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Joan Mondale dies at 83

Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
Then-Sen. Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale posing for a portrait in 1972.

Joan Mondale, an artist, a great supporter of the arts and the wife of former U.S. Vice President, Ambassador to Japan and Sen. Walter Mondale, has died at age 83. She was moved from her Minneapolis home to hospice care on Friday and died Monday afternoon.

Her husband, sons Ted and William, and other family members were at her side.  

“We are grateful for the expressions of love and support we have received,” Walter Mondale said in a statement issued by the family’s church, Westminster Presbyterian. “Joan was greatly loved by many. We will miss her dearly.”

Mondale earned her affectionate nickname, “Joan of Art,” over a lifetime of working in museums and galleries, collecting art, promoting art, serving on boards of arts organizations including the Walker, the Minnesota Orchestra, and Northern Clay Center, and making art. She studied pottery for years with internationally known Stillwater potter Warren MacKenzie and became an avid potter.

Minneapolis’ Textile Center dedicated its largest exhibition space, the Joan Mondale Gallery, in her honor in 2004. On its website is a tribute to Mondale. It says in part, “Joan has devoted her life to supporting artists and arts organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. She was an early and strong supporter of Textile Center, serving as honorary chair of our capital campaign, attending benefit after benefit, and encouraging everyone to support Textile Center.”

Sen. Al Franken remembered her with these words: “Joan was a wonderful woman and I am so glad that I had the honor to call her my friend. She knew that the arts nurture our hearts, our minds, and our souls. … We are going to miss her terribly.”

“Joan will be remembered for her service and dedication to our state and country,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “From Minnesota to Washington D.C. to Japan and back, Joan was a true partner with former Vice President Walter Mondale. Joan left a great legacy in the Arts community, from creating her beautiful pottery to serving on the boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, Walker Art Center, Macalester College and the National Portrait Gallery.”

We last saw her in late July 2012 on an elevator in the Hennepin Center for the Arts. She, the vice president and their son-in-law, Chan Poling, stepped in behind us before the doors closed. We were all heading for the Illusion Theatre and “A Night in Olympus,” a new musical by Poling and Jeffrey Hatcher. Joan stuck out her hand and said “Hi. I’m Joan.” As if we didn’t know. (We’ll write more about Mondale’s contributions in a future post.)

A Service in Celebration of the Life of Joan Adams Mondale will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at Westminster Presbyterian. The time of the service is pending.

Joan and Walter Mondale waving to supporters on Election Night in 2002.
REUTERS/Scott Cohen
Joan and Walter Mondale waving to supporters on Election Night in 2002. The former vice president ran for U.S. Senate following the plane crash that claimed the life of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Monica Manning on 02/03/2014 - 08:18 pm.

    A Class Act

    Thank you for a lovely summary of the “Joan of Art” who made the world a better place.

  2. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 02/05/2014 - 08:54 am.

    A wonderful person

    Whi lived gracefully in a public life and used her influence to better the world.

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