MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Family and friends of Joan Mondale, the wife of former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, gathered on Saturday for a memorial service to celebrate the life of the woman known as “Joan of Art” for her decades of support for the fine arts.
She died on Monday at age 83.
Besides Walter Mondale, former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton were among the dignitaries at the downtown Minneapolis church where the service was held for the former second lady of the 1977-1981 Carter administration.
In tributes filled with music and humor, speakers described Joan Mondale as independent-minded and caring.
“Joan Mondale was a treasure, and like all great treasures her memory will be as powerful as her presence on those who loved her and those of you she loved so much,” Biden told the congregation.
Her support for the arts spanned more than six decades from her college studies and work, through her efforts to promote artists and arts programs during and after Walter Mondale’s terms as a U.S. senator, vice president and ambassador.
After moving to Washington when her husband became a U.S. senator in 1964, Joan Mondale devoted much of her time to the National Gallery of Art. Her book, “Politics in Art,” is based on her arts lectures.
Joan Mondale filled the vice president’s residence with contemporary American art. She served as honorary chair of the Federal Council on Arts and Humanities for the Carter Administration, advocating for private and public arts support across the country.
Former President Carter recalled that Joan Mondale persistently coaxed him to foster the arts during his administration.
He drew laughter when he read a diary entry from 1978, the year he oversaw the historic Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt. It said that the time he spent choosing members and directors of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities exceeded the time he “spent bringing peace to the Middle East.”
Carter said Joan Mondale left a lasting effect on his administration and the work of Walter Mondale, whom he and other speakers referred to by his nickname “Fritz.”
“We accommodated Joan’s dreams and I would say it was one of the most substantive and long-lasting impacts on the national scene that I left behind me and Fritz left behind him,” he said.
Joan Mondale brought American art to the embassy and immersed herself in Japanese art when her husband served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan. She incorporated Japanese styles into her pottery and visited Japanese artisans.
Masaharu Yoshida, consul general of Japan at Chicago, also attended the service.
Biden said in his years of knowing Joan Mondale, he remembers that she pushed as hard for social causes as she did to promote the arts, and he mentioned her support of campaigns for equal pay for women.
Joan Mondale served on the board of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and other boards and as a trustee at Macalester College, her alma mater and the school where her father served as chaplain.
The service was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church where the Mondales were members. Bagpipers and drummers led the congregants to a reception at nearby Orchestra Hall.
The Mondales were married 58 years, meeting and marrying in 1955. They had three children: Eleanor, Ted and William. Eleanor Mondale died in 2011 from brain cancer.
Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Gunna Dickson