Legislators remember their own: The South Dakota Legislature just completed a memorial service for eight former members who died in 2012. It was relatively brief, about 25 minutes, and includes several prayers, several songs performed by the Riggs High School choir, and a memorial joint resolution.
The former lawmakers who died in the past year included U.S. Senator Jim Abdnor (who served in the state Senate from 1957-1968), and two with children or grandchildren currently serving: Rep. Roger Solum’s father Burdette Solum (House 1991-1992, 1998-2004), and Sen. Jason Frerichs’ grandfather Bert Ellingson (House 1969-1980).
The others remembered were Leonard Andera (Senate 1985-1990), Eddie Clay (House 1967-1974), Rudy Henderson (Senate 1965-1966, 1969-1970), Maurice LaRue (House 2003-2004), and George Shanard (Senate 1975-1992).
Former lawmaker Gil Koetzle, who committed suicide last week, was not remembered today, because he died this year and the service was for lawmakers who died in 2012.
Two of the four ordained ministers in the Legislature read prayers: Rep. Steve Hickey and Rep. Scott Craig. (The other two, Rep. Karen Soli and Rep. Bill Van Gerpen, did not participate.)
Sen. Mike Vehle, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint-Select Committee On Memorials, praised the deceased lawmakers as selfless public servants.
"They all decided to put their roles and their occupations and their families on hold for nearly three months each year to travel to Pierre," Vehle said.
Why did they serve? “We all know they didn’t do it for the money,” he said to laughs. Instead, he said, they “loved this state” and “wanted to make a difference.”
Above: State Rep. Roger Solum places a rose in remembrance of his father, former state representative Burdette Solum, who died last year.