GRANITE FALLS - They came to say goodbye, but the people gathered at Granite Falls Lutheran Church on Wednesday morning were also there to celebrate the life of Sen. Gary Kubly. The Minnesota state legislator was remembered not just for his public service, but for his soft-spoken personality, his faith and even his sense of humor.
"He saw his faith as directly related to his call to be a citizen," said the most Rev. Jon Anderson, bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, speaking at services for Kubly. "All week long, I've been hearing the same refrain from many people," Anderson said - one of thankfulness for Kubly's service.
Kubly, a Granite Falls resident, died March 2 at the age of 68. Kubly was elected to represent Senate District 20 in 2002, and before that he served three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2010.
The crowd Wednesday filled the church pews and overflowed into the basement, where a video feed of the services was running. People in attendance included Gov. Mark Dayton and state legislators, many of whom traveled to Granite Falls together by bus. Most legislative business in St. Paul was put on hold Wednesday so legislators could attend the funeral.
Dayton also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Wednesday, and declared it to be "Gary Kubly Day" in Minnesota in honor of the senator.
While remembrances of Kubly included his time as a Minnesota legislator, his political career was not the main focus of services. Speakers also recalled Kubly's commitment to serving others.
"In more than one way, Gary crossed bridges," said the Rev. Steve Carmany, one of the pastors presiding at Wednesday's services. He described Kubly as "a soft-spoken giant," with a caring heart that affected many parts of his life. Kubly was a Lutheran minister, and served churches in several area communities from Dovray to Clarkfield. Granite Falls Lutheran was one of the churches where he was pastor.
Kubly's work as a minister and as a senator made a difference for many people, Anderson said. He also had the ability to get along with other people and keep his work constructive.
"He taught me the importance of making a positive phone call, not just a complaining phone call, to your legislators," Anderson said
Kubly is survived by family members including his wife Pat, their three children, and grandchildren, and it was the Kubly family who offered closing words for the funeral services.
"We've had a lot of people tell us thank you for sharing our dad with them," said Erin Rodgers, Kubly's daughter.
She encouraged people to keep sharing the qualities they admired in Kubly with others.
"The beautiful thing about love is the more you give it, the more you get in return," she said. "That was the way our dad lived."