Joy Corning’s obituary, which she wrote herself, didn’t even mention her service as a state senator and lieutenant governor. Her daughters added those political achievements in a postscript.
Don Avenson may have been best known to Iowans as the former Democratic speaker of the Iowa House and a former candidate for governor. But the comment I saw most often about him on social media was “father figure.”
Both of these Iowa political icons will be remembered far less for their political accomplishments than for their characters and their strong interest in and empathy for others.
Corning, who died Saturday, focused in her last public words on her family and a few of the causes that she cared about: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Plymouth Church, University of Northern Iowa, and the Des Moines Symphony.
My closest contact with Corning came after she had left the lieutenant governor’s office in 1999. She worked to elect more women to public office and encouraged many to run. She cared about keeping politics out of the judiciary and worked to defend Iowa’s judicial nominating system. She was marginalized by the Republican Party for her support of gay marriage and abortion rights, which made her one of the nearly extinct breed of GOP moderates.
On many of those issues, she lost more battles than she won, but I never heard one discouraged word from her. She was unfailingly gracious but never stuffy. She modeled civility in…