Halvorson honored at state capitol

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Connie Halvorson attended a ceremony last month at the state capitol in Des Moines honoring her late husband, Roger, and other recently-passed legislators. She was joined by the couple’s children, Tracey (left), Jay, Rogeta and Lisa. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The late Roger Halvorson was honored at the state capitol in Des Moines last month in a ceremony recognizing former legislators who had recently passed away. He was one of 19 people who were remembered at the ceremony, which included music and the reading of a bio about each politician.

It was an emotional moment for the family, shared Roger’s wife, Connie, who was married to Roger for nearly 60 years, as the family hadn’t been to the capitol since Roger finished out his 11th, and final, term in office in 1996. He began serving Clayton County in 1974. 

“There was a lot of information about who served,” she said. “It was very nice, and I’m glad the family could all be there and remember those times.”

Connie said she remembered Roger’s last hoorah well.

“The kids came down for one last time and then came back to the house,” she recalled, noting it was the first time all their children—Jay, Rogeta, Tracey and Lisa—had been to Roger and Connie’s home along the riverfront in Marquette since it was built. “We didn’t leave for two days,” she said, as they spent time catching up.

Following his stint as state representative, Roger remained involved in state politics for another several years, serving as director of the Department of Commerce from 1997 to 1999.

“It was a busy time,” said Connie of Roger’s tenure in office. “There was a lot of driving back and forth, with four-hour trips. They didn’t have Highway 20 done at that time.”

Roger would usually arrive back home late Thursday evening or Friday morning each week. However, there wasn’t much downtime then either, said Connie. He visited constituents in different communities, then headed to their insurance and real estate office in Monona, working there until late Saturday. Sunday, the family would head to church, then he was back on the road by late afternoon. He made special trips home during the week to attend the kids’ activities, such as graduations, she added.

The family always managed to stay connected, though, Connie noted.

“We would take the kids along to fundraisers just so we could all eat together,” she said with a smile. “There were a lot of chicken dinners.”

Connie said she and Roger talked every day and she traveled to Des Moines for special occasions, like his birthday.

“It was Feb. 12—he and Abe,” she mused.

She also fielded calls from constituents at their home while he was away, as most of his career took place before cell phones made people more easily accessible. 

“Most people had good questions,” she said. “I gave them his number and headed them in the right direction.”

Both before and after Roger’s passing in November, Connie said she was touched to receive kind words from people who appreciated Roger’s willingness to listen, help and solve problems.

“He had to have thick skin,” she said. “He was such a good mediator and got everyone together. He was just good with people.”

Before Roger died, Connie said several men he worked with over the years visited or called, including Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley.

After Roger passed, Connie said she was sorry not to hear from Cliff Branstad (one of Terry’s cousins), with whom Roger served. She eventually found out Cliff had passed away eight days later. His wife also attended the ceremony at the capitol last month, and Connie said she enjoyed seeing her and other acquaintances.

“We made a lot of friends,” she said. “They became like family.”

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