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Pat Adam, a self-assured, gracious woman

The other day, as I drove near the Capitol building, I pulled to the curb briefly to study the Trail of Governors sculpture of George T. Mickelson. I find it the most striking of the sculptures along the trail. All are nicely done, but this one e...

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The other day, as I drove near the Capitol building, I pulled to the curb briefly to study the Trail of Governors sculpture of George T. Mickelson.

I find it the most striking of the sculptures along the trail. All are nicely done, but this one especially catches the eye. Located along the sidewalk west of the Capitol, the sculpture captures the late governor striding purposefully, shoulders back, head high, clad in a double-breasted suit and holding the snap brim of a dress hat in one hand.

I thought to myself, not for the first time, "I need to write a short note to Pat and tell her how much I admire this statue of her father." Pat, of course, is Pat Mickelson Adam, daughter of Gov. George T. Mickelson and sister of Gov. George S. Mickelson. As with so many things a person intends to do, I got busy and didn't get around to penning a quick note and dropping it in the mail.

I won't get that chance now. Pat Adam died on Thursday. She was 80. She was a member of the Trail of Governor's Foundation, the group that oversees the creation and placement of the sculptures of South Dakota's governors. Around the corner and down the street from where George T. Mickelson's sculpture strides, Gov. George S. Mickelson's sculpture faces the street with a big smile and equally big hand outstretched to greet passersby.

Pat Adam was terribly proud to be the daughter and the sister of governors. That certainly didn't define her life, though. She was a self-assured and gracious woman, with a courtly, almost Old World manner. She lived most of her adult life in Pierre, where she raised a family and immersed herself in civic and community activities, both local and statewide. She served on the Pierre School Board and the South Dakota Community Foundation board, among many others.

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I came to know her first because we both had children involved in athletics, in music, in ballet. She missed few activities. I came to know her better during the years she served on the school board and I covered the board for the local newspaper. She understood that only a few citizens attended the meetings, and she expected the newspaper and its reporter to distribute accurate, informative accounts of official actions. She also understood the board had a responsibility to make sure the necessary information was available. That made my job much easier.

It used to tickle me she called her brother "Speak,'' short for "Speaker,'' which was George S. Mickelson's given middle name. I will never forget the moment I met her on the stairway of the Capitol as preparations were being finalized for the memorial service for her brother, who died April 19, 1993, in the crash of a state airplane. It was a terrible time, the entire state was mourning. Pat accepted my condolences with a small smile, touched my shoulder briefly and said, "Today, we celebrate,'' meaning that through the grief, the joy of a good life would not be forgotten.

Many years later, I participated in a program about the Rapid City flood of 1972. I ended my remarks by saying the only news event in my years as a reporter that compared to the flood happened in April 1993. Afterward, Pat and her husband, Tom, came up and shared vivid memories of the flood.

Pat worked on the staff of the state Senate for about a dozen years, including service as Secretary of the Senate. During the down times - there are many in legislative sessions - as we waited for senators to return to the chamber, we sometimes talked about current events, kids and grandkids, politics, local happenings. Pat always maintained a professional manner, even when senators were ducking in and out, missing roll calls, forcing her to call their names two and three times.

"Sometimes I think we should install seat belts on every chair,'' she said to me after a long afternoon of such antics.

Pierre was lucky to have had her among us. So was South Dakota. I wish I'd written that note.

Related Topics: TERRY WOSTER
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