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Oberstar’s life and passing touch lives in Lake County and beyond

Last Saturday, Minnesota and the nation lost a veteran Congressman when Jim Oberstar passed away at his home in Potomac, Md. Oberstar was 79. On Tuesday evening the U.S. House of Representatives observed a moment of silence in honor of the 18- consecutive term Democrat, with formal tributes planned for May 19. Oberstar’s funeral was held in Potomac on Thursday morning.  Also Thursday morning, the ore carrier bearing the Congressman’s name arrived fully loaded in the Port of Duluth-Superior, according to the Interlake Steamship Company.   After clearing the Aerial Lift Bridge, the ship’s master blew a full, formal Interlake Fleet salute in honor of Oberstar -- two long blasts followed by three short. The bridge echoed the salute in accordance with maritime tradition.                                             

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Throughout the state, Oberstar was being remembered as a tireless advocate for northern Minnesota.  Shortly after the Congressman’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) released a statement acknowledging his contributions to the Iron Range and the region.

 “As our Congressman across four decades, few have made a more lasting, positive impact on the Iron Range and across the Arrowhead Region than Jim Oberstar. A miner's son, Congressman Oberstar's life in public service was devoted to bringing economic opportunity to families in Northern Minnesota,” Bakk noted. “Again and again, Congressman Oberstar delivered for his constituents and his legacy is evident in the quality of life we enjoy today.”

Oberstar lost his seat in the House to Chip Craavack, a coup that few foresaw, but he continued to work on issues important to Northern Minnesota. He was in Two Harbors last year for the dedication of a trail addition near CSAH 26 and made appearances during Rick Nolan’s campaign to unseat Craavack.   Mayor Randy Bolen, like Bakk, referred to Oberstar’s legacy and the high bar the Congressman set in politics and as a person.

"Congressman Oberstar's legacy in Two Harbors and the 8th District will long be felt for generations to come,” Bolen said. “He was a man who led with dignity and pride. He was an inspiration to me to be the best I could be. He will be greatly missed."

Mary Rosati of Two Harbors recalled Oberstar as a statesman and friend of the family. Her husband Richard grew up with the Congressman on the Iron Range.

“I believe they were born close to the same time and they went to grade school and high school together. They played football together at Chisholm High School,” Mary Rosati said. “They were life-long friends.” Richard Rosati recently sustained an injury and could not attend Oberstar’s funeral, but the couple said they’ll attend a memorial service closer to home if one is planned.  In the meantime, Mary Rosati said she lit a candle and said a prayer memory of their friend.

“He was little in stature, big in heart,” she said, “he could walk into a room and call people by name and remember what they were affiliated with. He’d ask about their families. His kind heart was always right on his sleeve.”  Rosati said that Oberstar’s life and work, which included his years as House chair on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2007 to 2011, touched millions.

“He served everyone, Democrat or Republican,” she said, and will be remembered for his efforts. Bakk concluded his statement recognizing Oberstar’s place in the hearts of those in his home state.

“Jim Oberstar was a friend and mentor, and I join so many others from the 8th District and across the state in mourning the loss of a great Minnesotan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Oberstar family and his wife, Jean.”