Several hundred people crowded into the Coon Rapids gymnasium Sunday to remember John Chrystal, the farmer, banker, politician and diplomat who died Wednesday of cancer. Governor Tom Vilsack paid tribute to Chrystal, who once ran for Governor himself and was an early backer of Vilsack. Vilsack said Chrystal was like a father to him — and Vilsack said the state is better for Chrystal’s work both here and overseas in building ties with Russia. Bill Bradley won Chrystal’s endorsement in this year’s Presidential race, and Bradley told the assembly Chrystal was an Iowan to his core, but the only farmer he knew who wore a bow tie. Chrystal, who died at age 74, traveled to Russia often after Nikita Khrushev visited his family’s farm in Coon Rapids in 1959. In 1996, Chrystal was awarded the “Order of Friendship” by Russians, only the second American to receive the honor.
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