Son of late Quie: She ‘was the one that made sure there was a party around’
ST. PAUL -- As Minnesota's First Lady, Gretchen Quie threw herself into restoring the Governor's Residence, opened the mansion to the public and championed the arts.The wife of former Gov. Al Quie died at home on Sunday after a long struggle with...
ST. PAUL - As Minnesota’s First Lady, Gretchen Quie threw herself into restoring the Governor’s Residence, opened the mansion to the public and championed the arts.
The wife of former Gov. Al Quie died at home on Sunday after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 88.
Throughout her life, Gretchen Quie was active as a potter, promoter of ecclesiastical art and volunteer in numerous civic organizations.
Gretchen Marie Hansen was born in Waverly, Iowa, on Aug. 4, 1927, to Sam and Ella Hansen. Her father was a school administrator who moved his family to Harmony and Benson, Minn., before settling in Minneapolis, where he established a teacher-placement business.
Gretchen Quie graduated from Central High School in 1945 and attended St. Olaf College, where she majored in art. There, she met a former Navy pilot, Al Quie, who she married in 1948 before she graduated from college.
They moved to the Rice County farm between Dennison and Nerstrand where he was raised. In addition to learning the tasks required of a farmer’s wife, she became active in many organizations, including Grace Lutheran Church in Nerstrand and the Dennison Study Club.
The couple had four children before Al Quie was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958. The family moved to Silver Spring, Md., where their fifth child was born. The Republican represented the 1st District in Congress for 21 years.
While there, she designed and helped members of their church install sacred art.
“She was super creative and able to use her hands - whether it was painting or ceramics or mosaics - to create beautiful pieces of art,” her son Joel Quie said.
She also started taking art classes at the University of Maryland, transferring the credits to St. Olaf, where she graduated as an art major in 1971.
After Al Quie was elected governor in 1978, he, Gretchen and their youngest son, Ben, moved into the Governor’s Residence. To help with needed repairs, she formed the State Ceremonial Building Council, which the 1980 Legislature authorized to create an architectural master plan to guide alterations to the mansion. She edited a compilation of historical anecdotes and favorite recipes of past Minnesota governors, published as “The Governor’s Table” in 1981 by the 1006 Summit Avenue Society, a volunteer organization she formed to support maintenance of the building.
While Gov. Quie was attending to his job as a statesman, Gretchen Quie, who loved whimsy and fun, “was the one that made sure there was a party around,” said son Joel Quie.
Gretchen Quie initiated a program called “Night at the Mansion” that selected Minnesotans by lottery to share dinner with the Quies in the residence and stay the night in a guest bedroom. To encourage more Minnesotans to sponsor refugees, the Quies invited a Vietnamese refugee family to live in the residence’s renovated carriage house.
The outreach was typical of his mother’s desire to help the marginalized, Joel Quie said. She was “forward-thinking and so helpful for those who don’t have a voice,” he said.
After Gov. Quie retired from elected office in 1983, the couple moved to Minnetonka, where she continued an active life as an artist and member of the Minnetonka Lutheran Church. She and a business partner opened Celebration Design, a firm on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue that specialized in ecclesiastical art.
Gretchen Quie was active in volunteer organizations throughout her life. In Maryland, she volunteered at a nursing home, delivered Meals on Wheels, taught painting and arts-and-crafts classes and served as president of a potters’ club.
In Minnesota, she served on the councils of many organizations, including the Girl Scout Council, Nutrition Education and Advisory Council, Committee on Immunization, American Refugee Council, board of the Society of Fine Arts, Salvation Army Council, KIDS Inc., World Population Balance and Art Education of Minnesota.
She retired from making art after receiving her Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2005. Since then, Al Quie had been her primary caregiver.
Gretchen Quie is survived by her husband; her brother John (Caryl) Hansen of Eden Prairie; five children, Fred (Melinda) Quivik of Houghton, Mich., Jennie (Dave) Coffin of Fairfax, Va., Dan (Luanne) Quie of Greenfield, Joel (Sarah) Quie of Eden Prairie, and Ben (Virginia) Quie of St. Paul; 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
A funeral service is at 11 a.m. Friday at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger of the Pioneer Press contributed to this report. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.