who says what he thinks and thinks what he says. He follows through. And he's a businessman, which is an entirely different person. I was married to a businessman, it was wonderful. We had a great life, and he worked hard and dealt with customers. He was a salesman, through and through. And that's pretty much what Trump is."

Fritsch said she had no comment about Trump's ongoing war with the media. "Unless you watched 'Saturday Night Live' last Saturday — that's pretty rough. What's her name, Melissa McCarthy? She threw a big statue at the press and sprayed them with fire hydrants. Oh god, she's so funny."

Fritsch declined to discuss U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's testimony Friday the agency's investigation into Russian involvement in the election had shifted from counterintelligence to criminal behavior.

"It's just terribly unfortunate," she said.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.