Posted at: 05/03/2014 10:11 AM
Updated at: 05/03/2014 10:41 PM
Jim Oberstar, the son of an Iron Range miner who went on to represent northeastern Minnesota in Congress for decades, has died at his home in Maryland.
Family members say Oberstar passed away in his sleep Saturday morning. He was 79.
The family issued a statement saying, "Jim was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, and brother. While we mourn the loss of a good man, we also celebrate his life and service. We ask for your thoughts and prayers, and understanding, at this very difficult time."
James Louis Oberstar was born in Chisholm on September 10, 1934 and graduated from Chisholm High School in 1952. He received degrees from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul and the College of Europe in Belgium.
Oberstar began working for Democratic U.S. Rep. John Blatnik in 1963 and won a bid to succeed Blatnik when he retired in 1974. He defeated numerous Republican challengers for the 8th District seat, including former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, before being defeated by Chip Cravaack in 2010.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness served as Oberstar's campaign manager for 10 years. Ness said that time learning from Oberstar left a lasting impression on his public service.
"During that time Jim became a mentor and, probably outside of my family, the most influential person in my life," Ness said. "I think the most important thing that Jim taught me was how to balance the demands and pressures of public service with your values and your commitment to your family."
Oberstar had served as chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure during his last two terms and continued to advocate for transportation issues after leaving Congress.
U.S. Representative Rick Nolan now sits in Oberstar's former seat, and he said that other leaders relied on Oberstar's knowledge and counsel.
"Jim Oberstar was always there the bike trails the roads the bridges the transportation his advice and counsel was sought by everyone all across this country and quite frankly all over the world," Nolan said.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said everyone in the 8th District should remember all Oberstar has done for their communities.
"When a miner goes to work next week they should be remembering Jim Oberstar for what he did to keep the mines open but also for safety in the mines, or when people bike the beautiful bike trails in Minnesota or hike the Superior Trail they should be remembering Jim Oberstar," Klobuchar said.
He is survived by his wife Jean, six children (Ted, Noelle, Annie, Monica, Lindy, and Charlie), and eight grandchildren.
Many other political leaders reacted to Oberstar's death Saturday afternoon. Click here to see their statements of praise for the former representative.