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Walter Mondale's Small Minnesota Hometown Remembers His Legacy

ELMORE, Minn (WCCO) -- Walter Mondale, who died Monday at the age of 93, is a political legend in Minnesota, as he served as the state's attorney general, U.S. senator and vice president of the United States to President Jimmy Carter.

But to the tiny town of Elmore touching the Iowa border, Mondale is one of their own.

"He showed true humility and was honored to be from here," said Signe Olson, who lives nearby and whose family lives in Elmore.

Mondale made American history, transforming the office of the vice president and tapping Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate; the first woman to be on a major party ticket.

In Elmore, where he spent his childhood, his story is deeply woven into the fabric of the town's history, revered by the couple hundred people who still live there today.

In the town museum—in what was the church where Mondale's father was a pastor— newspaper clippings, yearbook photos and campaign mementos are preserved behind a glass case.

"He went from this very small little town to be vice president and run for president he accomplished a whole lot and we should be proud of him, " said Pat Coupanger, co-chair of the Elmore Museum. "[Visitors] ask about it when they come—do you have anything about Mondale?"

He was born in Ceylon and his family moved to Elmore when he was a young boy. He graduated Elmore High School in 1946. His senior year yearbook, which is at the museum, says he played basketball and football all four years and also joined the dance and drama clubs. He was class president his junior year.

Mondale Yearbook
Walter Mondale in his 1946 Elmore High School Yearbook (Credit: CBS)

Mondale's boyhood home is just around the corner on what's now E. Mondale Street. State Rep. Bjorn Olson, a Republican, lives in that very house today.

Working in the state Legislature in St. Paul, Olson said he tries to take a page from Mondale's book. The former vice president, he said, leaves behind a legacy all legislators can learn from—regardless of party.

Mondale, Olson
Walter mondale and Rep. Bjorn Olson in 2013 (Credit: Rep. Bjorn Olson)

"From the very beginning until the end," Olson said, "he took care of people and that's what he attempted to do in everything that he did."

In 2013 during the 150th anniversary celebration of Elmore, he got a knock on his door from Mondale himself.

"He says—hey can I come in and see my old home? And I said absolutely you can," Olson recalled.

Mondale told him that he hosted his first kick-off event for his presidential campaign on the back porch of that house. That bid for the White House failed, but Minnesota will remember his storied career in public service to the state and country.

And in Elmore, he will always be the town's favorite son.


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