SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakotans knew the late Jim Abourezk as someone who represented them in Washington, first in the U.S. House and then in the U.S. Senate. You might know Teri Schmidt as CEO of Experience Sioux Falls, but she is also Abourezk’s niece.

“What I admired most about my uncle Jim was the fact that if he believed in something, he didn’t care what side of the aisle it was on,” Schmidt said. “He cared about the people, and he would fight for that because he felt it was right, and I loved that about him.”

“He was a wonderful and brilliant criminal defense attorney, and he took on cases pro bono, many times, many times,” Huron attorney Ron Volesky said. “Didn’t get paid for representing people that needed a strong defense, and he would come forward and help them.”

Volesky says Abourezk served as a mentor to him.

“I do a lot of work in the area of abuse and neglect cases defending abuse and neglect cases,” Volesky said. “Unfortunately, many times there are Native American children involved, and his handprints are all over that type of law in South Dakota.”

Both Schmidt and Volesky use the word “generous” to describe the man they miss.

“I also just loved that he was my uncle, and forget about the senator stuff, he was just my uncle and a really good person,” Schmidt said.

“He was such a decent and honorable man,” Volesky said.

Abourezk died Friday, his 92nd birthday.