In some ways, it was a solemn occasion, as uniformed guards stood silently next to the flag-draped coffin of Minnesota's 35th governor in the middle of the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda Friday.
But there was also a joyous vibe in the air when Gov. Al Quie's family gathered with the state's top political leaders to reflect on the life and legacy of a man known for his deep Christian faith and putting principle above political gain.
"We're so pleased with the turnout for my dad," Rev. Joel Quie told KARE 11.
"We counted. There were 55 kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids here. But so many other people in the state of Minnesota came down here and paid their respects too, to a great statesman and a great man."
The former governor died Aug. 18, just one month shy of his 100th birthday. On Friday, Quie became the first political figure to lie in state at the capitol since 2004, and only the 19th person in Minnesota history to be honored in that way.
"His three principles of radical integrity, aggressive collaboration, and no excuses helped him thrive not only as a politician, but as a husband, parent, and grandparent," Stephan Quie, a grandson, told the Rotunda crowd.
"He is the hope that talking and praying with the other side of the aisle can lead to bipartisan agreements and lifelong friendship. And as we honor you, Grandpa, remember you are a beacon of hope for all of us individually as well as collectively."
Quie grew up on a dairy farm in Rice County and was still farming when he turned to politics. A Republican, Quie served three years in the Minnesota Senate and 21 years in Congress before being elected governor in 1978.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar told how Quie, as the ranking Republican on the U.S. House Education Committee, served alongside Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., an African-American Democrat who represented Harlem. She noted that's when Quie began to champion reforms such as smaller class sizes.
"Al saw it as an opportunity to learn. He chose to go not just where it was comfortable, but where it was uncomfortable. To run toward ideas and experiences that differed from his own."
After serving one term as governor, Quie devoted much of his life to election reform projects and prison ministries. Klobuchar said she became more keenly aware of Quie's work in prisons while she served as Hennepin County Attorney.
"He gave voice to people in prison, advocating for policies that promoted rehabilitation and reduced recidivism while always emphasizing the power of hope and redemption."
Gov. Tim Walz said Quie built a legacy of respect, decency and reaching across the aisle.
"It's not just about nostalgia for different times. He was telling us we need to take the responsibility to make it happen. He was building that legacy and it's our responsibility to guard it and cherish it."
Before being elected governor in 2018, Walz spent 12 years in Congress representing the 1st District, the same southern Minnesota congressional district Quie had held for so long. Walz, a Democrat, evoked a huge laugh from the crowd when he relayed a conversation he had with his predecessor.
"He said to me, 'Ah, the First District. I think I could still win that First District.' Here's the thing. He's super humble so he wasn't bragging. The family knows he wasn’t trolling me. He was simply stating a fact that both he and I knew was true!"
The emcee for the event was Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, a longtime Eden Prairie teacher who had some of Quie's grandchildren in his civics classes. He recalled the time Gov. Quie joined his grandson's class for a guided tour of the capitol and stood in front of his official portrait.
Quie noted the small church steeple on one side of the painting represented the church, while a tiny capitol dome on the other side represented the state.
"I'll never forget it. One of my kids asks, 'Why is the church bigger than the state?' And he (Quie) just nodded and smiled. He didn't answer because he didn't need to."
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