SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle said Wednesday that at a time in his career when it seemed even his Democratic colleagues were turning their backs, it was a Republican _ Bill Janklow _ who stood by him.
South Dakota’s former four-term governor always thought friendships mattered more than politics, Daschle said in delivering Janklow’s eulogy to a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
“Bill Janklow walked into my life when I saw many walk out. He defined the word loyalty,” the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota told the crowd at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls.
Daschle said Janklow accurately summed up his life and career during his last press conference in November. “I gave a damn about what I did,” he said in announcing he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Janklow, who following his four terms as governor resigned as the state’s lone congressman in 2003 after causing a fatal traffic accident, died Thursday after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 72.
His funeral drew politicians, friends, family and everyday citizens from across the state as they remembered a man with the blustery personality who took risks.
Russ Janklow said his father was both generous and argumentative. He said he was happiest when he was water skiing, flying an airplane, watching his beloved Chicago Bears or spending time with his grandchildren.
Janklow’s family announced Wednesday that the former governor’s healthy corneas were donated, and that a stranger’s eyesight is expected to be restored later this week as a result.
“I think he’d be happy to hear that _ contributing to the very end,” said Russ Janklow, who also drew several laughs during his speech.
In one case, Russ Janklow recalled a conversation he had with his father, who enjoyed performing pro-bono legal work, after the two became partners at a law firm.
“I said, `Dad, this is supposed to be a profitable business,'” Russ Janklow said as the mourners chuckled.
In another instance, Russ Janklow recounted how his father would share the same stories over and over during trips to his hometown of Chicago with his children and grandchildren.
Russ Janklow said his father had started experiencing symptoms the month prior to the announcement. The elder Janklow told reporters at the time that his one regret in life was running a stop sign in 2003 and causing the fatal wreck. Everything else, he’d do the same, he said.
“My dad’s a fallible man. We’re all fallible. Human beings make human-being mistakes,” Russ said.
Janklow didn’t always seem destined to become such a political force. He was a “hell-raising high school dropout” who talked his way into the University of South Dakota despite not having his degree, Daschle said.
“I’m told … Bill was known as someone who could speak at a remarkable 80 words per minute with gusts up to 120,” he added with a laugh.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard praised Janklow for saving rail service in the state, being the first on the scene to a natural disaster and wiring public school classrooms.
“It’s hard to imagine a South Dakota without Bill Janklow,” he said.
More than anything, Daugaard said, Janklow taught South Dakotans that despite the state’s small size and remoteness, there is no reason to believe they are second-rate.
“That is his greatest legacy and his greatest gift to South Dakota,” Daugaard said. “Bill Janklow showed us there is nothing that South Dakota cannot achieve – because he achieved so much himself.”
Follow Kristi Eaton on Twitter at
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)