SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Friends and family remembered former South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow Wednesday as generous, loyal, fallible and sometimes stubborn, and former Sen. Tom Daschle said the Republican always stuck by his friends — even the Democratic ones.
Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat who remained close to Janklow despite their political differences, said during his eulogy that Janklow never cared when people taunted him about their friendship.
"Bill Janklow walked into my life when I saw many walk out. He defined the word loyalty," Daschle said, speaking to a funeral crowd of more than 1,000 people at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls.
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.
Janklow, who served four terms as governor but resigned as South Dakota's lone congressman after causing a fatal traffic accident, died Thursday after a months-long battle with cancer. He was 72.
Daschle said Janklow summed his life and career up well during his last press conference in November — "I gave a damn about what I did" — to media as he announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard praised Janklow for saving rail service in the state, converting a university into a prison where inmates got vocational training and wiring public school classrooms.
"It's hard to imagine a South Dakota without Bill Janklow," he said.
Janklow's son, Russ, 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.
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 identically, he said.
"My dad's a fallible man. We're all fallible. Human beings make human-being mistakes," he 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.