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The Mondales Are Heading Home : Minneapolis Bound, They Hold Fond Memories of D.C.

August 20, 1987|SARAH BOOTH CONROY | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Fritz and Joan Mondale are going home this week.

Home from Washington to Minneapolis. Home from national to state--even local--politics. After 23 years as cornerstones of the capital, they're going way, way beyond the Capital Beltway--for Washingtonians, like going beyond the pale.

They're going home at the time of year when all of Congress leaves to water the grass roots. But when Congress reconvenes in September, Mondale will be practicing law in Minneapolis.

'You Have to Ask'

"And we'll find out whether people want Fritz to be a senator. You have to ask. You can't just say, 'Here I am, send me back.' He might not choose to run," Joan Mondale said last week. "Anyway, it takes two years to raise the money."

Mondale, who has been practicing law in Washington, hasn't held public office since his term as vice president during the Carter Administration ended in 1981. He served in the Senate from 1964 to 1977 and was the Democrats' presidential nominee in 1984.

No matter how glad the Mondales are to be going home, they have to leave before they arrive. That's the hard part.

The Mondales are not like those who treat the city of Washington as only a launching pad for their ambitions. Though they're national figures, they've been true citizens of Washington, and good neighbors in the Cleveland Park district of the city.

In the late '60s, when it wasn't popular, the Mondales sent their children to John Eaton Elementary, a public school. Joan Mondale has held every office in the school a parent can hold.

And there are other entanglements. It isn't easy, for instance, to give up peach ice cream ("Always call first to be sure they have it") at the University Bakery. And there's the 16-person neighborhood vegetable and fruit cooperative.

"I've found somebody to take my place," Joan Mondale said with relief. "You have to have the right number." She kept up her membership even when the Mondales lived in the vice president's residence.

Finally, the house's stewards made her quit because they couldn't do official menus on pot-luck marketing, but when the Mondales moved back to Cleveland Park, she joined again.

Tennis Partners

She'll miss her tennis partners, too. "Our tennis foursome has always been a sixsome, because all of us are often out of town," she said.

Not to forget Joan Mondale's life as a potter. She's spent much of her life being a mother of three, a political wife and a volunteer for the arts, equal rights and schools. Potting she does for herself. She studies with Vally Possony and shows with Toad Hall Potters.

But the change is not only of cities. This is also the big mid-life event, when a family contracts to a couple again. Son William, who played Batman at the Studio Theatre here and worked for Americas Watch, is going to law school. Son Ted expects to graduate from law school at William Mitchell in St. Paul, and to marry artist Pam Burris in June. Daughter Eleanor is a disc jockey in Chicago.

"We're condensing--going from a five-bedroom house to two bedrooms and a den," Joan Mondale said. "I've sent two loads of clothes to the Salvation Army, basketballs and other things we haven't used since 1980 to Mt. Pleasant Thrift Shop."

She's leaving the leaf cart and buying a new leaf collector--a Garbagger, a device made in Minneapolis. But some objects won't ever be left behind. Their own art crafts, including Dale Chilhuly and Sylvia Vigeletti glass, Vally Possony and Otto Natzler ceramics, will go into niches in their new house.

Still a Bridge or Two

The Mondales are not necessarily gone forever. They are keeping their Washington house, their connections firmly plugged in and their fingers crossed.

And they'll be back for visits. "I'm coming back for the Dec. 5 and 6 Toad Hall Christmas sale--and in October for the Kennedy Center board (meeting)," she said.

But the Mondales say they are going to Minneapolis to be a part of that city again. "I'm hoping Art Reach, an artists' organization, will find me a potting studio. I hope to study with potter Warren MacKenzie," Joan Mondale said.

She has been invited to be on several museum boards and has accepted a place on the board of Macalester College, her alma mater. She has scheduled two speeches a month into next year. "I don't plan to sit on the porch and rock."

There are compensations for leaving the Federal City.

"I won't miss Washington weather, even if I have to learn to shovel snow again," said Joan Mondale, who already has carefully scheduled a speaking engagement in January in Sacramento, Calif.

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