By John Croman

Senator Amy Klobuchar's first job in Washington D.C. was working as a college intern for Walter Mondale. It wasn't the glamorous gig she had imagined, but it was the beginning of relationship she treasured.

"I was assigned the furniture inventory, which meant I had to write down the serial numbers on a list and compare it for every lamp, table, chair, you name it," Sen. Klobuchar recalled.

"That’s when I first got to know him, but this went on throughout my career. He is one who told me to run for Senate. He’s the one picked a woman vice president in Geraldine Ferraro that made me realize anything and everything was possible."

Klobuchar is among those slated to speak at the public memorial service for Mondale, who died April 19, 2021 at the age of 93.

"It’s going to be great to see all of his friends and loved ones, but also I think it’s all the more relevant to do it now. I mean, we are in a fight for democracy around the world. And that was something that was near and dear to his heart. He loved our own constitution, of course, but he also was such a powerful figure on the world stage."

Mondale's name came to prominence first as Minnesota Attorney General. He was appointed US Senator when Hubert Humphrey became the vice president in 1964, and then won two more six-year terms outright, leading the effort for the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act, and efforts to preserve pristine scenic waterways.

Mondale became Jimmy Carter's running mate in 1976 and by virtue of that victory he became Vice President. Wife Joan Mondale became the second lady.  Historians credit Mondale for fundamentally changing the role of vice president, because he became a partner and champion of President Carter's agenda.

"To think he went from being the small town son of a minister to negotiating Middle East peace. Walter Mondale did that and more," said Klobuchar, who is serving her third term in the US Senate and ran for president in the Democratic primaries in 2020.

The Mondale's left Washington in 1981 after the Carter-Mondale team was unseated by Ronald Reagan. The former VP topped a crowded Democratic field in 1984 to win his party's nomination for the White House. 

He made history when he chose as New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, but he lost the 1984 presidential election a landslide to hugely popular incumbent President Ronald Reagan.

"He made that decision when he came back that he wasn’t gonna just hide. He lost the presidency. It’s a really hard thing," Klobuchar remarked.

"Instead, he decided to go to work at the University of MInnesota and inspire the next generation of leaders, and help young politicians, and I just happened to be one of them."

Mondale would later serve as our nation's ambassador to Japan, and on his return work at the University of Minnesota as a lecturer. He also kept his hand in his original vocation of law, keeping an office at Dorsey Whitney in downtown Minneapolis.

When Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash in 2002, just 10 days before the election, the DFL party drafted Mondale to take Wellstone's place on the ballot. It was too late to turn the tide, and Mondale lost to Republican Norm Coleman.

"It didn’t work out, as he wanted. But I think one of the most poignant moments was, on that election night when he lost, with just having filled in and people still mourning over Paul’s death, he spent the night consoling the kids that worked on his campaign and Paul’s, instead of talking about himself," Klobuchar recalled.

"That’s Walter Mondale – decency, dignity, from the beginning to the end."

He continued to serve Democratic causes as the DFL's elder statesman. The people of Minnesota mourned with Mondale when he lost daughter Eleanor to brain cancer. And they grieved with him again when his wife Joan died of dementia-related illnesses.

In 2019, the Minnesota DNR renamed a picnic area at William O'Brien State Park in his honor because of the work he had done in the Senate preserving Scenic Waterways, such as the St. Croix River.  He seemed amused and honored that something was being named for him while he was still alive.

Mr. Mondale shared with the crowd that day that he had proposed to Joan on a float trip down St. Croix River, and 61 days later they were married.

Walter Mondale had walked among giants of American history, and made some history himself, but he always conveyed a sense of humility and humor.

"He always had a much better sense of humor than people thought. He was pretty witty about what was going on in the world. He just always had that Norwegian seriousness about him."