Readers share memories of Walter Mondale

Leif Eie, Bothell, Wash.

Walter Mondale speaks with three other men in suits

Leif Eie spoke with Walter Mondale during his presidential campaign in Seattle.

I remember so well talking to Walter Mondale in Seattle during his presidential campaign. He was a favorite among the Norwegian-American community, and we set up a local campaign for him here.

 

Jason (Gulbrandsen) Sederquist, Durango, Colo.

the exterior of Hotel Mundal

The Hotel Mundal in Mundal, Norway, the ancestral home of Walter Mondale, located on an arm of the Sognefjord, is run by his family there. Jason Sederquist stayed there in 1993.

On Oct. 16, 2011, when former Vice President Mondale was 83, I had the pleasure of a brief conversation with him—in Norwegian!—at the Grand Dinner held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis held on the occasion of the royal visit by King Harald and Queen Sonja to the upper Midwest. 

Gary Gandrud, who was then the honorary consul general of Norway in Minneapolis, had extended an invitation to the dinner to the members of the Madison, Wis., Torske Klubben, of which I am a member, though I now live in Durango, Colorado. My friends Jane and Jon Grinde from Madison were with me, and Jane indicated that she wanted to go up and greet Mr. Mondale when the event was over, and I decided to tag along. 

I recall a number of people stuck around and chatted with him, and he graciously chatted with those who wanted to meet him. I waited until Jane was able to meet him and thank him for his service, and then I was the last person to go up to chat with him as he stood next to one of his grandsons who was with him at the dinner. For fun, I thought I would greet him in Norwegian with “God kveld, herr Mondale, og takk for alt du har gjort for oss.”  

A plaque with the seal of the Vice President of the United States of America

A plaque in the lobby of the Hotel Mundal commemorates Walter Mondale’s visit there in 1979.

To my surprise, he responded in Norwegian, and we carried on in Norwegian. I told him I wanted to meet him and relate to him that I had stayed at his Norwegian relatives’ hotel in his ancestral home of Mundal. He smiled broadly, and we chatted for a couple of minutes about his visit there and the beautiful nature surrounding Mundal. I was struck by how personable and down to earth this great gentleman was.

I smiled when I read about the comments the editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American would get from people about her Scandinavian Languages and Literature degree. I too obtained a degree in Scandinavian Studies, but from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006, when I finished the master’s degree program at age 50. For me, it was definitely a pursuit of passion and a hobby, as I already had two other degrees and was a practicing tax attorney and CPA at the time. I have now retired and live in Southwest Colorado and am anxiously waiting for travel to be open again, so I can return to Norway and visit friends.

 

Phil Eskeland, Vienna, Va.

Walter Mondale and Phil Eskeland

Phil Eskeland met Walter Mondale at a black-tie reception in Washington, D.C.

When I worked on Capitol Hill as a staff member, I had the privilege to meet former Vice President Walter Mondale during a black-tie reception at the National Air and Space Museum on Oct. 8, 1991, featuring the Queen Sonja of Norway and Iceland’s President Vigdis Finnbogadóttir who were in Washington, D.C., to open a Viking exhibit commemorating the first European discovery and settlement of the North American continent by Leif Erikson.  

A co-worker and I were last in the line to greet the queen and an unpretentious voice came from behind us and asked, “Boys, is this the end of the line?” We turned around and saw it was the former vice president. We then proceeded to have a wonderful 10- to 15-minute conversation with Mondale, who did not have anyone accompanying him, as we advanced in line.  

As we neared the end, the former vice president was gracious to consent to have his picture taken with us. He did not have to wait in line with us, but it was a testimony of his character that he did not feel himself so important over lowly Congressional staffers that he could cut in line in front of everyone else to greet the queen.

 

Anita Hillesland Londgren, President, Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

 

a letter from Walter Mondale, Vice President of the United States

Back in 1980, I received a personal letter from Vice President Mondale regarding some family history information that was included in my Hillesland Family History book that I wrote and had published a couple years earlier.

This article originally appeared in the June 4, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

The Norwegian American

Published since May 17, 1889 PO Box 30863 Seattle WA 98113 Tel: (206) 784-4617 • Email: naw@na-weekly.com

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