By: Governor Kristi Noem
May 19, 2023
It is springtime in South Dakota and all things seem new! The grass is growing, new crops are being planted, and baby calves are kicking up their heels enjoying the recent sunshine and good weather. Some days I felt like joining them! But this week, I received some sad news. Sheila Bonrud, a fixture in my office and several Governors before me, passed away. It was a stark reminder that life is precious and that our last interaction with someone may always be that…our last interaction.
I wanted to share a little bit about Sheila with you all for several reasons. For one, her dedication to the people of South Dakota was inspirational and legendary. She started working for the state of South Dakota almost 50 years ago and tried to retire twice…and failed! She loved her work too much to give it up. She helped shepherd our office, and the offices of Governors Janklow, Rounds, and Daugaard through legislative session and much more. Tracking bills, setting up processes, and giving a clear assessment of the situation at hand, were just a few of her special gifts. Her quick wit and fantastic cooking ability gave us opportunities to laugh, break bread together, and learn a little history from her when she shared her stories. And by the way, she made a wonderful noodle salad!
“Sheila’s list” was a document she shared with everyone daily that we all depended on to keep the train’s running on time during session. When she would hurry into a room to deliver it to us all during a busy day, we could always count on her to summarize the situation at hand with policymaking that day. “It’s sure a show upstairs today!” or “I’ll get the info to you when they decide they want to share it with those of us who have to DO it!” I asked my staff to describe Sheila to you all and these were the words that rose to the top. Patient, reliable, funny, sharp and accountable. She loved to work and enjoyed mentoring younger people in my office, especially young women.
In summary, Sheila was a gem. As much as she invested in us with her gifts and talents, she also shared herself with her family and community. Sheila was special, loved by all and she lived a life of significance.
The lesson I take from Sheila’s life is this. Enjoy the new beginnings spring brings us, but may we also remember the gifts surrounding us each day that makes South Dakota special. It is our people and the relationships we have with them that will change our lives. And there are many people in state government, local government and other roles in our lives who are dedicated to helping people. They may not ever get their name in the paper or be at the top of the news hour on the local tv station, but they deserve our thanks for serving us. Sheila will be greatly missed by all of us in our office, but we are so thankful God placed her in our lives to enjoy and learn from. Her faith taught her, as it teaches us, that “those who die in God’s grace and friendship live forever with Christ.” What a wonderful faith we share that brings us all hope to see those we love again someday when all things will be made new again.