In Memoriam: Mary Lundby

"I wanted to blaze a trail for women so that they would run for the legislature and be elected to the legislature and seek the leadership and try to set policy." — Former State Senator Mary Lundby.

Mary Lundby of Marion, a former state representative and state senator, died this morning.  The Cedar Rapids Gazette posted a story early this afternoon. 

Lundby's former colleagues in the Iowa Senate passed a resolution this week, honoring her.  I wrote a story for Radio Iowa.

It was both a difficult and an easy story to write – easy because Lundby's life was rich with action and substance; difficult because she was a woman who made no secret of the fact she was interested in seeing other women, including me, move up the ladder of success.  Nearly every Christmas I received a card from Lundby with a handwritten note inside about the importance of my work and the example I was setting for young women.  I always understood the admonition between the lines, too –  you've got a position of responsibility; don't screw it up.

Lundby was a gifted politician. Unlike many of today's politicians, she did not sound off on every issue.  When she spoke, people listened because it was a rare circumstance.  Brevity was her hallmark. 

The story I wrote and many of those which will be written about Lundby will mention she was the first woman to become Speaker Pro-Tem of the Iowa House.  What those stories fail to mention is that after she put over 100,000 miles on her own car campaigning with Republican candidates for the Iowa House in 1992 — helping Republicans win a majority of seats in the Iowa House — her male colleagues did not reward her with the top job in the House.  "Iowa's just not ready for a woman speaker," some of the men said at the time.     

Lundby next ran for and won a seat in the Iowa Senate, where she served for 14 years and eventually was elected to the top spot there — Co-Majority Leader when Republicans and Democrats each held 25 seats in the state senate and the parties shared power.

Lundby shared herself with others.   A couple of years ago she was at a Des Moines hospital, quietly sitting at the bedside of an old friend who many in the political community had forgotten or, worse, shunned.  Lundby was loyal, to the end, to that friend and – I'm sure – to countless others.  

Some of the current statehouse leaders have issued written statements today.  The first came from House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha.

(DES MOINES)— House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) released the following statement today upon learning of the passing of his friend, mentor, and colleague, Mary
Lundby. “Sen. Mary Lundby was a strong voice, a compassionate public servant and a dedicated Iowan who will be greatly missed,” said Paulsen. “Mary’s frank candor earned her allies on both sides of the aisle and her take-charge attitude gained her respect from all over Iowa. Today we are all saddened by the loss of our good friend.”

The next two came from the governor and lieutenant governor.


"Today, the First Lady and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former State Senator and Senate Leader Mary Lundby.  Mary was more than just a colleague and dedicated public servant, she was a friend.  Countless Iowans have been touched by her years of hard work for our state, and she will truly be missed.  On behalf of the First Lady and all Iowans, I want to extend my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to Mary's family, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time."


“This is a sad day for the Lundby family, and a sad day for our state.  Mary Lundby was a dear friend to me.  Both John and I had the pleasure of serving with Mary in the state senate.  Throughout her political career and in her personal life, she showed nothing but courage and passion for the things she believed in, and she never backed down.  This is why, from the first day I stepped into the capitol, she had both my respect and admiration.  Though we may have come from different sides of the aisle, we both shared a deep love of this state.  I will miss her.”    

UPDATE:   RPI Chairman's statement on the passing of Mary Lundby.

(Des Moines) — Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn released the following statement today upon learning of the passing of former Iowa Senate GOP leader Mary Lundby: "Senator Lundby was a passionate and tireless advocate for her constituents.  She was a dedicated public servant who remained true to her Linn County roots.  My deepest condolences go out to Mary's many family and friends throughout the state."

UPDATE:  at about 5:30 p.m., the GOP leader in the Iowa Senate issued a statement.

DES MOINES – Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton), Republican Leader of the Iowa Senate, issued the following statement today regarding the passing of former Senator Mary Lundby of Marion: “Today, Iowans lost a true friend and trailblazer who spent over two decades of her life as a tireless public servant and true champion for her constituents. Mary Lundby was a dear friend and colleague who valiantly fought her battle with cancer.  I will continue to keep her family in my thoughts and prayers as we all mourn her loss.”

UPDATE:  Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Mt Vernon) issued a statement Saturday night.

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement on the passing of former State Senator and Senate Leader Mary Lundby: “Former State Senator and Senate Leader Mary Lundby will be greatly missed, she was a tremendous public servant and I extend my sympathies to her family and friends.  Mary had a wonderful ability to inspire women to pursue careers in public service, and I am certain this will serve as her lasting legacy.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.