Her parents, former vice president Walter Mondaleand Joan Mondale, e-mailed a statement to friends about their beloved “E.J.” It read, in part,”We 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.”
Except Eleanor has been surrounded by angels all her life all of them furry, and some feathered.She shared her Minnesota farm with abestiary ofanimalcompanions, includingdogs, miniature horses, cats, and a rescued cockatoo.
Meanwhile, backin the barn, her chickens enjoyed deluxe accommodations beneath a crystal chandelier. With her characteristic wit, Eleanor referred to this part of her property as “Cluckingham Palace.”
I feel so fortunate thatI got to know her personally. A radio and TV personality in her native Minnesota, Eleanor rose to international fame just for being Walter Mondale’s daughter, and started out as an actress. But I’m surethatshe would’ve risen to fame even without a famousparent she always had the kind of larger-than-life personality and old-school glamour we expect ofmovie stars.
Except she was also elegantlyeasygoing and wonderfully down-to-earth, with a natural gift for handling and relating to big dogs. In 2001,Eleanor graciously appeared in my first book, Animal House Style and the photograph of her with her miniature horses and big Rottweilers, all hanging out in her Long Island living room, remains one of my favorites.
Later, in 2005, after she’d moved backhome to Minnesota, we worked together on a feature forCountry Living magazine about the sweet, horse-crazy lifestyle at her small farm. For me, producing that story was a career highlight and although it involveda lot of work, Eleanor singlehandedlymade it so much fun. She was aterrific hostess, making sure herall guests felt warmed up with a festive fallspread: Masala-spiced popcorn, caramel apples, cider the works. A confirmed vegetarian, she showed how delicious making meat-free menus can be.
She’d been a gossip magnet all her life, always linked romanticallytohigh-profile men among her paramours were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Warren Zevon, Don Henley, and Ronald O. Perelman. Shefully enjoyed her many walks on the wild side “it’s not murder, and I don’t do drugs,” she liked to say and was married no fewer thanthree times before finding Mr. Right, Chan Poling, her fourth husband. ButEleanor died peacefully, surrounded by her true loves: Chan and her dogs, including Owen the Mastiff (pictured above).
And bynow, I have no doubtthat she’s safelymade her way tothe Rainbow Bridge, where she’s beenreunited with the beloved dogs who predeceased her. Way to go, my friend. Rest in peace.