Sturdevant: Etched in stone

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2011 - 6:15 PM
Tom Swain
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Tom Swain

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Not many Minnesotans get to see their names engraved in bronze somewhere on the State Capitol grounds. On Wednesday, Tom Swain of Lilydale had that thrill for the second time -- with the same plaque.

The plaque on which Swain’s name appears commemorates the centennial of Minnesota’s statehood in 1958. Swain was the energetic executive director of the commission that organized celebratory events that year.

The commission did its work so well that its 15 members and Swain were listed on a plaque installed in late 1958 or early 1959 on a south-facing panel of the outdoor Court of Honor, near the Veterans Affairs Building.

A few years later, the supposedly permanent tablet was quietly removed to make room for tablets honoring Civil War heroes. The centennial plaque was stashed in the Vets Building’s basement and forgotten.

Two years ago, Swain – a former state commerce commissioner, gubernatorial chief of staff, insurance executive, twice a University of Minnesota vice president, Lilydale mayor and volunteer extraordinaire – began to wonder what happened to the plaque. 

As is his wont, he asked a few questions, then a few more. Nancy Stark at the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board launched a search. She credits former Veterans Affairs Commissioner Mike Pugliese with finding the lost plate.

Installing it in the lobby of the circa 1958 Centennial Building was an obvious choice.

Swain, now 89, was on hand Wednesday as Stark welcomed the plate to its new, hopefully more permanent home.  It fits handsomely between two elevators in the recently refurbished space.

And it’s fitting that the good names on that plate are again getting Capitol attention.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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