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Former state senator from Chisholm dies

George Perpich, a state senator from Chisholm, poses for a photo next to his pickup truck in 1977. "I'm not going to sell my truck," he told the News Tribune. "It's the only truck that ever elected a state senator." (file / News Tribune)1 / 3
George Perpich in 1979. The former state senator from Chisholm died last month. He was 85. (file / News Tribune)2 / 3
George Perpich, former state senator from Chisholm, in November 1982. (file / News Tribune)3 / 3

George Perpich, a former DFL state senator from Chisholm, died last week. He was 85.

With late brothers Rudy, Minnesota's longest-serving governor, and Tony, also a state senator, the three, all dentists, dominated Iron Range politics in the 1970s.

George, who most recently lived in Shoreview, died from Parkinson's disease Sept. 26 at Johanna Shores, a long-term care facility in Arden Hills.

George served in the state senate from 1971-1980.

In 1976, Rudy told the Duluth Herald that George was the most colorful of the brothers, a good politician but a generalist.

"George probably is one of the most effective legislators that there are ... he's about the only guy in that process that can literally change votes. He loves to talk, he's gregarious," Rudy said.

In the state senate, George focused on healthcare and mental health issues and chaired the Senate Health, Welfare and Corrections Committee for several years.

George retired from the senate in 1980 and briefly challenged U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar for the 8th District seat that year.

His ability to persuade fellow senators served him well in his career as a lobbyist for Minnesota Power and other organizations.

"He'd do just fine even if he wasn't the governor's brother," fellow lobbyist Wy Spano told the Duluth News-Tribune and Herald in 1987. "He's a damn good lobbyist. He seems to have a lot of persistence, and he hangs with an issue."

He continued to work as a dentist in Chisholm until 1987.

Born in Carson Lake, a small mining community near Hibbing, on Sept. 2, 1933 to Anton and Mary Vukelich Perpich, George went on to graduate from hibbing High School and the University of Minnesota Duluth. After a stint in the U.S. Navy from 1955-1957, George graduated from the University of Minnesota Dental School in 1961.

George married Connie Motherway Perpich in 1980. Connie, who worked as the director of legislative and public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota from 1986-2012, died in 2016.

He is survived by his former wife Ella Johnson Perpich, son Gregory Perpich, daughter Betty Lynn Perpich, grandson George Meados and brother Dr. Joe Perpich.

The family will hold a private service for George at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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