Basil Loveland, former Newport mayor, remembered as city 'patriarch'Basil Loveland, mayor of Newport for more than two decades and a larger-than-life presence in the small town he helped transition from village to city, has died.
Basil Loveland, mayor of Newport for more than two decades and a larger-than-life presence in the small town he helped transition from village to city, has died.
Under the watch of the well-liked Loveland, Newport constructed municipal water and sewer systems, overhauled city hall by hiring the first city administrator, and added full-time police and public works staff.
A patriarchal figure and civic force in Newport, the namesake for the city’s largest park served as mayor for 22 years, holding office from 1960 to 1982, and spent another five years as a member of the Newport City Council, in 1959, and again from 1989 to 1993.
“He was the heart and soul of Newport for a long, long time,” said John Walker, who succeeded Loveland as mayor. “When I ran for mayor after he decided not to, I said I would vote for Basil for mayor for the next 20 years. He was a tough act to follow.”
Loveland died Saturday of complications from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was 91.
Desire to give back
With $400 of discharge pay from his time as a ship welder in the Navy during World War II, Loveland and his wife, Lenore, purchased land on the Mississippi River in Newport in 1945. There, the St. Paul native built a home he would live in for the next 66 years.
His deep involvement in city affairs for decades stemmed from his desire to give back to a community that had rallied around his young family following a painful tragedy, his daughter, former Newport City Council member Pauline Schottmuller said.
Loveland’s young son, Paul, fell into the Mississippi River behind the family’s home and drowned. Neighbors quickly came to the family’s aide, taking up a collection and offering support.
“After that, mom and dad both felt that if there was some way to give back to Newport, they wanted to do that,” Schottmuller said. She called her father and public service “a good match.”
A welding supervisor at 3M before retirement, Loveland cared deeply for Newport, the place he and his wife, who died in 1998, raised five boys and two girls, Schottmuller said. She said she believes her father’s success as a city leader came down to his warm, considerate personality.
“He had that personal touch with people, and they always felt that dad was interested in them,” Schottmuller said. “And he was. That wasn’t him being a politician.”
Strong, but polite
Former Newport City Council member Judy Woods called Loveland “a truly good man.” Before she moved from the city, Woods lived a few blocks away from the longtime mayor, and got to know Loveland before she was appointed to the council after he had left city government.
“The room kind of lit up when Basil entered,” Woods said. “Partly because he was very friendly, and because he truly cared about what happened to Newport’s future.”
Even after he left city government, Loveland stayed in public service by serving on a Resource Recovery Technologies oversight board. He cared about the community, said former Washington County Commissioner Myra Peterson, who worked with him on issues.
“Basil was always the consummate gentleman. He’d be firm, but he’d be a gentleman,” Peterson said of Loveland as mayor. “He ran the city with an iron hand, but he did it so politely and so cautiously that no one was ever offended.”
Peterson said she viewed Loveland as the “patriarch” of Newport.
Visitation for Loveland will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 29 at Kok Funeral Home in Cottage Grove. Funeral mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 30 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings.
With her telephone ringing off the hook since Loveland’s death, Schottmuller said she has heard from dozens impacted by her father’s work.
“He was just a man I was very proud of,” she said.
Scott Wente contributed to this story.