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Wellstone, 7 others remembered

Oct. 29, 2002 at 11:33 PM   |   Comments

MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Chants of "Wellstone, Wellstone, Wellstone" swelled Tuesday in Williams Arena as thousands gathered to mourn Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven others in a memorial service that at times sounded more like a campaign rally.

Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, daughter, Marcia Wellstone Markuson; campaign aides Will McLaughlin, Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy; and pilots Richard Conry and Michael Guess, died Friday when their King Air Turboprop crashed in a peat bog near Eveleth on Minnesota's Iron Range as Wellstone headed for a friend's funeral. The National Transportation Safety Board was attempting to determine the cause of the crash, which occurred in light snow and freezing rain.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who described Wellstone as his "best friend in the Senate," repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet.

"We must continue Paul's journey for justice in America. So tonight I ask you all, will you stand up and join together and board that bus? Say yes!" Harkin exhorted, doffing his suit coat. "For Paul Wellstone, will you stand up and keep fighting for social and economic justice? Say yes! For Paul will you stand up and keep fighting for better wages ...? Say yes!

"For Sheila will you stand up and be fighting for families so women and children will be free from domestic abuse? Say yes! For Paul will you stand up and keep fighting for cleaner water and a cleaner environment for our future? Say yes! For Paul will you stand up and keep fighting for peace and understanding and stop the exploitation of women and children around the world? Say yes! For Paul will you stand up and keep fighting and end discrimination ...? Say yes!

"For Paul, will you stand up and keep fighting for the poor the homeless and those left on the poor side of life? Say yes! Now let's all get on that bus together, that green bus, that bus of hope and keep it moving for a better America. Keep standing up, keep fighting, keep saying yes ... for Paul, for Paul, for Paul."

Wellstone student Rick Kahn urged the crowd to keep Wellstone's legacy alive, bringing the crowd to its feet as he exhorted them to pick up the mantle in the senator's memory.

"We are begging you to help us win this Senate election for Paul Wellstone," Kahn said. "We can be the answer to his prayers if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone. We can make his dreams come true if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone. We can redeem the promise of his life if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone. And we can redeem the sacrifice of his life if you help us win this election for Paul Wellstone."

Kahn urged that partisan politics be put aside for the next week and that everyone work toward the goals upon which "we all can agree." He then named a number of Republican senators in attendance Wellstone "considered true friends."

"Can you not hear your friend calling you one last time to step forward on his behalf and keep his legacy alive and help us win this election for Paul Wellstone," Kahn said.

"We know what we have to do and let's do it," Wellstone's oldest son, David, said.

Singers performed as thousands packed the Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota for the more than three-hour remembrance. Mourners began lining up in mid-afternoon to make sure they got a seat in the 15,000-seat facility, home to the Minnesota Gophers basketball team. Overflow seating for another 5,000 was set up in the adjacent sports pavilion.

An enthusiastic cheer went up as former Vice President Walter Mondale and his wife, Joan, accompanied by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., entered the arena to the strains of "Love Train." Democratic party officials have been urging Mondale, who served 12 years in the Senate, to take Wellstone's place on the ballot for the Nov. 5 general election.

The crowd also cheered former Vice President Al Gore as he entered.

Gov. Jesse Ventura was booed.

Harkin wrapped up the ceremony, praising Wellstone, whom he described as "a little guy" for his decency.

"We formed a bond that endured. I loved him like a brother," Harkin said. "He was my best friend in the Senate. In truth Paul Wellstone was one of those rare souls that so many saw as their best friend. He had a powerful authenticity that made a miner up in the Iron Range know he was as important to Paul Wellstone as the president of the United States.

"He never had to proclaim his decency. It showed in great acts of political courage and small acts of human kindness. He never had to say that he cared because we saw it in him in various ways."

Harkin said Wellstone was "the soul of the Senate," a man who put "principle above poll results" and who never was afraid to stand alone on an issue.

"He may have had a bad back but he had a spine of steel," Harkin said.

Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer took the dais at center court and acted as master of ceremonies. He called the ceremony a celebration of the lives of Wellstone and the others who died with him, and urged those gathered to put aside "our grief because Paul Wellstone would not have it any other way."

A video montage of Wellstone's campaign, complete with his trademark green bus, was shown on the massive monitors set up at center court.

David Wellstone first talked about his sister, saying he already misses not being able to go to her and confide.

"I love my sister dearly. It's a great loss," he said.

Talking about his father, David Wellstone recounted childhood memories, including the time his father "took care" of the bullies who had been tormenting him.

"The values he instilled in us growing up were rooted more in social justice than in anything else," he said. "I'll tell you the kind of words you never uttered in our house -- disparaging words about a different sex, a different color and a different orientation. ... He led by example."

David Wellstone said his parents were inseparable and he takes solace in the fact they died together.

He described his mother as "selfless" and "nurturing."

"I watched my mom go from being an assistant librarian and raising us ... to becoming a powerhouse in her own right, equal to my father," he said.

"They got things done and changed untold lives forever."

Mark Wellstone echoed his brother's words and talked about the outpouring of love and support they have received since the crash.

"Never separate the lives you live from the words you speak," he said was his father's motto. "We will carry on the fight. ... We will carry on the struggle and we will carry on the legacy."

"We will win. We will win. We will win," Mark Wellstone said, setting up a chant among the crowd.

Connie Lewis, statewide director of Wellstone's office, became close friends with Sheila Wellstone, who made domestic violence her issue.

"Working side-by-side with Paul, she played a key role in drafting and passing the Violence Against Women Act," she said, adding that Sheila Wellstone was largely responsible for making domestic violence a national issue.

"They were high school sweethearts, best friends and lovers," Lewis said of the Wellstones, then went on to describe Sheila Wellstone's abilities as a mother who "defended her children with fierce and unequivocal love."

Lewis described the loving relationship between the Wellstones, recounting an incident at the Wellstone home where she had gone to pick up the senator for a day on the campaign trail. Sheila Wellstone had already left but she left a note for her husband with her schedule, directions for reheating dinner and instructions on where to leave the house key. At the bottom it read, "We will win!" The story brought a rousing cheer, one of several that punctuated the eulogy.

Theresa Saxe, Markuson's close friend, described Wellstone's daughter as a loving person who made people's lives better by just knowing her. Saxe read a piece written by Mother Theresa she said described Markuson perfectly. White Bear High School Principal Larry DeNucci described Markuson, a Spanish teacher and marathoner, as enthusiastic and passionate -- just like her father. "Marcia, we'll miss you and we'll never forget you."

Wellstone's rabbi, Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel, opened the ceremony with a prayer, joined by other religious leaders.

Euologies for the other victims were filled with anecdotes that brought tears and laughter to those gathered.

McLaughlin's brother, David, said his brother, the youngest of nine children, became a great friend of Wellstone's as he drove the senator around in his black sport-utility vehicle.

"When they would spot a vehicle with a Wellstone bumper sticker, Paul would tell him to drive up next to it so he could wave. ... He would wave and wave and people never waved back," David McLaughlin said. "Will finally told him the windows were tinted and they couldn't see him."

Brian Ahlberg, wearing a picture button of Wellstone on his lapel, remembered Lapic as sweet, gentle and determined. "Tom had mastered the art of what Paul needed and when," he said.

Bob Bruininks, interim president of the University of Minnesota, McEvoy was committed to making people's lives better. Bruininks praised her talents as a scholar who was able to connect her work with public policy and politics. He said the university had created a public policy leadership award in her memory, which will be awarded annually to a graduate and a professional student.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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