Joan Mondale: a treasured friend

  • Article by: JILL BIDEN
  • Updated: February 7, 2014 - 6:50 PM

As I follow in her footsteps, I am reminded every day of her impact as an arts advocate.


Joan Mondale, the wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale, left her mark not only on the Vice President’s Residence but also on the nation.

Photo: Brian Peterson • Star Tribune file,

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I have so many great memories of my dear friend Joan Mondale. She was always so upbeat and passionate about everything she did, from the moment I first met her when I married Joe, to the last time I saw her in the fall of 2012.

That last conversation was in Minnesota, with her beloved husband, Fritz, by her side, along with a caretaker. In the midst of a re-election campaign, it was so nice to sit down with an old friend, and it was as if no time at all had passed.

We talked about our families, her sons William and Ted, and the pain of losing her daughter, Eleanor, in 2011. She also told stories about how she and Fritz met and of their long and happy marriage.


As always, she was prepared to give advice and encouragement, just as she did for Joe and me in the early days in the Senate, and when we prepared to follow her and Fritz’s footsteps to the vice presidency.

Her mark on the Vice President’s Residence remains to this day, in the beautiful glazed pottery and artwork that she brought to every corner of that home. Every Second Lady defines her own role with an unspoken respect for those who came before her and those who will follow. The home that Joe and I live in now reflects the passions and interests of each Second Family since the Mondales made it their home.

The beautiful pottery that I see every day is a reminder of the impact that Joan, nicknamed “Joan of Art,” had in promoting art in the United States. She focused a nation’s attention on the need for art programs in schools, on the importance of museums and support for artistic expression. She took that same passion overseas during her and Fritz’s service in Japan and continued promoting the arts long after they left Washington.

Joan Mondale dedicated her life to helping a nation recognize the artistic treasures in its midst. I will always treasure the times we were together. She will be missed.


Jill Biden is Second Lady of the United States.

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