Area residents say senator was the #039;American Dream#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 31, 2002

Dick Lang has a scrapbook.

It's full of pictures, newspaper clippings and election posters, as well as copies of correspondence, when Lang was the Mower County DFL chair.

Those were heady days. Paul Wellstone was a Carleton College professor, who came to Austin and

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proved himself before tough crowds at the Austin Labor Center. Lang included.

"He was one helluva guy," said Lang. "One helluva guy."

And now he is dead along with his wife, their daughter, three campaign aides and two pilots.

On Tuesday night, Wellstone well-wishers filled Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

The high and mighty, a former president, U.S. senators and Congressmen from both sides of the aisle and other celebrities joined thousands of Minnesotans from all walks of life in paying their respects to their hero.

On Wednesday night in Austin, the Mower County DFL said "Goodbye" to their friend.

"He was a person who epitomized the American Dream," said Len Miller. "He had immigrant parents, went to college and became a college teacher and a very competitive wrestler and then on to become a United States senator. That's a role model for all of us."

When a silent walk around the Mill Pond Pathway in Horace Austin Park ended, participants assembled at the Austin Labor Center decorated in Wellstone campaign green colors.

Coffee was served with sugar cookies covered with Wellstone-green frosting.

Everyone wore a green ribbon.

Wellstone yard signs for the election campaign were given away as mementoes to those who campaigned for the two-term senator.

Judy Himle, rural Austin, decorated the walls with Wellstone newspaper clippings and read from Henry David Thoreau and others. Pat Piper, the former state legislator called Wellstone an "extraordinary man who did extraordinary things."

Dwight Ault, a rural Austin farmer, said Wellstone was a "liberal, who was proud to be a liberal and who let everyone know he was a liberal."

Carol King said "Everybody who knew him and liked him considered him a personal friend and he did the same for them."

Jim Goudy recalled seeing Wellstone for the first time at a rally for unemployed linen workers at Hibbing, where he was "whipping up the crowed with his passion and enthusiasm like he always did."

Bruce Richardson, a retired teacher, said he first met Wellstone in 1988 at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Ga. Richardson said Wellstone's passion was inspirational. "You wanted to get up and do what he wanted you to do," said Richardson. "I was impressed with him from the beginning and more impressed at the end. I loved the man."

All of those who saw Tuesday night's televised memorial remembered Larry Long's original songs. According to Judy Himle, they were taken from Wellstone's own words. "Be the change you need in this world." and "When all do better, we all do better."

And, John Howley turned poet and said when people heard the man speak, "he was so well-received and they knew his word was as good as stone and so they named him Wellstone."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at