Former Gov. Al Quie remembered as a man of integrity who reached across the aisle
Former Minnesota Gov. Albert Quie is dead at 99, just one month shy of his 100th birthday.
Quie might be best remembered as a public figure — a moderate Republican who tried to work with others in a bipartisan fashion. He served one term as governor from 1979-83 after 20 years in Congress.
But there’s another side to him.
“He was a light that drew people in,” recalls Quie’s son Joel. “What is it that you have, I’d like to have some of that, too.”
Much like the light shining on the birdhouses made by the former governor’s great-grandchildren, hanging outside the family’s Eden Prairie home.
The youngsters made them the same day Quie read out loud their favorite storybook, “Pickles the Fire Cat.”
“Actually, it was only two to three weeks ago in this chair,” Joel explains. “And my dad had clear enunciation, read the entire chapter book to them. Read their favorite story. It was magic.”
Joel, a retired Lutheran pastor, says his father passed away Friday night of natural causes and that his health had been declining sharply in the last few days.
The family says the elder Quie had been living at a senior residential home in Wayzata during the past decade.
“By Wednesday, we knew he was not going to bounce back as he always did,” Joel explains. “Really two-and a half days of meaningful times, sitting around the bed where he was, talking to him, crying, singing songs, having all kinds of reflections and stories.”
Al Quie was born in 1923 at his family’s southeastern Minnesota dairy farm.
During World War II, he served as a U.S. Navy pilot.
“He learned how to fly in the Midwest, and then went down to Florida,” Joel says. “Ultimately learned how to fly on and off aircraft carriers.”
“The governor, he was a war hero,” adds David Schultz, a Hamline University political science professor. “He was no question a war hero who came back and had the belief of government service and continued, I would say, for the rest of his life, as long as he was able to.”
Quie served in the Minnesota Senate before winning a special election to Congress, serving in the U.S. House from 1958 to 1979.
He gained a reputation for working well with others.
“He respected the person and even if that person was on the other side of the aisle, he wanted to listen to what they had to say,” Joel declares.
But Quie is perhaps best known for his win in the 1978 Minnesota gubernatorial race.
In what was dubbed “the Minnesota Massacre,” Quie won the governor’s seat, and Republicans Dave Durenberger and Rudy Boschwitz were elected to the U.S. Senate.
“I’ll never forget Sen. Boschwitz and Sen. Durenberger were there, and my dad, and they all raised their hands together when the results came in,” Joel remembers. “It was against all odds at that time in 1978.”
Quie spoke about that GOP sweep with KSTP Chief Political Reporter Tom Hauser on “At Issue” back in 2008.
“It was great. Realized we’d made it and all three of us made it,” Quie said during the show. “I found out at nine o’clock that I had been declared the winner. I was just so overwhelmed by that.”
Hauser noted that the last poll before the election, run the day before, showed that Quie was going to lose.
“I was going to lose!” he responded. “And they were wrong. Here’s the fascinating thing: I received more votes than anyone had ever received in the history of Minnesota.”
But during a budget shortfall in the early 1980s, Quie opted not to seek reelection.
After politics, he remained active in public affairs and led a Christian ministry called Prison Fellowship. His name was also added to the Norway House in Minneapolis.
“Just a genuinely decent person who would listen to everybody and really tried to find ways of finding solutions that both sides could agree with,” Schultz notes.
On Saturday, Gov. Tim Walz released a statement in remembrance of Quie, saying, “His advocacy for education, eliminating discrimination, and rural development demonstrated his unwavering dedication to creating a better life for all Minnesotans.”
Quie is survived by five children, 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. His wife Gretchen died in 2015.
A funeral service is to be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 9 at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. It will be open to the public.
Joel says his father was a man of deep faith who loved his family, and who also entered politics at a pivotal time for the U.S.
“Civil rights, the Vietnam War, Watergate. And he was always looking at a way to reach across the aisle in those stormy times, have legislation that went forward, especially for education,” Joel explains. “He was a man of ethics and faith, and I always respected him in the work that he did.”