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Democrats mourn loss of passionate volunteer

Democrats are mourning the loss of a Rochester woman who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for decades to get the party’s candidates elected to office.

obit 07-12 Moen, Mary.jpg
Obit Moen, Mary

Democrats are mourning the loss of a Rochester woman who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for decades to get the party's candidates elected to office.

Mary Moen died unexpectedly on July 6 at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Saint Marys Campus. She was 67. A memorial service was held for her on Thursday in Rochester.

Friends and family say Moen was an energetic, passionate woman who devoted much of her spare time to helping raise money and organize for DFL candidates, such as 1st District Rep. Tim Walz, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken — just to name a few.

"When she identified a goal, she was persistent and did not take no for an answer easily," said her husband, Ken Moen.

By the time he met his future wife in 1984, she already was heavily involved in Democratic politics. She worked for 25 years as a financial adviser for Dain Bosworth and Merrill Lynch before retiring and running her husband's law firm. She put her organizational skills and financing know-how to work helping DFLers.


"She was not an ideologue, but she firmly believed that the Democratic party was much more inclined to adopt policies and pass programs that would benefit the public good," her husband said.

DFL Sen. Al Franken said he met Mary Moen a decade ago and the two became good friends. He said she not only helped fundraise for him, but also helped introduce him to people in Rochester, organized volunteers and did field work.

"You need people in campaigns like Mary, and there aren't enough of them frankly who do that. You don't have to motivate them. They just do it, and they take it on themselves. It's like an enormous jolt to have people like that," he said.

While he appreciated her hard work, Franken said he particularly was struck by her upbeat personality and sense of humor.

"Mary was someone who made you feel good," Franken said. "She was a very, very good friend to me and to Franni."

Mary Petersson, a former Rochester City Council member, met Moen in 1992 and they became best friends. Through the years, Petersson often was called in to help with Moen's house parties for DFL candidates. On one occasion, she went so far as to sign her and Petersson up for a community education class on hosting a tea party. Once finished, they put that knowledge to use organizing a fundraising tea party featuring Franni Franken.

So why was Moen so passionate about politics?

"I don't know. It was just in her makeup. I think it's because she cared so deeply about people and about seeing wrongs righted, about giving everybody a fair shake. She just really cared, and when she cared about something, she jumped into it full tilt," Petersson said.


Olmsted-25 DFL Chairwoman Diane Hellie also spent plenty of time volunteering at fundraisers with Moen.

"She was full of life. She loved traveling, she loved reading and she loved being with her friends. She was a very generous person," Hellie said.

Moen never ran for political office herself, instead opting to work behind-the-scenes. She did help her husband, Ken Moen, when he ran unsuccessfully for the Minnesota Senate in 2012. She also spent plenty of time lobbying state lawmakers at the state Capitol on issues related to women's rights.

She also had an adventurous spirit. Ken Moen recalled how his wife went to China on a trip and pretended to be sick one day to get out of a group tour. Instead, she hopped on the No. 2 local bus on a hunch it eventually would drop her back off at her hotel. Turned out, she was right.

"She was a real hit on the bus. She took pictures with little kids on the bus," her husband said.

In January 2015, Mary Moen suffered a severe stroke, leaving her paralyzed on her left side. Her husband said it was difficult for a woman who was so independent and full of energy to be dependent on others for her care.

As for Petersson, she said she has never met anyone like her best friend.

"She was one of a kind — totally," Petersson said. "They broke the mold when they made Mary Moen."

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