South Dakota Senator John Thune says Jim Abdnor made him a politician.
The two met after Abdnor saw Thune, then a high school student, play in a Murdo, South Dakota basketball game. Over the years, Abdnor became Thune's mentor and friend.
"[He was] someone who really did embody really what I think was good about politics. He was just a decent and genuine human being who worked very hard for South Dakota," Thune said during a conference call from Washington D.C. Wednesday.
Thune followed Abdnor's political career after college. He worked for the Senator for four-and-a-half years on Capitol Hill before becoming South Dakota's Republican Representative.
Thune says Abdnor was always a South Dakotan who never lost touch with his state.
"He was somebody you'd see at ball games, and you'd see him in your coffee shops around town," Thune said. "He got around smaller communities and I think people appreciated how genuine and humble he was."
But Thune says people may not have known how effective Abdnor was during his years of public service. Agriculture, family farms, ranches, veterans and economic opportunities for small communities were among his biggest victories. It was an incredible influence that is now part of a legacy.
"He loved our state. He loved the people of South Dakota. He was incredibly involved in their lives," Thune said.
Thune will give the Eulogy at Abdnor's funeral service in Pierre on Saturday.