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Oberstar's Passing Sends Shockwave Through Chisholm

Updated: 05/04/2014 10:24 PM
Created: 05/04/2014 7:37 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Former U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar passed away in his sleep Saturday morning at the age of 79, and the sorrow is hitting home for those who knew the man behind the politician. In his hometown of Chisholm, Iron Rangers expressed shock at the sudden loss on Sunday.

Most shops were closed in Chisholm on Sunday and the streets were quiet. The scene reflected the town's loss of a legend.

“Like I said, everybody is just in shock a little bit. You know, I don't think everybody has come to grips with that he's dead,” Anthony Oberstar said.

Anthony is Jim Oberstar's great-nephew. He said the former congressman touched the lives of everyone on the Iron Range during his 36 years of public service in Washington. Oberstar helped fight for miner's rights and was instrumental in highway development across the region according to his great-nephew.

“He was just a big advocate for this area, and he fought for this area when he was in Washington. He still tried to after he got removed, and I think that's going to be the biggest thing about his memory is that he was a true Iron Ranger who fought for the Iron Range,” Anthony Oberstar said.

Oberstar maintained the family home he grew up in in Chisholm. His neighbor Amy Belluzzo was stunned to hear of his death.

“I was very shocked. I didn't really expect that; he was in very good health. He would bring his bike home with him and go biking all the time,” Belluzzo said.

She said he enjoyed gardening at the home during his visits, and she will miss the chats they shared. Belluzzo said the loss will sink in soon for everyone on the Iron Range.

“I think a lot of people are going to miss him, and I think people who thought that he wasn't around or wasn't involved or not doing much are going to realize that there is a void now,” Belluzzo said.

These friends and family called him a champion of workers and residents, and they hope his memory can spur some momentum again for the Iron Range he loved.

A wake for Oberstar is scheduled for Wednesday in Washington D.C. at Gawler's Funeral Home. A funeral will follow on Thursday at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac, Maryland.

Oberstar's family has not yet specified any formal remembrance activities scheduled in the Northland.

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