Reliance, Hanson Co. mourn losses of McManuses
The September loss of two leaders with the same last name has saddened Hanson and Lyman county communities.
Longtime Hanson County Commissioner Chester “Chet” McManus, 82, died unexpectedly Saturday at his Fulton home. Reliance Mayor Ronald J. “Red” McManus, 68, died Sept. 5 in Chamberlain.
The men were not related, but both shared a commitment to public service.
Chet McManus spent this past Friday helping his family with the harvest, said Carol, his wife of 61 years. Later that night, he died in his sleep.
Carol McManus said her husband struggled with fatigue in the past year, the result of complications from viral meningitis he contracted in August 2012, but he soldiered on.
He served 23 years on Hanson County’s board of commissioners.
Commission chairman Ed Engelmeyer said McManus’ death took everyone by surprise. McManus, he said, had attended a state meeting of county officials in Spearfish, only weeks before, and was looking forward to serving out his final year as commissioner.
“We’re going to miss him,” Engelmeyer said. “His death was a shocker to me and most people.” Engelmeyer said he knew McManus 33 years, and worked with him for five and a half years as fellow commissioners.
“Chet was a lifetime member of the county and he knew everybody. He’d seen a lot of county history and he will be tough to replace,” Engelmeyer said.
McManus’ funeral services were held Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church in Mitchell. A veteran of the Korean War, he was buried in the Servicemen’s Memorial Cemetery.
Engelmeyer said Hanson’s remaining commissioners will meet at 10:30 a.m. today with Hanson County State’s Attorney Jim Davies to discuss the procedure for finding McManus’ successor.
Carol McManus said her husband planned to serve out the final year of his current term of office and then retire.
“He enjoyed going to those meetings,” she said. “He considered it his job and he took it seriously.”
Carol McManus said sons Craig and Scott will continue the McManus farming tradition in Hanson County.
“We’re all still here,” she said.
Former Reliance Mayor “Red” McManus, died Sept. 5, at Sanford Medical Center in Chamberlain. He and triplet sisters Sheila and Sharon, who survive their brother, were born in Mitchell, on Feb. 25, 1945.
His obituary was featured in this month’s edition of the South Dakota Municipal League magazine.
“He was a heck of a nice guy,” said Raymond Wingert, who works at Farmers Union Oil company in Reliance and was a former employee of McManus. “He was willing to help anyone.”
McManus, who was noted for his sense of humor and outgoing demeanor, was profiled by his cousin Terry Woster in his regular Daily Republic column. Woster recalled the “goofy” Christmas cards he received from Red each year as well as his generous spirit. Others noted Red McManus’ mechanical aptitude, and his ability to recycle things discarded by others.
He volunteered as a 4-H leader, Boy Scout leader, curator of the Reliance Museum, promoter of the 2013 Scavenger’s Journey, and caretaker of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Reliance.
Most relatives left Lyman County to seek their fortunes, Woster wrote. Red didn’t.
“Red and a few others stayed, having discovered early on that fortune could be found at home: In families, in work and in a sense of community. Red and those others who stayed gave those of us who left a reason to come home again, an anchor to our childhoods, you might say. Red made it clear we were always welcome.”
Red regularly welcomed weather-stranded motorists into his home over the year, and made fast friends of many.
“My cousin Red had a big, Irish heart, a love of family and community and a boisterous but gentle nature,” Woster wrote. “I know this: Heaven just became a whole lot more lively.”