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Catching up: A true statesman; A great photojournalist; The Minnesota Orchestra; The Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame

  • Blog Post by: Barry ZeVan
  • October 20, 2013 - 9:12 PM

Catching up on a winter-like Sunday night:

FORMER U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER AND AMBASSADOR TO JAPAN, TOM FOLEY - One of the people I was honored to know in my fractioned and very blessed life was former U.S. House Speaker and Ambassador to Japan, Tom Foley. It was sad for multiple reasons to learn of his passing a couple days ago at age 84. As many of us in Minnesota are also blessed to know former Vice President and also Ambassador to Japan, Walter "Fritz" Mondale, I knew Fritz and Joan were good friends to Tom and Heather Foley. I've also been honored for their friendship, as are many of you. Yesterday I emailed Fritz a condolence email expressing my sadness at the loss of Speaker/Ambassador Foley. Part of Fritz's response to me was, "It was a a long sad slide" for Mr. Foley. Being as humble as he was, I guess most of us never knew Tom Foley had been suffering any illness since he left public life, but, indeed, to those who knew him closely, such as the Mondales, they were aware.  I met Mr. Foley when I was radio broadcasting in Wenatchee, Washington, in 1966. He was beginning his first term as Congressman for the State of Washington's 5th Congressional District. Through the years thereafter, I was happy to be with him as a guest at several social functions, in both Washington state and D.C. The most gratifying "private" time was when Speaker Foley was invited by then former Vice President Mondale to appear at a function here in the Twin Cities within the past ten years. Fritz kindly arranged a re-acquaintance meeting between Mr. Foley and me in Mr. Foley's Marquette Hotel suite, which included doing a brief interview with him for a documentary I was producing. The cameraman then had Mr. Foley and me pose for a picture, which Mr. Foley later signed to me with very kind personal thoughts. I see it every day on the wall leading to our basement "museum". As I've said many times in this space, I've been very blessed to have had the relationships I've had, but knowing Tom Foley as a close acquaintance was a special honor and privilege. So mostly-lacking today, he was an exemplar of true statesmanship without ego, a gentleman who was totally committed to doing his jobs with dignity and genuine warmth for all he served.

LEVI "SKIP" NELSON, KSTP-TV PHOTOGRAPHER - Was shocked to learn in today's STAR TRIBUNE of another passing, October 9th. Although long-retired, "Skip" Nelson was one of Hubbard Broadcasting's icons with a camera, off-camera. He shot NFL films for 30 years, traveled around the world with Channel 5's best, the great Bob Ryan among them (especially noteworthy in Vietnam), and was the videographer for some memorable promo shoots in Las Vegas with yours truly  and some people you'd recognize prior to my Channel 5 weather debut. Skip was the epitome of the word "pro". As was the case with another "Skip", the late "Skip" Loescher, they just don't make 'em like both Skips anymore. Deepest condolences, to say the least, to Skip Nelson's family.

THE MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA'S POSSIBLE SALVATION - A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with one of The Minnesota Orchestra's most popular musicians. We've been friends since the 1970s. The lunch was a social one and the subject of saving The Minnesota Orchestra arose. While we were brainstorming about how to save this great Minnesota treasure (and indeed global treasure), I said, "Wait a minute! The citizens of Green Bay own the Green Bay Packers. Why couldn;t the citizens of Minnesota own The Minnesota Orchestra?" My friend said it was an intriguing thought and asked how. I suggested everyone in Minnesota who could, or wished to, would cough-up at least $20 each year for a tax-deductible donation to be part of the non-profit orchestra's fiscal pie. If three-million Minnesotans did that, the Orchestra would have 60-million-dollars to play with (literally!) every year and that model could be the template for other worthwhile cultural organizations to keep afloat. My friend said he'd tell the idea to the person who was negotiating with the Board and see if it flew. Now we fast-forward to a few days ago when the news broke that State Representative Phyllis Kahn was going to introduce a bill very similar to the idea I expressed to my friend. I immediately contacted Representative Kahn and asked if she'd possibly heard my idea from my friend. She very quickly and kindly responded with an email stating she'd had the same idea ten years ago for the Minnesota Twins and even introduced a bill for that idea, but it didn't pass. Then she told me she thought of resurrecting the idea a few days prior to my email to her, thus the news broke she would be introducing that bill to the legislature when they reconvene in February. She congratulated me for having the same idea, but indeed, she did NOT "steal" it from yours truly. We subsequently discussed further ideas. Those of us who know the true greatness of our Orchestra should, in my opinion, hope her bill passes.

MINNESOTA BROADCASTING HALL OF FAME - Three weeks ago tonight (September 29th) I had the honor to be inducted into The Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Some of the other inductees were Mark Rosen, Dick Bremer, Mick Anselmo, Kim Jeffries and, posthumously, the late Eleanor Mondale Poling. The pantheon of those inducted this year and in previous years reads like a "Who's Who" in the broadcast industry, with the exception of yours truly. Without false humility, I truly consider whatever I did in the industry, as talent or producing, just a miniscule cog in that wheel, but am deeply appreciative for that wonderful night and honor and also all the wonderful friends who attended the event, too. (Sidebar: One of the best moments was to be able to talk with the Twins' Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan following the ceremony. Mr. Ryan extended his hand to shake, saying "Congratulations", but I didn't recognize his face. I shook his hand, then asked who he was. When he told me, I apologized for not recognizing him, but thanked him for his kind congratulations. Speaking with Gardy, my wife and I expressed our condolences regarding the team's not-so-great record this past season. Gardy then said he and Ryan had been in talks that week, and assured us everything would be okay in the coming seasons. The next day, it was announced Gardy's contract was renewed for another two yars, as we now all know. I've never met anyone more immediately likeable and genuine. Those who have known him would definitely concur, I'm certain. First-class, in every respect. He was the frosting on the cake that night. Go Twins.)

Thanks, as always, for taking time to read these geeezer thoughts, comments and memories.

BZ, age 76 and counting.

Next time: Eydie Gorme and Delmer Daves remembrances.

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