Friend of Jean Rounds remembers former first lady of South Dakota

Local News

PIERRE, S.D (KELO) — A former first lady of South Dakota is now laid to rest.

Jean Rounds, the wife of now U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, died Tuesday after battling sarcoma cancer.

On Saturday, people gathered in Pierre for funeral services.

Governor Kristi Noem ordered that flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sundown in honor of the former first lady.

Dawna Leitzke met Jean Rounds in 1995.

The two shared several interests, including cross stitching.

“Jean never let me forget how special her family was in her life and her friends were in her life, and that was her number one priority was her family and friends. You couldn’t find a better wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, that Jean Rounds, and a better friend,” Friend of Jean Rounds Dawna Leitzke said.

Leitzke says she and Jean were more like sisters.

She stood beside her throughout her cancer journey, including radiation treatments and when she rang the bell in February of 2020.

“It was such an uplifting and great moment. We cheered. Everyone in the waiting room cheered for her and we were so happy and positive. It was a life-changing moment for me,” Leitzke said.

Leitzke says her friend was a fighter.

“She always, always, always found the good in life and I think that will be a lasting legacy that she leaves is that you always need to find the positive. You always need to struggle to do the best that you can and leave a positive mark on this world,” Leitzke said.

The former first lady died at the age of 65.

According to Jean’s obituary, during her eight years as first lady, she was most proud of her advocacy for childhood literacy and women’s heart health as well as her help in designing the new Governor’s Residence.

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