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Dayton offers most memorable moment at Wellstone memorial service

The first of a series of events noting the 10th anniversary of the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone brought poignant remembrances.

Sen. Paul Wellstone

The first of a series of events commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone brought poignant remembrances of him and the others who were killed in a plane crash near Eveleth on Oct. 25, 2002.

Several hundred people gathered for the service at Macalester College, a service that included a song by kids from Wellstone Elementary School, an American Indian drum circle, photos, a video, a few remarks from Wellstone’s sons, Mark and David, and remembrances of others killed in the crash.

Wellstone’s wife, Sheila, their daughter Marcia Wellstone Markuson and staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy and Will McLaughlin were also killed in the crash, along with pilots Richard Conroy and Michael Guess.

But it was the humor of Gov. Mark Dayton, keynote speaker for the event, that created the most memorable moment of the evening.

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Dayton spoke of the 1982 DFL state convention, when he won endorsement to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Dave Durenberger. Then it was the last day of the convention, and the delegates were tired and ready to go home but first needed to endorse a candidate for state auditor.

Wellstone had thrown his hat in the ring, opposing “a very earnest young man” who wanted to run against Arne Carlson.

“The very earnest young man spoke first and gave a very earnest description of the auditor’s responsibilities,’’ Dayton said. “He reminded everyone that the definition of an auditor is a bank teller without the charisma.

“Then Paul spoke,” Dayton continued, starting to wave his arms wildly in his Wellstone imitation.

“Nuclear disarmament! GTRMB@F!”

There was laughter.

“Save the rain forest! $%X&XGR!”

More laughter.

“Social and economic justice!  @$#%GHK!’’

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Laughter and sadness both. The governor’s performance was a reminder of the passion — and joy — Wellstone brought to politics.

“The convention went wild,’’ Dayton said. “The fact that Paul’s issues had nothing to do with the job of state auditor meant nothing to DFLers who had just heard the most electrifying speech in their lives.”

Wellstone was endorsed by voice vote following that speech.

Dayton noted, though, that Minnesotans weren’t as impressed with either Dayton or Wellstone as the DFL delegates had been. Both lost.

Neither gave up.

There are to be two other events honoring Wellstone’s memory and legacy. On Oct. 25, there will be a service in Eveleth and in November an event is to be held in Washington.