With the election just two weeks away, Jeff Wilka is busy stuffing envelopes in a Sioux Falls campaign office. But he might not be doing this now if it wasn't for the first campaign he worked for in 1972.
"It was a sad and happy night on election night that year. Abourezk won the Senate race but McGovern lost the Presidential race," Wilka said.
Wilka let George McGovern's loss discourage him. In fact, he played an instrumental role in McGovern's victorious Senate campaign just two years later.
"Jim Abourezk and George McGovern took a big chance in asking me to become part of their Senate staff as a civilian. And I was glad to honor that request," Wilka said.
Even though McGovern's political career came to an end, the two men remained close. Wilka is still active in Democratic campaigns and can't help but reminisce about the man who took a chance on him and the kind words McGovern recently shared in a present for Wilka's birthday.
"I'm going to treasure this gift the rest of my life because of what he said in here. He called me his avid fan and supporter and wished me a happy 60th. To me, that's a lot coming from a man like George McGovern," Wilka said.
And now, Wilka, like many others, is thankful for the memories he made with South Dakota's former U.S. Senator.