Background and context: In 1980, I was the intern for State Senators Dick Gregerson & Dick Flynn. In roughly 1983, Dick Gregerson took a sabbatical from Woods Fuller and spent roughly three months as an “intern” for US Senator Jim Abdnor, where one of my duties was Intern Coordinator. In other words, I once worked for Dick Gregerson and he once “worked” for me. I think maybe the best tribute I can do is tell stories about Gregerson.
Story #1- Played to win: Gregerson and Flynn were polar opposites with regard to style and personality but they were close personal friends. As their intern, I can’t remember ever working “for” a bill but know I spent a lot of time helping them kill bills. One morning I get to the Capitol and they tell me to go to Lyndell Peterson’s committee and take down the names of every person who comes to the committee and what they say on what bill. If I don’t know their name, I am to ask for their name. No other direction than this. Part way into the hearing, Peterson cant’ stand it any more, looks at me and asks “What are Frick and Frack up to?” In all honesty, I tell him I’m here to take names and notes. But, I can tell Peterson is bewildered and maybe a bit rattled.
After the hearing, I type up the list of attendees and notes. When I give it to them, they don’t care about my notes but ask about it and I tell them what Peterson said and his reaction. They laugh and tell me they just want to get in his head because he has been messing with some pro-Sioux Falls legislation.
Story #2- Preacher’s Kid: That session, five of us from Augie were interns (three guys and two gals). Since I was from Pierre, I was charged with finding a place to live. I end up finding an empty house which was big enough for all of us. Well, Gregerson had a visceral reaction to gals and guys living under one roof so he told me it was MY RESPONSIBLITY to protect the gals reputation by stomping out any rumors and not giving cause for any rumors with regard to hanky-panky.
Story #3- Confident and could be made fun of: As I said above, my bosses were polar opposites and the moniker “Frick and Frack” was perfect. Flynn was boisterous and aggressive. Gregerson was always the gentleman. Flynn always teased Gregerson of being too nice. Anyway, one morning I’m instructed to go to the men’s clothing store and pick up a mannequin, get it up into an office without Gregerson seeing it, and then when Gregerson is stuck in Governor Janklow’s office at the start of session to get it into the chamber in Gregerson’s spot.
When Gregerson came into the Chamber, Flynn was crouched down at another desk and asked to speak. The Lt. Governor Lowell Hansen as President of the Senate recognized “Senator Gregerson” where Flynn mimicked Gregerson’s style which included “speaking on the bill” by saying something nice about each of the sponsors (attire, haircut, spouse, etc.) to only conclude with “Thank you for your great work on this bill but I’m sorry to tell you I’m voting against it.” The place couldn’t stop laughing.
Story #4- Trustworthy: While they didn’t know each other well at the start, when Gregerson spent his sabbatical with Senator Abdnor, as an unpaid intern, his “job” was basically to go everywhere with Senator Abdnor. He was in every meeting, sat in the lobby outside the Senate Chamber when Senate was in session, and went to every social engagement with the Senator. It wasn’t long before Senator Abdnor asked that every memo be also given to Gregerson. In short, Dick became wholly trusted by Abdnor in literally days.
Story #5- Humble: Every morning when he came to the office, he first came to my desk and asked if I (as Intern Coordinator) had anything for him. Part of it was for us to laugh of the “role reversal” since I worked for him in Pierre. Part of it was to express a willingness to do something besides be Senator Abdnor’s “boy Friday.” But, after awhile I came to appreciate it was Dick just being respectful to the office and every person who worked there.
I could tell more stories but want to end with the last time I saw Dick. It was at Kaladi’s where he was meeting friends/peers for coffee. I had stopped by myself to eat breakfast and answer some emails. I hadn’t even seen Dick when he stopped by to say hello. We quickly got updated in a cursory way and said to each other “we have to have lunch.” It never happened.
Of course, I have regret I didn’t make it happen. But, not as much as you might think. Over 30 years ago, in two 90 day tranches, I got to know Dick and developed a deep fondness and respect that never diminished. I never felt we needed regular contact to keep the bond formed so long ago. Even though he has passed, I have no sense of it diminishing either. Dick Gregerson is just that solid.
Dear Lord, the separation of our friends from us is concurrently a union with Eternal Destiny. By the merits of your Cross and by your Divine Mercy may our friend Dick Gregerson be an oblation to your Father. We praise and thank you for the blessing of Dick Gregerson for we could see glimpses of You in him. Amen.