The life and legacy of Rod Grams - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

The life and legacy of Rod Grams

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  • Remembering Rod Grams, former U.S. Senator and KMSP anchor

    Remembering Rod Grams, former U.S. Senator and KMSP anchor

    Wednesday, October 9 2013 8:19 PM EDT2013-10-10 00:19:31 GMT
    Tuesday dawned as a sad day in Minnesota -- and for the KMSP family -- after news that former U.S. Senator and one-time news anchor Rod Grams died of colon cancer on Monday night at his home in Crown, Minn.
    Tuesday dawned as a sad day in Minnesota -- and for the KMSP family -- after news that former U.S. Senator and one-time news anchor Rod Grams died of colon cancer on Monday night at his home in Crown, Minn.
(KMSP) -

Where do you start with the life and legacy of Rod Grams?

Is it on that day, 20 years ago, when the new congressman from Minnesota was learning the ways of Washington? Or two years later, when he became a freshman U.S. senator? Perhaps you lead with the anchorman, here at Channel 9, with the baritone voice and staccato delivery.

No. It's better to begin near the end, with the man who privately battled colon and liver cancer for two years, deciding to end chemotherapy and spend his finals days in at home in hospice.

"The decision became evident, as far as my faith and where I'm going from here," Grams said by phone in September. "I always feel my last breath here will be my first breath in heaven, so I'm very comfortable with that."

Heather Harden sat next to Grams for most of his decade-long run on Channel 9.

"He set the bar high," Harden said. "He had a quiet strength about him."

Grams didn't just read the news – he seemed to breathe it. His words were precise, his preparation was impeccable, and he kept his politics to himself.

"None of us knew his politics when we worked with him," Harden said. "That's how private he was."

Longtime family friend Kent Kaiser said Grams' upbringing is a sort of rags-to-riches story, set on the Minnesota prairie. He grew up on a family homestead in Crown, Minn., near St. Francis. After television, he started a small construction firm. As the story goes, he became disillusioned by all the taxes.

"One day he just called up the Republican Party and said, ‘What can I do'," Kaiser said.

Grams was always a conservative with a capital C. He served in the Senate with Paul Wellstone – a polar opposite politically – yet he considered him a respected colleague.

"He was a calming influence in politics," Kaiser said. "He got along with everybody, all across the political spectrum, and you don't see that much today."

He served only one term in the Senate, defeated by now-Gov. Mark Dayton, but Grams stuck around, giving advice behind the scenes and mentoring other Republicans.

Grams attempted a couple of political comebacks -- running for Congress again and considering a run for governor -- but the game had changed. People played for keeps, and that wasn't Grams.

In the last few years, he had been running three small radio stations in Little Falls, Minn. Like many an old newsman, he loved the intimacy of radio.

In his final days, his beloved wife Christine never left his side.

Rod Grams always seemed right there with us, whether we were viewers or voters. In so many ways, he was so Minnesotan – so much like one of us.

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