SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A woman known as a leader in downtown Sioux Falls has died.

A close friend of Carole Pagones says she passed away recently at the age of 81.

When KELOLAND News sat down with Carole Pagones in her home in 2019, she told the story of how she left her job in the Twin Cities and took a $40,000 pay cut to lead what was then called Main Street Sioux Falls.

Pagones took over as executive director about 30 years ago when the heart of the city wasn’t the hotspot that it is today.

“It was a ghost town at night except for young groups that inhabited certain corners and fought for those corners and the loopers,” Carole Pagones said in 2019.

Growing the downtown sometimes meant creating the excitement.

“They would say, ‘Well, we heard Western Mall is all filled, blah, blah, blah,’ and I’d lie and say, ‘Oh, we’re getting calls too.’ I maybe had one a month,” Pagones said.

“She was able to get people to believe in downtown again, something that had been missing for decades,” DTSF President Joe Batcheller said.

Batcheller says Pagones was with the organization for more than a decade.

In that time she started the Parade of Lights.

“She got a lot of large events and festivals downtown that brought in thousands of people and this was during a time when people didn’t come downtown,” Batcheller said.

“I was this cheerleader for the city, the store owners, and all the people who worked downtown. All I really did was bring them together,” Pagones said.

And her contributions years ago can still be found in the city’s downtown today.

To watch more of our 2019 interview with Pagones, click here.