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SIOUX FALLS -- The Bill Janklow era officially ended Wednesday with a memorial service for the former South Dakota governor before 1,200 mourners at Our Savior's Lutheran Church.

But Janklow's impact on the state doesn't have to die with his passing, former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle said during a stirring eulogy that was also a call to action.

Janklow-like action.

Daschle, who called Janklow a loyal friend who was "the best governor South Dakota has ever had," said his own presence as a main speaker at the memorial service for a Republican governor was a sign of what could and should be in a harshly partisan world.

"In this polarized, politicized and confrontational time, why not have a Democrat speak at a Republican funeral?" Daschle said. "And if he does, maybe together we can keep building monuments."

Janklow would love a legacy of such monuments, according to his son, Russell, who eulogized his father with a succession of stories and anecdotes that were humorous and poignant.

Despite his fiery style and often-confrontational nature, Janklow was not constricted by party lines when it came to getting things done. And he was increasingly troubled by the relentlessly partisan divide and "hate" that seemed to diminish politics today, said Russell, an attorney in Sioux Falls.

"My dad was bothered very much in the last several years by the polarization of politics, by the divisiveness," Russell said.

Bill Janklow "loved the Republican Party" and its principles but would not limit his friendships and work relationships to the GOP, his son said. Daschle, a controversial figure himself during his years as Senate Democratic leader, was a perfect case in point.

After hearing criticism about the Daschle-Janklow relationship from Republican friends, Russell asked his dad about the friendship. Bill Janklow said the more he had gotten to know Daschle years earlier, the better he had liked him.

"My dad said, ‘I liked him. I trusted him. He was good and he loved South Dakota as much as I did,'" Russell said.

Russell noted in particular Daschle's unfailing support when his dad was convicted of manslaughter in 2003 after he drove through a stop sign on a rural road and killed a motorcyclist. Daschle testified on Janklow's behalf in the trial and called Mary Dean Janklow during the time her husband was in jail - and beyond, Russell said.

"Once a week he called my mom to see how she was doing and if she needed anything," he said.

Daschle made it clear Tuesday that he fully returned Janklow's admiration and respect. Janklow once filled in a speaking engagement for Daschle after the former senator's father, Dash, died. And Janklow spoke publicly and fired off an angry defense of Daschle to the New York Times after a critical bit of reporting.

"Bill Janklow was the most loyal friend I have ever known," Daschle said. "There was literally nothing he wouldn't do in the name of friendship."

Like many others who eulogized Janklow since his death a week ago from brain cancer, Daschle had plenty of projects and programs to discuss.

Saving the railroads, wiring the schools for Internet, attracting the credit-card industry and its jobs, and creating the first statewide water development and management plan in history.

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Daschle also pointed to projects where he collaborated with Janklow, such as their landmark package of federal legislation returning Corps of Engineers land along the Missouri River to state and tribal control and establishing multi-million-dollar trust funds for recreational development and wildlife enhancement.

That wasn't just about bipartisan cooperation, Daschle said. It was also about friendship.

"Bill Janklow walked into my life many times when it seemed like the rest of the world walked out of it, Daschle said. "He defined the word loyalty."

Many friends loyal to Janklow attended the Wednesday service, which filled the main sanctuary and more than half of a secondary sanctuary that had live video of the service projected on large screens.

Republican state Sen. Stan Adelstein of Rapid City, a GOP moderate noted for working with Democrats in Pierre, began the service with a sounding of the shofar, a horn used in Adelstein's Jewish faith.

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It was also a nod to the Jewish tradition in the Janklow family, still followed by the former governor's brothers Art and Fred. Bill Janklow wasn't a regular at any church, although Bishop David Zellmer of the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American said Wednesday that he tried.

"I regularly invited the governor to church. He regularly said thank you, and he regularly did not attend," Zellmer said to laughter from those in attendance.

Yet Zellmer, who was Janklow's spiritual adviser in his declining days, said the former governor "was one who knew who he belonged to" and in his life did the service of God by serving the people. Zellmer said Art and Fred Janklow, representing "the Jewish side of the family," had made that clear the night before in conversation.

"They said, ‘I want you to know, we sent you our best rabbi,'" Zellmer said.

And with a nod to them he said: "Thank you."

Gov. Dennis Daugaard also spoke, noting that Russell Janklow had told him he "always thought his dad would die of a heart attack, yelling at someone on the phone or something. But that's not what happened."

What happened were medical tests in October that diagnosed inoperable cancer, followed by an emotional news conference in which Janklow disclosed that he was dying. Even so, the suddenness of Janklow's decline and death was unexpected, Daugaard said.

"Bill told us this was going to happen, but it's a shock," he said. "It's really hard to imagine a South Dakota without Bill Janklow."

Daschle agreed that it would be a difficult transition and ended his eulogy with a personal comment to Janklow.

"Thank you for being you," he said "We'll miss you, but only on days that end with Y."

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8414 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com

 

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