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Former governor honored at 80th birthday celebration
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Quie's 1978 election as governor was part of a Republican sweep of top elective offices that Democrats dubbed the "Minnesota Massacre." (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
A sold-out crowd of 1,000 people celebrated former Gov. Al Quie's 80th birthday Thursday night. Friends and colleagues say Quie's strong commitment to public service, bipartisan politics and spirituality makes him a unique man and role model.

St. Paul, Minn. — When then-governor Al Quie decided not to run for re-election in 1982, he had spent 28 years in public service as a governor, state senator, and as a U.S. congressman representing Minnesota's 1st District.

Though he left office, he never really retired. He has served on at about a dozen boards and is a mentor to many people both inside and outside of politics.

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Image Chuck Colson

The music chosen for Quie's entrance to the party was inspired by his love of horses, a love that may even trump his love of politics. Quie mentioned before the ceremony that he considers his biggest triumph a journey he made over nine summers, riding horseback along the Continental Divide.

"You know what the greatest was? Was to be able to accomplish that ride from Canada to Mexico. That was the biggest sense of accomplishment," he said.

Quie has just published a book about his excursion called Riding the Divide.

Quie's 1978 election as governor was part of a Republican sweep of top elective offices that Democrats dubbed the "Minnesota Massacre."

The shine came off his victory, however, during a single four-year term marked by huge budget deficits and political battles.

Al Quie is like the grandparent who loved us all.
- Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Comparisons between Quie and current Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are unavoidable. Like Quie, Pawlenty has had to deal with the largest deficit in state history.

Though Quie last winter publicly questioned the wisdom of Pawlenty's no-tax pledge, Quie has called fellow Republican Pawlenty "brilliant," and the two say they are friends who have respect and admiration for each other.

Pawlenty was a featured speaker at the party. He called Quie "one of the most courageous people he will ever know."

"Al Quie is like the grandparent who loved us all. He is like the coach who has pushed us, he is like the clergymember who has inspired us. Al Quie's life is a life of courage and service. Service with love toward others, service with an attitude of faith and hope and dedication," Pawlenty said.

Quie is a devout Lutheran. While in Congress he started the National Prayer Breakfast for his colleagues. It's become a tradition, attended by every president for more than 50 years.

For many years, he has been an active board member of Prison Fellowship Ministries, a group that provides religious counseling for prison inmates.

Quie will forever be associated with one particular inmate, a fellow politician named Chuck Colson who was in the Nixon White House.

The two met about a year and a half before Colson was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. Colson was the featured speaker at Quie's birthday party. He told the remarkable story about what Al Quie offered him when Colson was in prison 28 years ago.

"Guard came and said, 'You've got a phone call.' I went and Al Quie was on the line. Al said to me, 'Chuck, with all the things that are happening to you, we've all been sitting around. Your prayer group has been meeting and praying.' He said, 'we're trying to figure out some way we could go to the president and ask him whether I could come in and serve the rest of your prison sentence for you,'" Colson recalled. "I never knew there was that kind of love. That one man would really lay his life down for another. That's what the Bible says, but Al Quie was ready to do that."

Quie's birthday celebration also included a video. Among those sharing funny and warm memories were former Gov. Elmer Anderson, former Vice President Walter Mondale, and former Minnesota Attorney General Warren Spannaus.

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