Constituents and Colleagues Mourn Sen. Paul Wellstone

A memorial service for Sen. Paul (D, Minn.) and Sheila Wellstone, Marcia Wellstone Markuson, and Wellstone staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy and Will McLaughlin is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight in Minneapolis.

The service will be held at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis Campus, 1925 University Avenue SE. Implex.net, a Minnesota Internet provider, will offer a free simulcast of the memorial service. The simulcast can be viewed at shows.implex.tv/Wellstone.

In statement posted to Wellstone's Senate Web site (wellstone.senate.gov,), his staff commented, "This is an unspeakable loss of a leader and mentor we loved, and of friends and colleagues who were dear to us."

They noted the overwhelming number of messages the office has received since the crash "is a tribute to the kind of person Paul was: a passionate visionary who never gave up hope that we could make the world a better place for everyone; a committed fighter for social justice who gave a voice to the voiceless; a man with a huge heart who lit up a room - and the hearts of others - when he walked in."

Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress praised Wellstone, probably the Senate's most liberal member, as a passionate advocate for the causes in which he believed.

"The nation lost its most passionate advocate for fairness and justice for all," said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D, Mass.). "All of us who knew and loved Paul Wellstone in the Senate are devastated by his loss. He had an intense passion and enormous ability to reach out, touch and improve the lives of the people he served so brilliantly We'll miss him very much."

Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.) commented, "Paul Wellstone had a passion for justice that was evident to all of his colleagues. Throughout his life, Paul was a fighter for the good cause. His passion for justice was only matched by his charm, wit and kindness to his political friends and foes alike He was always willing to stand up for the little guy even if it meant taking on the political goliaths. The Senate and this world are diminished by his death."

Even Sen. Jesse Helms (R, N.C.), who embodies the antithesus of Wellstone's political beliefs - a man whom Wellstone once said he "despised" - commented, "Despite the marked contrast between Paul's and my views on matters of government and politics, he was my friend and I was his. He unfailingly represented his views eloquently and emphatically. Paul Wellstone was a courageous defender of his beliefs."

According to fellow Minnesota Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton, Wellstone earned the respect of senators from both parties "because they knew that he was speaking from his heart, speaking from his soul, speaking what he truly believed."

Dayton, along with Sen. Christopher Dodd (D, Conn.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D, Calif.), eulogized Wellstone yesterday on the floor of the Senate, where the few senators remaining in Washington during an election recess approved S.R. 354 that expresses the Senate's profound sorrow and deep regret" at the loss of Wellstone and the others, and that commends Wellstone for working "tirelessly on behalf of America's veterans and the less fortunate, particularly children and families living in poverty and those with mental illness."

In lieu of flowers or other memorials, the Wellstone family asks that any memorial contributions be made to the Wellstone Foundation, which is being established to further their family's social justice legacy. Information about where to direct such memorials will be announced by the family.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are on the site of the crash, about 2 1/2 miles from the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport in northern Minnesota. Lead investigator Frank Hilldrup said that extensive damage to the plane, which burned after it crashed into a swampy field, would delay the investigation, which could take months.

Hilldrup said investigators will try to determine if the plane's de-icing equipment was working properly, and noted the plane's landing gear was down in preparation for landing and its flaps were lowered properly.

The six, along with pilots Richard Conroy and Michael Guess, were killed in a plane crash on Friday, October 25.

Before the crash, the plane, a Beech King Air A100, made a slow turn away from the airport and descended at a steep angle. Investigators said that damage to the plane's propellers indicates they were in motion when it hit the ground, although the plane's airspeed was believed to be 85 knots, which is close to stalling.

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