Former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie, a moderate Republican known for working across the aisle as both governor and as a congressman, has died. He was 99.
Quie died of natural causes late Friday at a senior living community in suburban Wayzata where he had lived for the last 10 years, his son, Joel Quie, said Saturday. While he had been in declining health in recent months, he still enjoyed meeting and greeting people. At a family gathering two weeks ago, he read aloud to his great-grandchildren from their favorite storybook, his son said. He died just a month shy of his 100th birthday.
“His stature and his energy and his enthusiasm for life was there right to the end,” Joel Quie said.
Albert Harold Quie was born Sept. 18, 1923, on his family’s dairy farm near Dennison in southeastern Minnesota. After serving as a Navy pilot in World War II, he returned home to resume farming. He served a stint in the Minnesota Senate before winning a special election for a vacant congressional seat.
Quie represented southeastern Minnesota’s 1st District in the U.S. House from 1958 to 1979, becoming known for his expertise on education and agriculture. He ran for governor in 1978 and unseated Rudy Perpich in what was dubbed the “Minnesota Massacre,” a bad year for state Democrats. Voter anger had lingered after Gov. Wendell Anderson arranged for Perpich, then his lieutenant governor, to appoint Anderson to the U.S. Senate seat that Walter Mondale gave up in 1976 to become vice president
But Quie’s single term as governor turned rocky amid a deep budget shortfall in the early 1980s, when Democrats controlled the Minnesota Legislature. Amid the bitter divisions of the 1981 and 1982 sessions, he opted not to seek reelection.
In a farewell address at the University of Minnesota in December 1982, Quie decried the growing partisanship in politics but said he remained optimistic about the future of the state and the nation.
“I entered public life with a strong, though still-developing belief in the sanctity of the individual, the centrality of the family, and the compassion and good sense of people in neighborhoods and local communities. I believed that all people have infinite worth, and that all people possess gifts that can be known fully by no one,” he said. “My belief in these ideas gained in strength as the years passed and I better saw their worth, and as they withstood the doubts of skeptics and the strain of great change. Nothing ... has successfully challenged my early — and lasting — belief in them.”
Quie, a man of deep Lutheran faith, remained active after leaving office, serving as a local and national leader of the Christian ministry Prison Fellowship.
Joel Quie, a retired Lutheran pastor, said his family used his 99th birthday celebration last year as sort of a dress rehearsal for what they hoped would be his 100th. Current Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed it Al Quie Day. When he turned 97, the former Navy pilot got to fly in an open cockpit plane — albeit with another pilot at the controls. He had been an avid horseman and last rode when he was 1995. His goal was to saddle a horse when he turned 100, his son said.
“God blessed him with incredible resilience and stamina,” his son said. “And he embraced it and lived life to the fullest.”
Walz, a Democrat who held Quie’s congressional seat for 12 years before becoming governor, paid tribute to him Saturday, recalling that he found him “caring, funny, and generous as ever” when he attended his predecessor’s 99th birthday celebration.
“A veteran, a man of faith, and a life-long public servant, Governor Quie had a deep commitment to the betterment of our state and a legacy that extends beyond his time in office,” Walz said in a statement. “His advocacy for education, eliminating discrimination, and rural development demonstrated his unwavering dedication to creating a better life for all Minnesotans.”
Al Quie is survived by five children, 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. His wife, Gretchen Quie, died in 2015.
Funeral arrangements were pending Saturday.