Walter Mondale on his recent illness, life without Joan

Walter Mondale

MINNEAPOLIS - No funeral flowers arrived, but it wasn't far from it.

A month after being hospitalized, former Vice President Walter Mondale is still chuckling about media reports that had him close to death.

Mondale had been scheduled to introduce former President Jimmy Carter last month during an appearance in the Twin Cities, but some nagging respiratory problems him to the Mayo Clinic.

"He announced that I was sick and that story went all over the world," Mondale said Friday in an interview with KARE 11.

As the story of Mondale's illness picked up steam, "I got sicker and sicker and sicker, I got pneumonia, one version, I didn't have much time to go," laughed Mondale. "Meanwhile I was on my way home and doing fine."

The 87-year-old Mondale spent two nights in the hospital.

Next week Mondale will be honored by the American Academy of Neurology for his support of brain research and funding.

Mondale's life has been deeply impacted by brain illnesses. His daughter Eleanor died in 2011 of brain cancer and his wife Joan passed away in 2014 after battling Lewy body dementia.

Mondale keeps their pictures close by at his office at Dorsey & Whitney law firm in downtown Minneapolis.

"I don't want to forget her and I don't want to forget Eleanor, this is not at all what I think is healthy," Mondale said.

Still, he's had to adjust to a new life. "Suddenly you're alone, you're alone in the house, you're alone at night, you are alone when you go to church; it takes a lot of adjusting."

Mondale still comes into the office every day. He says that's exactly what his wife of 59 years would want. "If Joan thought I was moping, I'd get a hand coming down from heaven to bop me on the head. No you don't get anything out of that, you've got to move on and make something good out of your life."

Lately Mondale has been working on a retrospective of his life scheduled to open this fall at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. He said his "old pals" Carter, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are among those expected to attend.

Mondale stays in close touch with many of his political friends. He's already committed his support to Hillary Clinton in her newly announced run for the White House. "She's had a lot of needed experience in government. I think she's going to do very well," Mondale said.


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