Every Goodbye Ain't Gone

Wellstone Remembered

At that point none of us had volunteered to become the captain who went down with the ship. There was a young guy named Robert Richmond from Chicago with us, and I said to Robert, "We are getting the hell out of here, we are renting a van and going home. You're from here. You've got five years to get this thing back to Minnesota." We rented a van and Robert got the thing fixed and back to Minnesota in about two weeks. But I remember my conversation with Paul the next day, telling him, "Son of a bitch, it was all hype and glory on the way out, but we were catching fire on the way home." Paul laughed and said, "That was your problem, not mine. The bus was fine when I was on it."

Flash forward to last Thursday, the day before he died. Paul hadn't seen our nine-year-old daughter Grace since last summer and we saw him at a campaign event. And he told us, "You really need to realize what a beautiful daughter you have." That was our last conversation and it was pure Paul. (Robson)

 

Sylvia Kaplan
LONGTIME SUPPORTER AND FUNDRAISER

My husband Sam and I met Paul in 1990. A friend who was associated with a lot of left causes brought Paul up to Sam's office. Everybody thought he was a maverick, and far too left, and nobody took him seriously. At first, we were very skeptical. But we were blown away by his energy and his enthusiasm. We became the first people who wore ties and suits--people who had some wherewithal--to support Paul. In that sense, I think we gave him some legitimacy. In the first campaign, when he still lived in Northfield, he stayed in our house. We had the Paul Wellstone bedroom. He was a great guy to have around--always wonderful to our dog. But he was very intense, and he could be intensely angry as well as intensely happy. He'd get up in the morning and he'd turn on the TV and read the paper, and he would be furious that they wouldn't cover the important things. We have a new house that we built on the river. It's large. We always tell people we built it so we could have better fundraisers for Paul Wellstone. (Mosedale)

 

John Heegard
MINNEAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER, WELLSTONE'S DRIVER ON THE 1990 CAMPAIGN

I haven't smoked a cigarette in two years and I bought a pack yesterday.

What happened was, back in the '80s I had been diagnosed with cancer. I was living in Austin, Texas, and I was working in advertising down there. When I got diagnosed I told my mom. You call up and you give 'em the bad news. And Mom said, I don't know what you're doing down there. Come back. You're home, you've got these people around you, and you can go to the Mayo Clinic.

So I came back to do that, to go to the Mayo Clinic, and I happened to come back in the middle of the strike. So here I am driving back and forth to the Mayo Clinic, and I've got my days free and all this stuff is happening and my dad is involved. He ran the Spam cooker for a good many years. So I wander down to the union hall a couple times with him, and pretty soon I start getting caught up in it.

I can just remember [Wellstone] going up and grabbing the microphone. He went into one of his famous stump speeches. At the time I was so disconnected from politics that I was more, "Who the hell is this guy?" But I listened to him. There was something about what he said that kind of moved me. I wish I could put it into words. I went up and introduced myself to him. We started talking and I told him about my dad. He immediately wanted to know everything about me. It was question, question, question. That really took me aback. He was just so friendly and so jovial. That's what they say about him now, but it was genuine.

He was an outsider to some of the meatpackers. To the leaders of the strike and to the people that were calling the shots, he wasn't an outsider. He was already involved with a lot of things. Ray Rogers of Corporate Campaign knew him. So he had a stature among those folks. That's how he was involved in it. I'm sure that's why he was able to get the microphone. He had a following.

It was during the Reagan years, so there was an all-out attack on working people. That was a time of union busting. Reagan started it off with the air traffic controllers, and that was a signal to big business and industry that they had a friend in the White House, that they could go out and break unions. There were people, men and women, who had worked there for 20, 25, 30 years, given their whole lives to the company. And the company was paying them back because they were angry at Jim Guyette. Now, hindsight is 20/20, you can look back and say Jim made some mistakes. But these men and women were not lemmings. They didn't blindly follow this man off a cliff. It was a very democratic process. The information was given to them and it was never about money. It was about work rules. My father, who served in World War II and was wounded and raised seven kids and went to work every day, had to raise his hand to go to the bathroom. That's ridiculous.

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