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Remembering Wellstone
Remembering Wellstone
DocumentObituary: Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002
DocumentReflections on a Political Career: Paul Wellstone
DocumentSheila Wellstone's life
DocumentThe memorial service
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Memorials keep Paul Wellstone's memory alive
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Steve Heitzeg has put together a bench memorial to Paul Wellstone. On the bench is a photograph of a smiling Wellstone, along with a Wellstone quote about social justice. (MPR Photo/ Mark Zdechlik)
A year after the plane crash that killed Paul Wellstone and seven others, some of his Minnesota supporters are keeping his memory alive with bumper stickers, yard signs and more personalized memorials. Some of those who continue to display Wellstone campaign signs, say the memorials comforts them. One of Wellstone's sons says he and his brother also welcome the shows of support which he says speaks to his father's legacy.

St. Paul, Minn. — You won't see Steve Heitzeg's Paul Wellstone memorial unless you're walking next to the boulevard along Ashland Avenue in his St. Paul neighborhood near Macalester College.

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Image Steve Heitzeg

In the front of Heitzeg's house on the grass between the sidewalk and street, is a small, worn wooden bench. Resting on the bench is a laminated greeting card with a photo of a smiling Paul Wellstone. There's also a Wellstone quote about social justice.

"It's a comfort to know that this voice is resonating from the bench and it's out there," says Heitzeg. "Paul was so outspoken and just loved people and wanted to make life better for people. Not only Americans, but all -- think all -- of the world, and it's just great to be a part of that voice."

Heitzeg says his memorial has become a place for reflection for some passersby.

"We really need to honor Paul and keep his voice out there."

Heitzeg, who's a composer, also wrote a "Peace March for Paul and Sheila Wellstone."

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Image Colleen Haney

For others who still mourn Wellstone's death, the familiar green and white Wellstone campaign yard signs have become their tributes. Some have been outside for more than a year and show signs of wear from the elements. Others propped up inside homes against windows remain nicely preserved.

David Wellstone, one of Wellstone's two surviving children, says the various personal tributes have been a comfort to him and his brother.

"The thought that amazes me, day in and day out, is just how my dad's legacy carries on, that on a regular basis continues to amaze me. It really does," Wellstone says.

St. Paul resident Colleen Haney says seeing the signs comforts her, too.

"It's a pretty good view when you go past a house and they have a Wellstone sign," she says.

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Image Sign in Colleen Haney's yard

Haney says the signs make her feel like she's not alone in grieving the loss Paul Wellstone. There's no way you could miss Haney's sign if you're in her neighborhood, which also happens to be that of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. Haney lives just a couple of houses away from Wellstone's successor.

Her sign is a huge, homemade version of Wellstone's green and white campaign placard. She hand painted it on a 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheet of plywood.

Like most of the others, Haney's sign had been a campaign message. She says within minutes of hearing about the plane crash last fall, she draped it with the large black cloth that's still there today.

Haney says her sign attracts visitors, and interest in her memorial has grown with the approaching anniversary of Wellstone's death. Haney says her memorial has also drawn offensive criticism.

"I was out in the backyard with my daughter, and a white luxury car drove by with two men in it and they said, 'Hey you F-er! Why don't you take down the sign!'"

Haney secured her sign to a tree with a heavy metal chain and a padlock. She says she anchored it long before Wellstone's death in response to vandalism.

"When you live with a four-by-eight Wellstone sign in your front yard, you kind of learn to live with the stuff as it comes," Haney says.

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Image "Wellstone would be alive had he kept his promise"

More recently Haney received an unsettling, anonymous letter.

"And it states, 'I am saddened when I realize that if Paul had kept his promise and not run again for the Senate, his wife, daughter and friends would still be alive. A heavy price for breaking his promise, wouldn't you say?'"

Haney says she'll take down her Wellstone sign now that a year has passed. She never intended to leave it up this long, but has been unable to part with it and admits, even now, she just may leave the sign up for a while longer.

Steve Heitzeg says his bench in the boulevard, with its picture and quote from Wellstone, is permanent.

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