116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Don Avenson, a Democrat from Oelwein who became the longest-serving speaker of the Iowa House and an unsuccessful rival of Terry Branstad for governor, died Friday night. He was 72.
Avenson first was elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1972 and served until 1990. He was speaker from 1983 to 1990.
In 1990, he challenged Branstad but lost by more than 200,000 votes - clearing Branstad for his third term.
'I was sorry to hear of Don Avenson's passing last night,” Branstad said in a statement Saturday. 'Don was a strong and effective legislator and Speaker of the Iowa House who cared deeply about his constituents and the people of Iowa. Even though we sometimes disagreed on policies, I knew that I could always rely on his word. Together we were able to accomplish many things. The Avenson family is in Chris and I's thoughts and prayers.”
According to a tweet Saturday from the Des Moines Register, Avenson suffered a heat attack in western Nebraska while on vacation.
Most recently, Avenson was a lobbyist. In the 2017 session earlier this year, records show he registered to represent 24 clients, including the city of Coralville, Cedar Ridge Vineyards and Casey's General Store.
According to his biography at the University of Northern Iowa, where he had been a graduate student, Avenson was born Sept. 16, 1944, in Minneapolis.
His family moved to Oelwein, where he attended high school. Later, he earned a bachelor's of science degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin before attending UNI starting in 1971.
Avenson went to work at the family business - Oelwein Tool and Die Company - and remained there during his political career. He became its president 1984, according to the biography.
He and his wife, Diane, have three children.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Jamison-Schmitz Funeral Home in Oelwein.