One a cold, rainy Tuesday morning in St. Francis, Minn., family and friends of Rod Grams gathered to pay their respects to the former U.S. senator and KMSP news anchor.
In an era where politicians talk about building big tents, former U.S. Senator Rod Grams collided the metaphor with his own funeral. Not only did he build a tent, he filled it.
True to his rural roots, Grams' family raised a large tent outside of Zion Lutheran Church of Crown in St. Francis, Minnesota just a few miles from his farm.
The fact that friends from rural Isanti County far outnumbered politicians at the funeral was not lost on some of Grams' biggest political admirers.
"Boy, does that say a lot that his man never changed from the boy that he once was to the man we came to admire today," said former U.S. Senator David Durenberger.
It wasn't lost on current 6th district U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann either.
"He never forgot about being a dairy farm boy and what it means. He had the greatest Minnesota sense of humor and we all knew it and the service today was really honoring who Rod truly was," said Bachmann.
Gram's use of humor was very much a part of the memories shared at the funeral services. His former communications advisor, Kurt Zellers, now a Republican State Representative from Maple Grove remembers how Grams used to use humor to his advantage.
"One of his favorite jokes was always at my expense to break the uncomfortable quiet in a room he would say, ‘And this is the staff that is with me, and this is my communication's guy Kurt. He's got a face that is made for radio,'" Zellers remembered.
"And it would take people two beats to get it but they'd laugh, ‘Oh, Yah. He's got a face made for radio, I get it.' He was just so humble," said Zellers.
Grams served one term as U.S. Senator from Minnesota from 1995-2001. He also served as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-1995. Prior to his political career, Grams was an evening news anchor at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis.
But it was his roots in rural Minnesota that his admirers say mattered most and will serve as a lesson to politicians today.
"It's to remember who you are and where you come from, that's how you best serve the people. Rod did that in spades," said Bachmann.
Former Senator Durenberger said he and Grams talked recently about what Grams called honest conservatism.
"He says the first thing is you take seriously your own responsibilities of other people. Take responsibility for your actions, take responsibility for those around you and the people you develop relationships with and the people you don't yet know that in one way or another you may be a gift to," said Durenberger.
Grams' former Senate assistant, Rev. Richard Kunst, delivered the eulogy.
Grams lost his battle with colon cancer last week, and had been in hospice care at his home in Crown, Minn.. He was 65.
Grams leaves behind four children and several grandchildren, along with countless friends and former co-workers from across the country.
Tuesday's service was held at Zion Lutheran Church in St. Francis. He was buried at a cemetery just down the street from Zion Lutheran Church of Crown.
Memorials to honor Rod Grams' legacy may be sent to:
Crown Christian School
7515 269th Ave NW
St. Francis, MN 55070