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January 13, 2012 05:59 PM

Spencer Residents Remember Janklow's Service

Spencer, SD


As people across the state remember Bill Janklow, one particular town is especially grateful for the former governor's service.


Spencer, South Dakota, was nearly destroyed by a tornado in the spring of 1998 and residents say Janklow played a key role in its rebuilding.

Spencer is your typical small town on the edge of McCook County with a population of slightly more than 150 people, along with a bank, a fire station, a post office and a library. But those who've lived in the town for decades say the reason the light shines so brightly in Spencer today is because Janklow took them out of its darkest hour.

"We couldn't even tell what street was what," Spencer resident Darlene Mentele said.

The devastation was enormous back in May 1998. A tornado ripped through the small town of Spencer, killing six people and destroying dozens of homes. And one of the first people on the scene was Bill Janklow.

"I was really surprised that he cared so much for the people of Spencer," Spencer resident Betty Schoon said.

Janklow stayed in town for two weeks, helping coordinate relief efforts and getting the town back to life.

"Everyone was just so frustrated and so bewildered and didn't know what to think," Mentele said. "We've never had anything like that happen."

"We did not have the resources, we did not have the knowledge of where to go, of how to get help," Spencer Mayor Donna Ruden said.

Ruden says the town today is a shining example of what can happen when people come together and work toward a common goal. And Janklow was the one, she says, who made that happen.

"Had it not been for Bill Janklow, Spencer, South Dakota would not be here today," Ruden said. 

"It's kind of like on our sign out there, we're the little town that's not going to die and it's all thanks to Bill," Ruden added.

Ruden also says Janklow's utilization of the governor's house program provided five new homes in the area built by prison inmates.
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