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Wellstone service turns into rally

MINNEAPOLIS -- Common Minnesotans mingled with political dignitaries, tears mingled with smiles and the past mingled with the future Tuesday night as the state honored Paul Wellstone.


MINNEAPOLIS -- Common Minnesotans mingled with political dignitaries, tears mingled with smiles and the past mingled with the future Tuesday night as the state honored Paul Wellstone.

Thousands remembered the senator with more cheers than tears in a memorial service that turned into a Democratic campaign rally.

"We need to win this election for Paul Wellstone," Rick Kahn shouted to the packed arena. "We are going to fight like someone's life depends on it because, I assure you, someone's does."

Kahn, a close Wellstone friend, brought the crowd to its feet in calling for support of the Democratic candidate who will replace Wellstone on the ballot, expected to be former Vice President Walter Mondale.

David Wellstone, one of the senator's sons, kept the political mood alive.


The election will be to "either keep to keep his legacy alive or to bring it forever to an end," the younger Wellstone said.

The crowd shouted: "No," to ending the legacy.

"We know this legacy will live on," added a more soft-spoken Mark Wellstone, the senator's other son.

"We know what we have to do, and let's do it," David Wellstone shouted, sounding much like his fiery father.

"We are going to stand up together," Kahn said in ever-increasing volume, "then we are going to organize, we are going to organize, we are going to organize. Then we are going to fight. We are going to fight because so much depends upon it."

The 58-year-old senator and seven others died in a fiery airplane crash Friday morning in northeastern Minnesota. Wellstone, his wife, Sheila; daughter, Marcia; DFL Party official Mary McEvoy; campaign official Tom Lapic; and campaign aide Will McLaughlin were eulogized as tireless workers for Minnesotans during a service attended by 20,000 people. Others were turned away due to lack of room in two University of Minnesota facilities.

Separate services were planned for two pilots who died in the crash, Richard Conry and Michael Guess.

The Wellstones were buried Monday.


Fifty Minnesota religious leaders started the service.

"Many are the dreams unrealized when we must leave our earthly home," Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, prayed in front of the Minneapolis crowd and a nationwide television audience.

The audience clearly agreed that Wellstone had too little time on earth, but cheered his every accomplishment during a 3-hour salute.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, ended the tribute with a rousing salute.

"Because of what he did, family farmers will have a better future," Harkin said. "Because of what he did, mental illness soon will be treated with equality in our health care system."

Harkin reminded the audience that needed no reminding about Wellstone's work to help those with the most need.

"The hard-working folks he cared about didn't have lobbyists ... but they had Paul Wellstone," Harkin said.

"We must continue Paul's journey for justice in America," added Harkin, who called Wellstone his best friend in the Senate.


Harkin worked the crowd into a frenzy, asking Minnesotans to continue to fight for Wellstone's ideals.

"Now, let's all of us get on that bus together, that green bus and let's keep it moving to a better America," he said of Wellstone's campaign bus.

David Wellstone said in the family and the political world, "When you really, really needed him, there is no one else you wanted in your corner."

Sheila Wellstone worked with the senator to draft a key part of the Violence Against Women Act, which also frequently earned praise.

"My mom was everything to us," David Wellstone said. "And my father was what he was because of my mother."

McLaughlin's brother, David, said Wellstone and Will McLaughlin worked well together, perhaps because both like to be in charge. He told of one difference of opinion between Wellstone and his brother.

"I don't know what words were said, but let's just say Will learned you don't just tell a senator to 'just chill out,'" David McLaughlin said.

The McLaughlin boys are sons of Judy McLaughlin, a former Fargo resident.


Dozens of United States senators, the Minnesota congressional delegation and many state officials attended.

Included in the audience was Republican Norm Coleman, who was in a tight election race with Wellstone. Getting one of the largest ovations of the night was Mondale, and the crowd ended the night chanting his nickname, "Fritz."

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, prompted a standing ovation when they entered the arena, immediately followed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper..

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., drew boos when shown on giant television screens hanging above the stage-in-the-round, while Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., earned applause.

Gov. Jesse Ventura's appearance produced a mixture of cheers and boos.

Among those not attending the service was Vice President Dick Cheney. He offered to come, but the Wellstone family asked him not to because of security concerns. At an unrelated event in Washington, President Bush praised Wellstone as "a deeply principled and good-hearted man."

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor and frequent Minnesota visitor, represented Bush at the service.

Reporter Jeff Baird contributed to this story.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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