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Our View / Jim Oberstar memorials: Seize chance to honor a legend

Bill Richard was Congressman Jim Oberstar’s chief of staff for 20 years, but even he wasn’t able to travel to the Washington, D.C., area in May to attend his friend’s funeral and burial. He and his wife had planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Nepal and elsewhere overseas. Skipping the trip would have meant losing many thousands of dollars.

So, like so many of us back here in Oberstar’s home state of Minnesota, Richard missed out on grieving alongside family and friends. He was robbed of being able to lean on a community of support to help with the pain. And he didn’t get the chance to publicly celebrate a life and a career that touched so many and had such enormous public and personal impact. He and too many others were left without closure, the right word even if clichéd and tired.

Like the rest of us can be, Richard is grateful for a trio of memorial services scheduled today and tomorrow here in Minnesota — in Minneapolis, Duluth and Chisholm, where Oberstar grew up — to remember and to honor our congressional leader of 36 years; the guy in our corner for so long; the man responsible for the federal Clean Water Act, for keeping Northwest Airlines out of bankruptcy, for luring Cirrus Aircraft to Duluth and for much more; and the guy so beloved a Great Lakes freighter was renamed in his honor.

“I’m really grateful to still be able to get together with fellow Minnesotans,” Richard told the News Tribune Opinion page last week after making plans to attend all three of the memorial services.

“It’s hard to even begin to sum up the amazing work (Oberstar) did on behalf of the state and the nation. He was the kind of congressman everyone wishes they had working for them,” Richard said in a statement. “He was willing to put politics aside to get things done for America.”

This month, memorial organizers launched a website to honor Oberstar’s legacy: The site features photos and videos and a place where visitors can post stories and memories of their own.

The memorial services today and tomorrow are a final and, unlike the funeral and burial last month, accessible opportunity for Minnesotans, especially those from Oberstar’s hometown or from his long- and well-represented 8th Congressional District, to memorialize a man who’ll be remembered as a legend and to gather together in his memory. They’re a historic opportunity and an opportunity not to be missed.

Remembering Oberstar

Today in Minneapolis

What: Memorial service for the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar

When: 2:30-4 p.m.

Where: The University of Minnesota’s Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Ave. S.

Friday in Duluth

What: Memorial service and reception for the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar

When: 1-3 p.m.

Where: The Harborview Ballroom at the Duluth

Entertainment Convention Center, 350 Harbor Drive

Friday in Chisholm

What: Memorial service for the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar

When: 6-8 p.m.

Where: St. Joseph Catholic Church, 113 Fourth St. S.W.