Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who became known as “Joe the Plumber” after garnering national media attention for confronting then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the 2008 campaign trail, died Sunday, his wife Katie Wurzelbacher confirmed Monday in an email to Fox News Digital. He was 49.
“Our hearts are broken. We lost a beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend. He made an impact on so many lives,” Katie Wurzelbacher wrote in a statement.
“When I met Joe he was already known by everyone else as ‘Joe the Plumber’ but he wrote something to me that stood out and showed me who he truly was: ‘just Joe,’” she said. “He was an average, honorable man trying to do great things for the country he loved so deeply after being thrust into the public eye for asking a question.”
Joe Wurzelbacher had announced in July that he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
“My heart goes out to everyone whose lives are impacted by cancer. There are so many ups and downs but we tried to find joy in every day. He fought long and hard, but is now free from pain,” Katie Wurzelbacher wrote Monday. “I don’t think of him as losing his battle. Because he knew Jesus, his battle was won.”
“Joe’s last wish was to get us back by my family. The first night here, he gave me a big smile and said ‘we made it,’” his wife said. “To everyone who has and continues to support us, and there are so many, Thank You! You helped bring Joe peace and for that I will always be grateful.”
A fundraiser set up months ago on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo to support Wurzelbacher’s family amid his battle with cancer raised $139,147 as of Monday.
Wurzelbacher, the owner of a plumbing business at the time, rose to national acclaim when he confronted Obama at a 2008 campaign event in Toledo, Ohio, accusing the Democratic presidential candidate’s tax plan of conflicting with the American dream.
Obama countered that the plan would help small businesses grow more quickly.
John McCain, the late former U.S. senator from Arizona and Republican presidential nominee at the time, referenced “Joe The Plumber” during his own run for the White House and eventually had Wurzelbacher join him on the campaign trail.
Wurzelbacher’s name was reportedly mentioned more than a dozen times during the Oct. 15, 2008, presidential debate between Obama and McCain.
Wurzelbacher went on to run an unsuccessful bid against incumbent Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur for Ohio’s 9th congressional seat in 2012.
He is survived by his wife and children.