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Mayor Rybak’s Mother Reflects On His Childhood

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
Angela Davis joined the station in 2006. Angela co-anchors the Sund...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Parents of young children have big dreams for their little ones, and hope they grow up to do big things. With Mother’s day coming up on Sunday, WCCO talked with a mom whose child did, in fact, grow up to be a leader.

He grew up to become the Mayor of Minneapolis.

Lorraine Mesken is the mother of R.T. Rybak, and currently lives at the same South Minneapolis house where she raised Rybak and his brother and sister. Many baby pictures still cover the walls inside.

I asked her about his personality when he was in school.

“R.T. was always ready to go,” said Mesken about Rybak’s personality in his school days. “Even in the neighborhood, he was always organizing something — a parade or a play date or some adventure. ‘Let’s go swimming, let’s go around the lake, let’s go do something.’ That’s always been very, very evident.”

But the mayor’s mother also said he was a messy and disorganized child who struggled to wear matching socks. In fact, she’s still surprised when she sees him delivering speeches today.

“It is all pulled together and it makes sense. And there’s numbers and there’s this and that, and I’m thinking how organized all of this is. And it just amazes me because I’m thinking about the little kid,” she said.

But she did have an early clue he’d go into politics when on a field trip to Minneapolis City Hall when Rybak was a Cub Scout.

“RT said to me, ‘Someday I’m going to be mayor.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s nice honey.’ It thought it was like saying I want to be a fireman or police officer. I never dreamed he’d think of doing it,” she said.

Rybak lost his father when he was a young boy. Mesken said her husband died after a heart attack and a stroke when her three children were in elementary school. She was able to hold her family together and keep her kids on track.

Now in his mid-50s, Rybak still calls his mother on the way to work in the morning.

“Now this is a good son,” Mesken said. “I raised my children with three priorities — to be optimistic, to treat others the way you want to be treated, and to understand that people are not all like you. If someone grows up feeling that way, and know that way, they will make it in life.”

Mesken is 85 years old and she says all she wants on Mother’s Day this Sunday is for the mayor will go to church with her.

She turned down his offer to go out to breakfast and told him to cook breakfast for his wife, the mother of his two children.

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