Hundreds gather for Eleanor Mondale memorial

1:48 AM, Oct 6, 2011   |    comments
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  • Chan Poling and Mondales at memorial
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  • MINNEAPOLIS - A crystal clear image of Eleanor Mondale Poling emerged Wednesday at a memorial service in her honor, that of a woman who fearlessly embraced life and did things her own way.

    More than 1,000 friends and supporters joined Mondale Poling's family at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, to celebrate her life and spirit.  The former broadcast journalist died September 17 at the age of 51, after a long and very public struggle with brain cancer.

    "Looking back you could tell who Eleanor was going to be from the very start," her brother William Mondale remarked during his eulogy. "As an infant in the basinet she wriggled out of her mom's grip and plunged head first onto the floor."

    He said that early incident embodied his sister's attitude about life in general.

    "She threw herself headlong where no one else would dare, leaving cranial divots on whatever, or whoever would momentarily stop her forward progress!"

    He also touched on her passion for saving animals, including a mangy dog she rescued on a crowded Los Angeles freeway once.

    "She saved animals like most people save receipts!"

    Mondale Poling lived most of her life in the public eye, having been born into one of Minnesota's most high profile political families. The only daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale, she became accustomed to national media spotlight in her teenage years.

    In her final decade Mondale Poling pursued her dream of raising miniature horses on a small farm south of the Twin Cities. She married Twin Cities musician and artist Chan Polling in 2005 shortly after receiving her cancer diagnosis.

    "I want you to know she was ready to go," her brother Ted Mondale told the memorial service crowd.

    "She had come to terms with her passing and she went with comfort and peace. Now she's free and no doubt doing it her way."

    Mondale Poling's broadcasting career included a stint as a correspondent for the E! Entertainment, and most recently she co-hosted a morning radio talk-show on WCCO-AM with Susie Jones.

    During her eulogy Jones said other people with cancer often sought out Mondale Poling at public events to tell her they drew strength from her determination to fight the disease. Jones recalled one exchange Mondale Poling had with a woman at the State Fair who was facing a double mastectomy.

    "Eleanor in her beautiful special Eleanor way off-handedly said, 'You just make sure that doctor gives you a perky set of C's'," Jones laughed, referring to C-cup sized prosthetic breasts. 

    Mondale Poling worked on and off in the radio booth during her fight with cancer, which included multiple surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic.  She signed off the air the final time in March of 2009, after announcing that another tumor had been detected in her brain.

    The service took place in the same sanctuary where Eleanor and Chan were wed six years ago.

    "They built a very strong relationship with Spencer Simrill, the pastor, when they got married," Ted Mondale explained to reporters following the service.

    "He was always there for her surgeries, so it was a very nice bond."

    An urn containing Mondale Poling's ashes stood at the center of the cathedral during the memorial. At the end of the service Simrill carried the urn down the aisle, trailed by Chan Poling and the Mondale family.

    The service drew a veritable who's who of politics. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Gov. Mark Dayton and former Governor's Arne Carlson and Wendy Anderson were among those who came to pay their respect.

    U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Samuel Kaplan, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and former Attorney General Mike Hatch also attended.

    The family suggested donations, in lieu of flowers, to two charities Eleanor wanted to support.  Those include Brains Together for a Cause in Rochester and North Shore Horse Rescue in New York.

    (Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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