Community reflects on Joan Mondale’s life

The former second lady was known for her dedication to the arts.

Haley Hansen

The class former Vice President Walter Mondale helps teach at the University of Minnesota took time before Tuesday’s discussion to remember his late wife, Joan Mondale, who died Monday at age 83.

Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor Larry Jacobs, who co-teaches the course with Walter Mondale, allowed students to share their condolences and reflect on the former second lady’s life.

“She was insightful — understanding a whole lot of our world,” Jacobs said.

Walter Mondale served as Jimmy Carter’s vice president from 1977 to 1981. During her husband’s career, Joan Mondale gave a fresh perspective on American life, Jacobs said.

“Mrs. Mondale became the face of America as concerned about the arts and culture,” he said. “[She] provided a window into the soul of America, not just a pocketbook or a barrel of a gun.”

Known for her strong passion for art, Joan Mondale decorated the vice president’s residence with photographs, sculptures and paintings.

Timothy D. Hart-Andersen is senior pastor and head of staff at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church, where the Mondales have been members for more than 30 years.

He said Joan Mondale’s deep faith gave rise to her artistic passion and that she expressed her personality through her love of art.

In 1977, President Carter appointed Joan Mondale honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. In that role, she promoted art programs on behalf of the Carter administration.

“In an era when most political wives remained in the background, Joan Mondale stood right by her husband’s side,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Monday.

While Walter Mondale served as the U.S. ambassador to Japan in the 1990s, Jacobs said, Joan Mondale influenced many people overseas and improved international relations with her insights into American culture.

The country benefited from her intelligence, sophistication and strong conviction, Jacobs said.

“She was equally at ease on a farm in Minnesota or at a fancy ambassador’s reception in Japan or at a potter’s kiln in an artist’s studio,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in a statement Monday.

Joan Mondale’s service is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“She was a gracious, modest, kind person,” Hart-Anderson said.