Former Sen. Durenberger remembered as man of service, progressive reforms

Loved ones and Minnesota political leaders remembered former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger during his funeral on Tuesday.

Durenberger, a Republican, served in the Senate from 1978 to 1995. He died last week at 88 years old after declining health in recent months.

Several of Minnesota’s most well-known elected officials on both sides of the aisle attended the memorial service at St. John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville.

Friends and family spoke of the four most important aspects of his life — community, friends, family and faith.

“Dad instilled in us and those he mentored his sense of responsibility and desire to serve others,” his son, Charlie Durenberger, said. “I pray that we all continue to follow dad’s lead in working to improve the lives of our neighbors and to leave the world better because we were here.”

Durenberger was remembered for his belief in public service. He championed health care reform, protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and advancing the rights of the most vulnerable through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke about his lasting legacy of change in Washington.

“He ushered in a whole new era of disability rights,” Klobuchar said. “One where people in wheelchairs wouldn’t be trapped in their homes as a result of ramps, one where disabled people weren’t systematically excluded from the workforce, and one where the destitute facilities that once motivated him to take action were phased out in favor of community residential treatment.”

DFL Gov. Tim Walz talked about Durenberger’s willingness to work across party lines, telling his family that as they mourn, Minnesota mourns with them.

“He would never try to win the debate. That wasn’t the goal,” Walz said. “The goal was to give other points of view, to bring people in, to find that common space.”

Tuesday’s speakers said even after Durenberger left Washington, he mentored up-and-coming Minnesota politicians, teaching them the values of justice and respect for all people.

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