Tomassoni was dedicated lawmaker
Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisholm) was a dedicated Iron Range lawmaker who led the way on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research funding. He died in August from the disease. Tomassoni was 69 and was in hospice care in Duluth.
One of the veteran lawmaker’s last accomplishments was pushing through a $25 million allocation to support ALS research and caregivers during the 2022 session. By the time the measure was signed into law, Tomassini was using a wheelchair and speech synthesizer. At the signing ceremony he said, ‘This bill means hope.”
Many elected leaders paid tribute to Tomassoni after his death. “David was a champion for his constituents, the Iron Range, and all of Minnesota,” said Gov. Tim Walz. “I am honored to have known him and to have worked together to pass millions of dollars in funding for ALS research and caregiver support last session. His legacy will continue to help people in Minnesota for generations.”
He was a lifelong Iron Range resident. Tomassoni spent 16 years playing professional hockey in Italy. He was on Italy’s national team for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.
Elected to the House in 1992 and the Senate in 2000, Tomassoni led on Iron Range and northern Minnesota interests. He and fellow Iron Ranger, Sen. Tom Bakk, split with Senate Democrats in 2020 to focus on the economic concerns of their region.
He is survived by his wife Charlotte, three children and their families, and other family members and friends. Memorials are preferred to Never Surrender, an ALS charity. Services have been held.
Weber served on state council
Gary Weber was not only an accomplished wheelchair racer, he led a life of service to people with disabilities. Weber died in August. He was 75 and lived in St. Paul.
A native of Red Wing, Weber graduated from Red Wing High School and Southwest State University. He loved sales and owned and operated United Supply Company. Travels to Hawaii and classic cars were also favorites. He was a member of the Minnesota Street Rod Association and Red Wing Bearing Burners.
Weber became a paraplegic after a 1965 automobile accident. He took up wheelchair marathon racing and was often seen training around Lake Como in St. Paul. His community service included time on the Minnesota Council on Disability.
He is survived by siblings and their families. Memorials are preferred to Courage Kenny. Services have been held.
Ario spoke of life experiences
Bruce Ario used his life experiences with mental illness and brain injury to help others. Ario died in August after a fall at his home. He was 67 and lived in Minneapolis.
Ario grew up in southwest Minneapolis, and earned a degree in economics from the University of Minnesota. He struggled with mental illness, sustained a brain injury in a motor vehicle accident and was unable to complete law school.
He struggled to find appropriate mental health services and went without effective treatment and medication for five years. He endured bouts of homelessness while pursuing his legal studies. In 1984 he finally found the therapy and medication he needed to turn his life around.
Ario went on to become both a beneficiary and public advocate for Tasks Unlimited. There he led various work teams for the last 35 years of his life. He won multiple awards, including the John K. Trepp Innovator of the Year Award in 2013 for “creative thinking that carries on the spirit of the Fairweather philosophy to help people reclaim their lives from the limitations of mental illness.”
He was a frequent public speaker for Tasks, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, National Association of Social Workers, law enforcement and other groups on how best to understand and support people with mental illness. Ario wrote novels and poetry, and took part in writers’ workshops and groups. He enjoyed marathon running and was a lay leader and mission trip volunteer at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.
Ario is survived by three brothers, their families and many friends. Services have been held. Memorials preferred to Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church or Tasks Unlimited.
His voice was familiar
Benjamin “Benny” James had a voice Radio Talking Book listeners would recognize. James died in August. He was 71 and lived in St. Paul.
He began teaching music in St. Paul in 1969, starting at Mechanic Arts High School, then at the performing arts center at Webster, and Central High School. He retired from St. Paul Public Schools in June of 2001, moving to eight years teaching fine arts at Cretin-Derham Hall. He sang in church choirs.
One of his most cherished uses of his voice talent was as a volunteer reader at Minnesota State Services for the Blind from December 1992 until March 2020.
He is survived by his wife Faye, a son and daughter and their families, and other family members and friends. Memorials are preferred to the Communications Center at the Minnesota State Services for the Blind. Services have been held.
Menge honored for her work
Sandra Anne Sorensen Menge was a tireless advocate for people facing challenges. Menge died in August after a long illness. She was 79 and lived in St. Paul.
Menge worked for many years providing social work care to patients at Walker Methodist and through Fairview Hospice. She also was a conservator and volunteered as a Befriender.
She was a longtime board member with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota, receiving a NAMI Lifetime Achievement Award.
She is survived by her husband Peter, two sons and their families, and many other relatives and friends. Memorials preferred to NAMI Minnesota. Services have been held.