Joan Mondale

Death of Joan Mondale

August 8, 1930 - February 3, 2014
Minneapolis, Minnesota | Age 83

Former 2nd lady dies at age 83


BRIAN BAKST, The Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — Joan Mondale, who burnished a reputation as "Joan of Art" for her passionate advocacy for the arts while her husband was vice president and a U.S. ambassador to Japan, died Monday. She was 83.

Mondale's husband Walter, sons Ted and William and other family members were by her side when she died, the family said in a statement released by their church. The family had announced Sunday that she had gone into hospice care, but declined to discuss her illness.

Joan Mondale was given a grand platform to promote the arts when her husband, then a Democratic senator, was elected Jimmy Carter's vice president in 1976.

She transformed the role of the second lady. Carter named her honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities, and in that role she frequently traveled to museums, theaters and artist studios on the administration's behalf. She lobbied Congress and states to boost public arts programs and funding.

Mondale also showcased the work of prominent artists in the vice presidential residence, including photographer Ansel Adams, sculptor David Smith and painter Georgia O'Keeffe.

More recently, she sat on the U.S. Postal Service panel that has a role in selecting stamp designs, a role she gave up in 2010.

As Carter's No. 2, Walter Mondale was seen as a trusted adviser and credited with making the office of the vice president more relevant. It was natural that his wife would do the same for her role. Vice presidential aide Al Eisele once said of his boss: "It was important to him that Joan not just be the vice president's wife, but his partner."

During Carter's single term as president, Joan Mondale immersed herself in the capital's art scene and gave weekly tours at the National Gallery of Art.

She would later take her cultural zeal overseas when President Bill Clinton named her husband ambassador to Japan. She relished the chance to study Japanese art and give dignitaries clay pots she made as gifts. In her 1972 book, "Politics in Art," Joan Mondale framed a connection between the two.

"Sometimes we do not realize how important our participation in politics is. Often we need to be reminded of our duty as citizens," she wrote. "Artists can do just that; they can look at our politicians, our institutions and our problems to help us understand them better."