John Sidney McCain III: A POW in Vietnam for five years, he served as Arizona’s senator from 1987 until his death and twice ran for president.
Nate Kelly,

It was a noisy night at a Las Vegas casino, and U.S. Sen. John McCain was giving everyone nicknames. 

He called Mary Welch “soy sauce,” because she had a soy sauce stain on her shirt, from an earlier trip to a sushi restaurant. She was one of several players crowded around a busy craps table at the Bellagio Hotel with McCain.

It was a completely by-chance encounter, sometime in the early 2000s, she remembered.

“He was nice, down to earth, funny, just having fun,” Welch said. 

MORE: Sen. John McCain, Arizona political giant, dies at age 81

Longtime Arizona residents like Welch are taking to Facebook, Twitter and family text messages to share their own chance encounters with McCain, who died Saturday. The political giant had a massive reach in his home state. 

“He touched a lot of people,” she said. “He stood up for what he believed in.” 


Dan Rivera talks about Sen. John McCain at the makeshift memorial at the A. L. Moore-Grimshaw Mortuary on Aug. 26, 2018 in Phoenix.
Mark Henle, The Republic

A bus, a mall and a funny guy

Azcentral sports producer Matt Self remembered walking home from Mesa Rhodes Junior High about 36 years ago when a strange woman offered him a T-shirt and a cold Pepsi if he would get on a bus and go to the mall with her.

Of course he said yes.

“There were about 30 of us kids. We marched around Fiesta Mall for an hour following this loud, funny old guy (he was 45!) as he shook hands and kissed babies,” Self said. “I had no idea what all of it was about. I just knew John McCain was pretty cool. Sorry it’s so late, but thank you for the Pepsi and the shirt, Senator.”


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Arizonans remember their senator 

Residents in downtown Phoenix just hours after McCain died said they’d been surprised at the news so quickly after the family’s announcement the prior day that he was ending medical treatment.

Devry Wright, of Phoenix, said he was “a bit shocked to find out that he passed away.” Wright knew that McCain had decided to end treatment for his cancer.

“You figured he had at least a little more time, right?” he said. 

Rue Yazzie, of Mesa, had the same sentiments.

“Just a little surprised, honestly.”

For many, McCain was a role model, inspiring the next generation to go into politics. Former staffers and other locals shared their memories on Twitter: 

Do you have a story about an encounter with McCain? Share it with us by tweeting @aliarau or email [email protected].



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