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Visiting the Range: Paul Wellstone Memorial Site

VISITING THE RANGE–PAUL WELLSTONE MEMORIAL SITE:  M and I embarked on our trip to Minnesota’s Iron Range. On our way to Hibbing, we passed the sign for the Paul Wellstone Memorial and Historic Site. It is straight east of Hibbing and south of Eveleth off Route 53. As we drove the three miles from the main road, I started to think about Senator Wellstone, about the night I met him, and about the day he died. I had to choke back the tears.

I remember the day he died. I was listening to the radio in the church office when I heard the news that his plane went down. I was stunned. It was such a heartbreaking tragedy. Whether or not one agreed with Paul Wellstone’s politics, one could not dispute the fact that he cared deeply about people and was an enthusiastic public servant.

M and I met him at the opening of an exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society which was called Unpacking on the Prairie and focused on the experiences of Jewish women pioneers who settled in small towns and on farms in Minnesota and the Dakotas. That evening there was a Shabbat service in the 3M Auditorium led by one of the local Rabbis. M was on stage with Senator Wellstone, Congressman Bruce Vento, and other dignitaries who all participated—some even linking arms together in prayer. It is that moment in time, that snapshot, that I can still see.

The Paul Wellstone Memorial and Historic Site does not have a building. It consists of memorial stones honoring those who died, and a walking path dotted with interpretive signage. We did not walk to the crash site. The first sign gives an overview of the site. Below is an excerpt from it:

Near this site on October 25, 2002—twelve days before Election Day—a plane carrying United States Senator Paul Wellstone crashed en route to the Eveleth airport. In addition to Wellstone, the crash took the lives of his wife Sheila Wellstone, their daughter Marcia Wellstone Markuson, and three campaign staff members, Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, and Will McLaughlin. The plane’s two pilots, Michael Guess and Richard Conry, were also killed. […] This six-acre site is a tribute to Senator Wellstone’s life and career, and to the lives of his family and staff who died in the crash. It is divided into three parts: the Legacy Trail, the Commemorative Circle, and the Crash Stie narrative Space. […] This site was kept largely undisturbed. All rock used on site is more than two billion years old and was originally mined by steelworkers at the old Erie Taconite mine near here. St. Louis County donated the land.

Map of the Wellstone Memorial Site

Entrance to the site.

Paul Wellstone’s memorial marker






A look at Paul Wellstone’s life







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