Friends, family gather to mourn Jean Rounds; Longtime friend recalls their special bond in KELOLAND interview

Local News

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Friends, family and dignitaries from across the nation gathered in Pierre and watched online as one of South Dakota’s former first ladies was laid to rest Saturday, Nov. 6.

Jean Rounds of Fort Pierre died Tuesday, Nov. 2. She had been diagnosed with sarcoma cancer in May 2019. Rounds was the wife of former governor and now U.S. Senator Mike Rounds.

Longtime friend Dawna Leitzke of Pierre shared her thoughts on Jean Rounds before Saturday’s funeral.

“You could not have met a more genuine, down-to-earth woman…,” Leitzke said of Jean. “She always saw the best in people.”

The two friends bonded over cross stitching and scrapbooking. They “became more like sisters than friends,” Leitzke said.

After Jean was diagnosed with cancer, Leitzke would often take her to medical treatments in Rochester, Minnesota, while her husband was on Senate business in Washington, D.C.

Leitzke was with her friend when Jean rang the bell on Feb. 14, 2020, to mark what was then the end of her treatment in Rochester.

“I was also blessed to help her through her journey to the end…,” Leitzke said.

Sen. Rounds announced his wife’s death in a news release earlier this week.

KELO Sen. Mike Rounds Jean Rounds

“The prayers and support we received throughout this battle were powerful and made a difference. We ask for your continued prayer as we remember her life and grieve together as a family,” he said in the release.

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