Lisa Mack

Honored by:Steven W. Churchill
Brick location:E:12  map

The chapel at St. Augustin's Catholic Church in Des Moines filled up quickly and soon people had to stand in the back. The thin winter light picked up the bright colors from the stained-glass windows and cast them onto the faces of the mourners.

Elizabeth Dole, wife of the Presidential candidate, one of the last to arrive, sat quietly in a reserved pew behind the parents Lisa Mack.

Lisa Mack was 24 when she died Jan. 24, her car crushed by a semi-trailer truck in a blinding snow-storm. She was a Bob Dole volunteer and had been spending nearly every free hour trying to assure his victory in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 8. She never made a dime from it. She did it because she believed: in the man, in the message, in the moment.

And when Father Tom Crowley, who celebrated the mass for Lisa this day, said the fine and true things that priests say, he also said his words would not be adequate. They weren't. He could not explain why the good die young.

Lisa Mack was born in Minnesota and had graduated from Iowa State University. She was devoted to her sorority Alpha Chi Omega and would return there long after she had left the campus.

She was food editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine and her first bylined story is scheduled for the April issue.

"The first day she was on the job she put up a Dole sticker on her door," Pat Teberg, 32, senior food editor at the magazine, said. "I couldn't believe it. Until then I joked that out of the 26 food editors I was the only Republican."

Teberg was not only a Republican, but also a Dole supporter and volunteer chairman of Polk County, which contains Des Moines and is the largest county in the state. Lisa went to work for her.

"She would work at the magazine during the day and then come and work for Dole at night and on weekends," Teberg said.

Lisa's job was to work the phones, identifying likely Dole voters and also to recruit others into the campaign. It is tedious, often frustrating, and absolutely essential work.

"She was sitting here Thursday night, the last time I saw her alive and she was phoning people," Teberg said sitting at a desk in Dole headquarters. "She was going home to Minnesota to see her sister in a play and then help out with the Dole campaign up there. Her mother worked for Dole up there. The last thing I remember is giving her a Dole button so she could wear it home."

On the way back from that trip, Lisa Mack was involved in a 17-car pile-up and died.

The Doles were hit hard by the news. They called her parents and expressed their condolences. They issued a statement saying they were "stunned."

Because Bob Dole has declined Secret Service protection, volunteers drive him around on his campaign stops. Lisa Mack was one of his drivers.

"That was the most exciting," Pat Teberg said. "It makes you nervous because you're so worried about speeding, but you get to hear the best conversations!" Afterwards we would always compare notes and Lisa would say: "I got to listen to strategy and everything!" It was really something.

"The last time she drove Senator Dole she posed for a picture with him before he got on the plane. That's the picture The Des Moines Register used when they wrote about her accident. It was nice. She was smiling."

Her friends remember that smile. And her passion for clothes and for gourmet cooking. "I never knew there were so many flavors of vinegar until I went shopping with Lisa," one of them said.

But, mostly, her friends remember her being there. At the campaign. On weekends, at night, whenever she was needed to make a call to stuff an envelope, to knock on a door.

For the candidates, the rewards of campaigning can be vast: They can be elected president. For the professionals on the staffs, there is a paycheck. But for the volunteers, it is different.

"Lisa believed in America," Teberg said. "She believed you can't sit back and wait for things to happen. She believed that each person should try to make a difference."

The front rows of the chapel were filled with Lisa Mack's sorority sisters. Many were still in school and wore their sorority pins over their hearts.

When the mass was over, they rose and walked to the front of the chapel and then turned and faced the rest of us. One read a song Lisa had selected for Rush Week. It contained the line: "I will remember you until the stars fall from the sky; I will remember you until the day I die."

Then they all sang a slow and haunting sorority song and tears began flowing down their soft, unlined cheeks, making silver tracks in the flickering light of the chapel candles.

Why did Lisa Mack spend all that time trying to make one man president? Because she was a true believer. A bearer of the torch. A dreamer of the dream.

And when I drove back to Dole headquarters after the service, the phones were still ringing there; the computers still himming and volunteers were being lectured on how to get out the vote.

Some things never stop

And some dreams never die.

And Lisa Mack would have wanted it that way.

--Roger Simon, Feb. 4, 1988

Submitted on 8/22/95