Gore gets autograph of Stewart

The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Thurs., April 2, 1998

By Dale Kueter
Gazette staff writer

Wednesday was an exciting day for many people associated with the Osada housing development in southeast Cedar Rapids. Having the vice president of the United States come to your dedication party is no small event.

Mary Schoen-Clark, president of MidAmerica Housing Partnership (MAHP), was proud to show off the five-story apartment complex. The 67-unit building at 905 Third St. SE is 70 percent rented.

Liz Fraley of Hiawatha, a freshman at Kirkwood Community College and a participant in MAHP’s EcoYouth recycling program, said she “never would have guessed” she’d get to meet the vice president.

And it will be a memorable day for Laurie Norton, 5-yearold daughter of Joel Norton, an Osada resident. The vice president crouched down to shake her hand and ask her age.

But no one will be able to match Mary Stewart and her story about the day she met Vice President Al Gore.

Stewart, an Osada resident, was featured in The Gazette Wednesday where she told how her father had met President Truman in the 1940s. She noted meeting dignitaries was becoming “sort of a family tradition.”

“He asked me to autograph the article,” Stewart said after she and Osada officials met with Gore before his address. “Then he gave me a big hug. I don’t think President Truman hugged my dad.

“Then he asked me, ‘Do you think this was on a par with what Truman did?’ I said, sure.

“It was awesome. He was sensitive to everyone in the room. He has restored my faith in government. And I was surprised what he knew about Cedar Rapids. He was in tune with what’s going on here and the technical aspects of the revitalization funding.”

Gore handlers refused to let reporters attend the meeting between the vice president and Osada representatives. Photographers had a brief “photo op.”

Not having the press present “gives the Osada people and the vice president a chance to speak freely,” said Jody Sakol of the vice president’s office in Washington, D.C.

Others at the private session included Mayor Lee Clancey, MAHP Chairman Tom Aller, Mike Tramontina of KansasCity, Mo., representing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other Osada officials.

“He talked about the building and about plans to extend revitalization to the old Sinclair packing area,” said Schoen- Clark. She said Gore joked about Clancey’s desire to move quickly in redeveloping the old packinghouse area that housed Farmstead Foods until the plant closed in 1990.

Clancey is co-chair of the Brownfield Task Force within the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Brownfield is a term used for dormant urban areas that once were vital parts of a community.

“I talked with him on the ride in from airport,” said Clancey. “One of his pet issues is recycling
of urban land and urban buildings. So I think he was impressed that we are trying to do the kind of things he likes.”

Clancey said she hopes Gore’s staff will look favorably on the grant application to assess development possibilities of the old Farmstead property.

Mingling and individual meetings followed Gore’s address.

But Mary Stewart was the celebrity. After being interviewed by the Fox Network, she continued her story about Gore.

“My grandson’s class at St. Matthew’s School signed a large welcome sign,” said Stewart. “Mr. Gore asked me, ‘Where is your grandson’s signature?'”