The Mondale urn

Walter Mondale
1928 – 2021

Editor’s Note:  A technical glitch stopped publication this morning.  But, here you go with today’s article a few hours late.  Sorry.

As I write articles in this forum I sometimes have to remind myself that many of my readers are 30 to 40 years younger than I am.  That fact, and the experience of playing golf with a 25-year old in our group last Friday, also reminds me that I sometimes have to give a little background to the story of the day.

Last Friday someone in our group brought up the name Dan Quayle. . .as in Vice-President Dan Quayle.  As you may remember former Indiana Senator Dan Quayle served as Vice-President of the United States to President George Bush from 1991-1995.  Of course, our 25-year old playing partner was not born until 1997.  It came about as someone brought up “Vice-President” Quayle, the youngster asked “what was he Vice-President of”?  The three of us older players then said almost in unison the “The United States of America”.

So, I bring that up because while most of you know of Vice-President Walter Mondale, for those of you that don’t I want you to know he was a United States Senator from Minnesota from 1964-1976 when he then became Vice-President of the United States under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.  He was also the Democratic nominee for President in 1984 but was defeated by incumbent President Ronald Reagan in that election.

Mondale was known to most of us Minnesotans, regardless of what party we affiliate with, as a good and decent human being who spent his career working for what he believed was the betterment of the United States and its citizens.  I don’t think there is much argument among all Minnesotans over that statement.  Following his retirement from public office he returned to Minnesota where he worked for a law firm and there are thousands of stories of his encounters with the general population on the streets of Minneapolis.  He was known for his friendliness with the common folk.

Mondale died on April 19, 2021, — just over one year ago, but his memorial service was delayed until last week because of the Covid pandemic.  President Biden journeyed to Minnesota to give one of the eulogies in the auditorium of the University of Minnesota last week.

Because of that recent memorial service, much has been written about Vice-President Mondale in the last week.  One such story appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sunday and was entitled, “Beloved clay pot held both Mondales“.  The story tells of a clay pot urn created by Minnesota potter Warren MacKenzie.  Upon Joan Mondale’s death, the Vice-President’s wife,  in 2017, her remains were placed in the urn and it was placed over the family fireplace.

Mrs. Mondale was known as an artist and she worked alongside Warren McKenzie in his pottery studio.  The Star Tribune article mentions that even though she was the “2nd Lady of the United States” for a period of time, the first descriptive word the family chose for her in her obituary was “potter”.

Here is what is written in the article about a time the Mondale sons came home following her death, ‘The heavy piece of pottery was lighter than expected the first time the Mondale boys lifted their mother’s urn from its place of honor over the fireplace.  We picked up the urn and it was empty,” he (son Ted Mondale) said. Their father had quietly strewn her ashes out by the St. Croix River at some point, freeing the pot for a new purpose.’

That urn, according to the article, has now become the resting place for Vice-President Walter Mondale’s remains.  Here’s what Ted Mondale said of that choice, “It was there in the house, and she (Mrs. Mondale) loved it.  We thought it was perfect.”

Again according to the article, “The Mondale family is planning to lay him to rest in Minneapolis’ Lakewood Cemetery, just like fellow Minnesota political icon (Vice-President and Presidential candidate in 1968) Hubert H. Humphrey.”

Related Presidential Disposition fact:  According to some research I did, no President of the United States has been cremated.  Mondale is the second United States Vice-President to be cremated.  The first was Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller who died in 1979.  According to Wikipedia, Rockefeller died on January 26, 1979, was cremated, and on January 29, 1979, family and close friends gathered to inter his ashes in the private Rockefeller family cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. A memorial service was held on February 2, 1979.

Interesting Note:  When I served on the Board of Regents for the University of Minnesota from 2015-2021 one of my colleagues and her husband lived in the same Minneapolis condo building as Vice-President Mondale.  They became good friends.  She told me on the night before Vice-President Mondale died, he received a call from every living former and current president of the United States. . . . quite a fraternity to belong to!

  • Walter Mondale Wikipedia page.
  • Website of Minnesota’s iconic Lakewood Cemetery.  Soon to be the final resting place of Vice-President Mondale.

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