Raising his right hand, Gov. Mark Dayton ended his eulogy for his father, Bruce, with a familiar family gesture Thursday.
Pressing his fingers to his palm four times, Mark said, “We /love /you /too,” in the same manner his father had always squeezed his children’s hands three times to say: “I /love /you.”
By his request, the co-founder of Target was remembered with a simple ceremony that unfolded with more poetry than prayer. Bruce’s zeal for art and nature was an ongoing thread at the roughly one-hour funeral in Minneapolis at Westminster Presbyterian Church. About 500 people attended.
The WWII veteran, retailer and philanthropist died last Friday at age 97. He selected the service’s texts: Psalm 121, William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and the King James Version of the 10 Beatitudes. The service included no hymns, but instead a mix of classical music performed by more than a dozen Minnesota Orchestra members, including concertmistress Erin Keefe. The service was also streamed online by the church.
“I have felt /a presence that disturbs me with the joy /of elevated thoughts /a sense of sublime,” the Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen read from Wordsworth’s romantic poem during his meditation. “Of something far more deeply interfused /Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns /And the round ocean, and the living air.”
Living to the year 2000 was once Bruce’s goal, Gov. Dayton recalled during the service’s only eulogy, a date his father far surpassed. A high-achiever, Bruce Dayton was proud of the expansion of his retail chain that began in downtown Minneapolis as Dayton Hudson Corp., and he upheld his duty of civic responsibility. His most treasured moments, however, were marked less by material goods and more by earthly gifts of walks through forests or visits to his family’s summer home at Lake Vermilion.
Dayton said he felt “A-1” during his final days, Hart-Andersen recalled. He’s been memorialized by members across the Minnesota community who remember him as a champion of arts, pioneer of the modern shopping mall and benefactor to Macalester College, the alma mater of his wife, Ruth Stricker Dayton.
Dayton’s greatest influence was his own grandfather, Hart-Andersen said, who imbued him with a strong work ethic as “a man of parts” who excelled in several fields.
The retail magnate’s grandchildren didn’t experience him as a businessman, the governor said, but instead as a shepherd of nature, literature and art. They enjoyed mornings with the newspaper and Calvin and Hobbes comics, whose meanings Dayton would eagerly dissect.
Of their walks together, his granddaughter said: “I loved how he would point out every species of tree and moss … [his] talks about nature were some of the most open and soulful to me.”
Free admission to the Minneapolis Institute of Art is a pillar in Dayton’s legacy. As a longtime board member at the institute and frequent contributor to the museum’s collection, he was adamant that its doors always be open to the public without charge.
But long after his imprints on the museum and community are forgotten, Bruce Dayton’s hand-squeezes to his family, his son said, will endure.