Former Rep. Jim Oberstar dies
Former longtime 8th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., died in his sleep Saturday morning, May 3, in his Maryland home, according to a statement from his family said. He was 79.
Oberstar was a Chisholm native and the longest-serving member of Congress in Minnesota history. He was known in the Brainerd lakes area for his Ride with Jim bicycle tours along segments of the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Oberstar was first elected to serve Minnesota’s 8th District in 1974 and was re-elected 17 times before losing to Chip Cravaack in 2010.
“He never really stopped working for the public good,” said Bill Richard, who served as Oberstar’s chief of staff for 20 years. “He was fond of saying, ‘You know, people pay me now to tell them what I used to tell them for free.’”
Richard, who saw Oberstar last week, said his former boss was as involved and busy as ever.
Oberstar had talked about possibly attending the 8th District DFL Convention in Nashwauk last Saturday, Richard said. Known for long bicycle rides, Oberstar was excited about participating in the annual Ride with Jim on the Paul Bunyan Trail near Brainerd this summer, Richard added.
On Friday evening, May 2, Oberstar and his wife, Jean, attended a play in which a granddaughter had a role, Richard said. He had not been in ill health.
“He was in great shape, great health,” Richard said. “No one was more surprised than those who are close to him that he passed.”
Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Crosby who holds Oberstar’s seat, said he and his wife, Mary, had been with Jim and Jean Oberstar two nights earlier.
“Jim was full of life and good health,” Nolan said.
When Nolan joked that Oberstar did a thousand push-ups a day, Oberstar corrected him, saying it was only a hundred.
Oberstar is survived by his wife, four children and eight grandchildren.