Updated: 2:33 p.m.
Former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie died Friday at age 99.
Quie served one term as governor from 1979 to 1983 after a long career in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Quie died of natural causes late Friday at a senior living community in suburban Wayzata, Minn., where he had lived for the last 10 years, his son Joel Quie told the Associated Press 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.
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“His stature and his energy and his enthusiasm for life was there right to the end,” Joel Quie said.
He served in the House from 1958 to 1979, representing southern Minnesota. His term as governor was marked by a deep economic recession and a series of special sessions to address budget issues, and he chose not to seek reelection in 1982.
He had a long career after politics and was known for his Norwegian roots, his devotion to his family and Lutheran religion, his love of horses and his gentle good humor.
Quie was born on his family’s farm in Rice County in 1923 and served in the Navy in World War ll. He married Gretchen Hansen in 1948 and they were together until she died at age 85 in 2015. They had five children.
Quie was elected to the state Senate in 1954, and to Congress in a close special election in 1958 after Rep. August Andresen died in office.
He represented southeastern Minnesota for 20 years in the House before he was elected governor.
In Congress, Quie championed the passage of the law that is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires equal educational access for disabled children.
Before current Gov. Tim Walz, Quie was the last Minnesotan to make the leap from Washington to the governor’s office.
Late in life, Quie spoke fondly of his time in Washington and with acknowledgment that the move to St. Paul wasn't easy.
“The harder job was governor,” Quie told MPR News in 2018. “There's only one of us.”
Almost immediately after Quie took office the state was mired in financial troubles. He tried to work across the political aisle to balance the budget and agreed to raise taxes, which split his support among Republicans. As his popularity dropped amid the ongoing budget struggles, he declined to seek a second term.
After leaving office Quie was active in the Prison Fellowship, a nonprofit Christian ministry.
In the aftermath of the 2010 election, the Republican Party of Minnesota’s Central Committee barred Quie from taking part in party activities for two years because he supported third party candidate Tom Horner for governor.
He also was a leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but he eventually split with the church over its support for same-sex marriage.
As news of Quie’s death spread he was remembered fondly.
“I considered him a friend and a mentor, admired his strong commitment to his faith, and am grateful for his leadership as governor,” said Minnesota Republican Party Chair David Hann in a statement.
"Al was a gentle giant," former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "He had strong views and a kind soul."
Former Gov. Arne Carlson, also a Republican, was first elected as state auditor in 1978, the same election that swept Quie into office.
“At this time in America's history, the issue of character and loyalty stand out,” Carlson said. “I think he'll always be remembered for his personal character much more than any particular piece of legislation.”
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.
“Gwen and I are remembering the life and work of former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie with heavy hearts, but with many fond memories,” Walz said in a statement. “Just months ago I had the honor of attending a celebration for his 99th birthday, where I thanked him for his mentorship, wisdom, and leadership. He was as caring, funny, and generous as ever.”
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 95. 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.”