SLIDESHOW: Remembering Eleanor
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Eleanor Mondale Poling, daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale and a former WCCO Radio show host and WCCO-TV reporter, died early Saturday morning at age 51.
Poling had been battling brain cancer since 2005.
Poling is the daughter of former Vice President Walter Mondale and Joan Mondale. She is survived by her husband, Chan Poling, her parents and her two brothers, former Minnesota Sen. Ted Mondale and William Mondale.
Walter Mondale issued a statement to friends that read: “Joan and I must report that our wonderful daughter, Eleanor Mondale Poling, after her long and gutsy battle against cancer, went up to heaven last night to be with her angel. Thank you for all your friendship. She loved you. You will hear more about plans to celebrate her life in a short period but we wanted you to know as quickly as possible. We send our love.”
Poling attended St. Timothy’s Boarding School outside Baltimore, Md., and graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. After graduation, she went to Hollywood to begin her career.
She started her television career at WCCO-TV in the 1980s. She then worked for the E! Online cable channel, hosting shows including “Wild On” and “E! News Live.”
Poling started as an aspiring actress, with bit parts in TV’s “Three’s Company” and “Dynasty.” She also attracted a fair amount of press coverage on her own. Her dalliance with the late rock musician Warren Zevon was detailed in “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon,” a posthumous biography published by Zevon’s ex-wife in 2007.
In 1998, CBS News reported that Poling was one of four women Monica Lewinsky expressed resentment toward in taped conversations because of attention President Bill Clinton paid to them. (Mondale issued a statement saying her relationship with the president and his wife, Hillary, was “purely a friendship.”)
Poling was involved in her father’s 1984 presidential campaign, and made calls in 2002 in her father’s last campaign, when the former vice president took the ballot slot of Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash just days before the election.
In 2002, Poling started working as a reporter for ESPN, covering horse racing events. She also covered the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for ESPN2.
After working for ESPN, Mondale reported on auto shows around the world for the Speed Channel before moving to CBS and working on the program “This Morning.”
In June 2005, Poling married Minneapolis musician Chan Poling, of the group the Suburbs. Mondale and her husband lived on a small farm in Prior Lake, Minn., where they raised miniature horses.
In the summer of 2005, Poling was diagnosed with brain cancer after a bout of seizures. She was in remission by the summer of 2006 and she moved back home to Minnesota and joined Susie Jones on WCCO Radio, co-hosting the “Mondale and Jones” program from 9 a.m. to noon.
“I was terrified of her at first, she was so big, but you talked to her for a minute and you realized she was just as regular as you could expect,” Jones said. “She was uncanny, she was unpredictable. She sparkled. She was gorgeous inside and out. And I’m going to miss her; I’m going to miss her so much.”
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports
Poling’s cancer returned in 2008 and again in 2009. She had been off the air since March 19, 2009, when she announced that her brain cancer had returned a second time. She had surgery to remove the tumor Aug. 12, 2009, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a posting on her CaringBridge website declared the surgery a success.
“She would send me texts about how her (cancer) scan was. She had it every six weeks, and she would report how it was and how big it was. She hated that part,” said Jones, who visited Mondale on Thursday to say goodbye. “She fought very hard. She did not want to die. She had a lot of dignity in the end, and died quietly and beautifully.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he remembers Poling as a shy teenager who transformed into an accomplished woman.
The governor released a statement on Saturday, saying, “From the shy teenager I first met, Eleanor transformed — and transcended! — into a very beautiful, poised, multi-talented, and accomplished woman. She loved her family, friends, and animals, as she loved life. She battled her cancer heroically and endured its agonies courageously. I extend my deepest condolences to her family, who loved her so dearly.”
Poling was married twice before she married Poling, first to Chicago Bears offensive lineman Keith Van Horne, and then to fellow DJ Greg Thunder.
Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.
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