Dignitaries, family bid farewell to Joan Mondale
MINNEAPOLIS – Political dignitaries joined family members at Saturday’s memorial service for Joan Mondale, the wife of a former vice president who was remembered as “a highly charged battery of positive energy” for her passion and persistence about arts, politics and community.
Vice President Joe Biden, former President Jimmy Carter and their spouses Jill and Rosalynn were at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis to pay tribute to Walter Mondale’s devoted partner, who died Monday at age 83 after an extended illness. Leading Minnesota officials, along with Japan’s consul general, filled rows of pews at the two-hour service.
Carter credited Joan Mondale for bolstering a facet of his legacy: a commitment to art and artists across the country and beyond. He recalled her as dogged in pushing his administration to build lasting support for the fine arts.
“Until I met Joan Mondale, I thought Rosalynn was the most persistent woman on earth,” Carter said, noting 22 entries in his personal diary about Mondale lobbying him on the arts in one year alone.
“I tried to find a phrase to describe Joan, and I found this one: ‘Live your life as though it was a work of art,'” Carter said.
Joan Mondale leveraged the political prominence of her husband to focus national attention on arts and culture, also transforming the role of second lady in the process. He was vice president in the 1970s, a Democratic nominee for president in the 1980s and an ambassador to Japan in the 1990s.
Walter Mondale mostly sat stoically as others shared stories about his wife of 58 years. But tales by Biden, Carter and others about how his plucky wife often upstaged him drew his laughter.
Biden praised not only Joan Mondale’s commitment to the arts, but also her activism on issues such as equal pay and rights for women.