SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Former state lawmaker Sandy Jerstad was a George McGovern fan long before she met him. She was rooting for him in the 1972 presidential election.
Years later, when they finally met, they quickly became good friends connected by political beliefs and passions.
Jerstad read a poem to McGovern the last time she saw him before he died. The first sentence of the poem describes death, saying: Death nothing at all - I have only slipped away into the next room.
"I read that poem to him and I touched his shoulder and I said, goodbye my friend," Jerstad said.
And in her final moments with the former U.S. Senator, Jerstad reflected on a friendship she describes as brief, but sweet.
"We really developed, I think, a very sweet and warm friendship about a year ago and started going out to dinner together and having wonderful conversations," Jerstad said.
One dinnertime conversation sticks out more than any other.
"And one of the things I will never forget was him saying to me is, 'God's got to give me probably about five more years here so I can finish the job making sure every school child in the state has a lunch to eat,'" Jerstad said.
Another memory is McGovern's 90th birthday. The celebration was bittersweet, not only for her, but for McGovern's family. His daughter says they knew it was his public farewell. It couldn't have been any more perfect.
McGovern told Jerstad that day that he'd give her a call to catch up over lunch. Instead, Jerstad visited her dear friend on Thursday and said goodbye to a man she loved.
"I put my hand on his shoulder. I said, George, it's Sandy Jerstad. I'm here to visit you and I just want you to know how people around the world are sending their good thoughts and how much people around the world love you. We all love you. And I love you," Jerstad said.
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