Culver to be buried in McGregor

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John C. Culver during the time the family had a home in McGregor, from 1969-1982.

The Culver family lived in the historic Heights Hotel. (NIT file photos)

Former Iowa congressman and senator John C. Culver passed away Dec. 26, at age 86, at his home near Washington, D.C. However, it won’t be the nation’s capital, or even Cedar Rapids, where Culver grew up, that will serve as the Democratic politician’s final resting place. Rather, it will be McGregor. 

The Culver family called the river town home from 1969 to 1982. They lived in the historic McGregor Heights Hotel, which, at one time, held sessions of the famed Wildlife School. President Jimmy Carter visited the Culver home during a trip to the area in 1979. 

“The Culver family call it their favorite place in the world,” stated an old edition of the North Iowa Times. “The Culvers have preserved many of the touches of the old Heights Hotel. To this, they have added their interest in the Mississippi River and the Delta Queen. The view from the two porch levels provides one of the finest scenic overlooks of the Mighty River and the backwaters of the Fish and Wildlife Service.” 

On McGregor’s Main Street, the Culvers initiated restoration work on the Goedert Building, later known as the Main Street Mall, which was destroyed by the 2017 tornado. 

“In 1972, John Culver, congressman for the second district of Iowa, purchased the building in anticipation of making a run for the senate in 1974,” according to historical information provided by the McGregor Public Library. “His expectation of making the northeast Iowa building his office never fully materialized even though his candidacy was successful.” 

Culver began the process of cleaning, refurbishing and restoring the building in 1975, in hopes of completing the project in time for the bicentennial. 

“The exterior was cleaned, the brick tuck pointed, and the storefront and wood parts of the building painted,” explained the historical account. “Senator Culver arranged for the installation of the brick courtyard paved with Purrington Paver bricks from the streets of Chicago and age appropriate to the building. The bricks are laid in the same herringbone pattern as those at the Villa Louis, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The interior walls in the storefront were stripped down to the wainscoted wood. New plumbing, wiring, and heating systems were installed. The clay tile walls in the part of the building used for processing were preserved, as was some of the overhead tracking.” 

Culver’s work didn’t just leave an architectural mark in McGregor. He left his personal mark with residents, as well. Following the news of Culver’s death, people shared memories and kind words on Facebook. 

“He was a nice man,” said many. 

“A good man who really cared for McGregor,” noted another. 

In a statement, Culver’s son Chet, the former Iowa governor, called his father “a man of remarkable character. He was courageous and compassionate. He lived his life thankful for the opportunity to serve, and he taught me the importance of service to others.” 

John Culver served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 to 1974 and in the U.S. Senate from 1974 to 1980. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Mary Jane , as well as four children and eight grandchildren.

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