SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Colin Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and Secretary of State, has died from COVID-19 complications. In an announcement on social media today, the family said Powell had been fully vaccinated. But he was 84 years old and had several underlying health conditions. He had also been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

Today we spoke to a couple of people in KELOLAND who met Powell and say the country lost a great American. Powell was in South Dakota on several occasions. He spoke at the Boe Forum at Augustana University in 1995. Powell was surrounded by heavy security during his visit to Sioux Falls.

Years later he also came to Vermillion. Eldon Nygaard, a state senator and owner of Valiant Vineyards met Colin Powell twice. Nygaard tells us he helped recruit Powell to Speak at a leadership program at USD and ended up spending the whole day with him. He and his family were impressed with Powell’s memory and sincerity. Nygaard a decorated Vietnam War helicopter pilot says quote “We lost a great American hero and a good friend.” A letter from Powell says he had a terrific time at USD.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken met Powell during a Zoom leadership program for mayors last summer in the middle of the pandemic. He says Powell told them as leaders it was up to them to find their resolve and to stay encouraged.

“As a guy who was a field general and a Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, I mean this guy led through a lot and so to hear that from him was very encouraging,” said TenHaken.

Tom Hanson: Did it have an impact on you?

“Absolutely and the reason I think he had an impact on me was just the fact that he’s just a true statesman I mean when you talk about a dying bread of quote politicians Colin Powell was a bridge builder, he was a unifier. He served through 4 different administrations, you know both R’s and D’s and so the guy had a way of getting things done no matter who was in the highest office in the land he just got things done,” said TenHaken.

Powell’s first high-profile position was as national security advisor for President Ronald Reagan. To honor Powell’s legacy, Flags across South Dakota and across the country will be flown at half staff until sundown on Saturday.