Joan Mondale was "as fervent and as effective a champion for the arts as anyone I have ever known," former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday.
The wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale, Joan Mondale served as the Carter administration's arts ombudsman and honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. She was also active in Minnesota arts organizations, including the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis.
She died Monday at age 83, leaving an important national legacy for the public support of art, Carter told Tom Crann of All Things Considered.
"I don't believe there's been anybody whose husband served in the White House, either in the first or second position, either president or vice president, who had more to do with the enhancement and the preservation of honoring famous artists as did Joan Mondale," Carter said.
He recalled her organizing arts events during her time at the White House and pressing him to recognize artists for their work.
"She also on one occasion came and asked if we would permit Ansel Adams, perhaps the most famous photographer who ever lived, to come to the White House to take some photographs," Carter said. "And I certainly agreed."
Joan Mondale continued her arts advocacy after Walter Mondale was appointed ambassador to Japan in 1993. Carter said strangers in Japan became familiar with her passion for the arts.
"When we mentioned being at the Mondales' residence. They said, 'Oh, did you know Joan Mondale?' They didn't mention Fritz," Carter said.
While searching for a running mate for the 1976 presidential election, Carter said he was struck by the depth of the relationship between Joan and Walter Mondale.
"We knew that we'd not only have the benefit of their political support in my duties at the White House, but also [they] would be a great role model as we brought some of our family members to Washington," Carter said.
A service for Mondale will be held Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. Carter and his wife Rosalynn will be in attendance at the service.
"In every way, Joan Mondale was a wonderful companion, a great friend," Carter said. "We loved her very much and she was one of the treasures for our entire country."
Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation.