by Dennis Dalman
Former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger of Minnesota, who died on Jan. 31, at the age of 88, was eulogized Feb. 7 as “a man with a higher purpose who led our country to a higher place.”
Those words were spoken by current U.S. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar during his funeral at St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville. Gov. Tim Walz also delivered a eulogy, praising Durenberger for his instant, kind and caring connections to all people he met of whatever social status. He was, Walz said, “the smartest person in the room,” “a really fine teacher” and “a calm in the storm.”
Speakers at the funeral also included Durenberger’s four sons and a few of his 14 grandchildren. His widow, Susan, sat in the front row with family members. Others who attended the funeral were former Minnesota governors Mark Dayton, Tim Pawlenty, former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz and former Minnesota Attorney General “Skip” Humphrey, among others who knew and admired Durenberger throughout his life.
Durenberger was a graduate of St. John’s Prep School and St. John’s University, where his father, George, was the athletic director for four decades. Durenberger grew up in Collegeville and loved the prep school, the university and the abbey from which he absorbed and learned to cherish the Benedictine values of caring, kindness and service to others. Many speakers at the funeral, including Klobuchar, emphasized how Durenberger’s legislative work to improve all people’s lives was always guided by his faith in God and his adherence to the gospel messages of Jesus Christ.
Speakers also praised Durenberger for his abilities to work with Democrats and to compromise if necessary while keeping a sharp focus on an overarching goal: to improve the health and well-being of all people.
Some of his legislative achievements were pushing for passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, health-care reforms, laws and regulations to prevent pollution, protection of natural resources and parklands including, Minnesota’s Boundary Waters rea, supporting the Civil Rights Restoration Act, the National Community Service Act (AmeriCorps) and many other legislative successes that still resonate in the lives of all Americans.
Durenberger was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978 in a special election after the death of Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey. He was re-elected twice, serving a total of 16 years, deciding not to file for re-election in 1995.
The U.S. Senate censured him in 1990 for violations of laws regarding speaking fees and travel reimbursements. Durenberger acknowledged to his Senate colleagues he’d made mistakes and would work hard to redress those failures. After he retired from the Senate, he worked as a teacher, a mentor, a book author and as an expert on health-care issues.
He died at home of natural causes, surrounded by family members. He was interred in the St. John’s Abbey cemetery.
(For the complete story and editorial about Durenberger and his life, see the Feb. 17 print edition of the Newsleader.)