Short take: Birthday wishes for three notable 'Minnesotans'

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2011 - 2:57 PM

Betty Crocker's portrait has been updated 7 times, most recently in 1996. The General Mills symbol was first seen in 1936.

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Here’s a 90th birthday cheer for three notable Minnesotans — Betty Crocker, Tom Swain and George Pillsbury.

Granted, only two of those three are real people.

But like fictitious Betty, Swain and Pillsbury have been larger than life in boosting Minnesota.  And like the General Mills home baking icon, both seem ageless in their continuing public service.

Swain is a former University of Minnesota vice president, St. Paul Companies executive, and state commerce commissioner whose list of civic involvement runs pages long. He stepped down just six months ago as mayor of Lilydale.

 Pillsbury, a former Pillsbury Co. executive and state senator, is every bit as engaged in making state institutions thrive.

Fittingly, Swain turns 90 on July 4. Pillsbury will celebrate with family and friends this weekend, but won’t officially hit 90 until July 17.

Betty’s exact 1921 birthdate isn’t known. But she was named for Washburn-Crosby Co. director William Crocker, whose father was an early business partner of C.A. Pillsbury. 

Washburn-Crosby is now General Mills, and the Pillsbury Co. is one of its divisions. Betty and George might as well celebrate their Big 9-0 birthdays together.

They’re practically related.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. She's also the author of  "The Pillsburys of Minnesota," with George S. Pillsbury, which released this spring by Nodin Press.

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