KATIE ZERR: Kundert’s legacy will live on in South Dakota


There are people who touch our lives in a personal manner and those who make an impact without being a friend or family member. Alice Kundert was one of those people, although after meeting her it was easy to become a friend.

South Dakota lost one of its brightest stars on Monday, as Alice passed away in Mobridge.

She had lived here for the last few years of her life, but she was a Campbell County girl, born and raised. It is from Campbell County that she showed the political world of a conservative state that women are just as capable as men.

She came from a family who believed in public service and she became one of South Dakota’s most valued public servants. Alice lived her life with integrity and grit. Those who knew her would say she was capable, caring and dedicated.

She didn’t grow up wanting to be in politics, but her need to serve her community, her state and her country pushed Alice in that direction.

She was open and honest and shared those qualities with endless South Dakota teens looking to understand the government and the environment of politics that can sometimes be less than honest. She taught our youth about public service through the Teenage Republican (TAR) program and she practiced what she preached.

Alice Kundert was a woman of class and integrity and every woman in our state, not just those who chose public service, should be grateful for the path she cut for all of us. When she ran for governor, she was told a woman’s place was in the home and she should be scrubbing floors and washing dishes. Instead of getting angry and defensive she simply showed those men she was a formidable opponent and won their admiration.

Alice told them that she had already done that and was now ready for a new challenge, the Republican primary. She impressed soon-to-be governor George Mickleson enough that he tapped her to be a part of his administration. Alice served in the department of education and as the state auditor and secretary of state for multiple terms.

Politicians today could take a lesson or two from the way she lived her life and how she truly served her home state and our nation.

Alice made it easier for those who followed her to be taken seriously, not just in politics but in all walks of life in South Dakota. Her legacy is that Alice’s life was spent teaching others about selfless dedication to true beliefs and never wavering from that goal. Her dedication to her teaching job is legendary in this area, as she nearly died in a snowstorm making her way to the school where she thought there might be a child or two waiting for her. She spent years traveling the state teaching the residents about the importance of knowing and embracing who we are and from where we came. Alice Kundert touched a lot of lives in South Dakota.

She never stopped teaching South Dakotans about their history.

Alice came from humble beginnings on a farm in Campbell County and she never forgot that. She was a South Dakotan through and through and was the epitome of what that statement means.

Alice was tough, kind, dedicated, hard working, selfless, caring, and had class and modesty. Those of us in Mobridge who got to know her in the last years of her life saw the way she lived, not mired in the pity of her disability but showing us that although life’s hurdles can trip you up, it doesn’t mean you need to stay down.

South Dakotans lost a shining star this week, but we also lost our north star, our guide to honesty, integrity, moral character and dedication.

Although we are saddened by our loss, we can hope that her spirit will remain with those she left behind.

Those she steered toward public service through her many years on this earth should remember the lessons learned from Alice Kundert.

We can only hope that her legacy will live on in all of us that she touched.




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