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Janklow remembered as fiery, wild but with a gentle side

A large crowd of friends, family and dignitaries such as South Dakota Supreme Court Justice David Gilbertson, lower right, gathers at Our Savior's Lutheran Church for the funeral of former Gov. Bill Janklow, Wednesday in Sioux Falls. Janklow died last week after a months-long battle with brain cancer. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers) (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)

SIOUX FALLS -- Bill Janklow was remembered as a fiery man with a gentle side he mostly kept hidden during his funeral Wednesday morning in Sioux Falls.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle gave the eulogy at a packed First Lutheran Church after Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke at the start of the 90-minute service. Russ Janklow remembered his father with a mixture of humorous remarks and poignant memories.

The funeral drew several hundred people, including former and current senators, governors, members of Congress, and other politicians. Some of the luminaries were George McGovern, John Thune, Tim Johnson, Tom Daschle, Mike Rounds, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Dennis Daugaard, Lars Herseth and Steve Kirby.

Daugaard, who spoke first, said Russ Janklow told him he didn't think that was how his father would die. The younger Janklow said he was convinced his hot-tempered father would die of a heart attack while shouting to someone on a phone.

"He could make us mad," Daugaard said.

"Wow, what a ride. Wild Bill," Russ Janklow said of his father, whom he spoke of in the present tense.

Daschle said people came together despite their personal and political differences for one reason:

"To celebrate the life of the greatest governor the state of South Dakota has ever had."

Daschle said Janklow was a combination of Gen. George Patton and Mother Theresa, a man with a remarkable intelligence - "And he knew it, too. He had self-confidence to spare. Bill was sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but he was never in doubt."

Daschle said Janklow took a lot of heat for their bipartisan friendship but never backed down, writing a harsh letter to The New York Times when it published a critical story on Daschle.

"He defined the word loyalty," Daschle said.

Daschle said his friendship with Janklow wasn't unique. Many Democrats claimed a tight bond with the GOP politician, he said.

That kind of bipartisan cooperation and respect is needed now more than ever, he said.

Janklow died a week ago at 72, two months after he announced he was suffering from terminal brain cancer. He served four terms as the state's governor and was also elected attorney general and to Congress before his political career ended after he struck and killed a motorcyclist after running a stop sign in 2003.

Bishop David Zellmer, who presided over the service, said for some people, there was no excuse for the fatal crash and no forgiveness for Janklow.

"Except in Jesus Christ," Zellmer said. "There is forgiveness. Your sin is forgiven."