Former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern enters hospice careGeorge McGovern has entered hospice care. The longtime former Mitchell resident and Democratic political icon is now at Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, an Avera staffer confirmed Monday.
By: Tom Lawrence, Forum Communications
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — George McGovern has entered hospice care.
The longtime former Mitchell resident and Democratic political icon is now at Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls, an Avera staffer confirmed Monday. She was not sure when he was admitted or what his condition is.
McGovern’s daughter Ann McGovern, of Sioux Falls, told The Associated Press “He’s coming to the end of his life.”
The McGovern family declined other media requests. A statement was issued on the family’s behalf by Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center.
“Senator George McGovern has been admitted to the Dougherty Hospice House in Sioux Falls,” the statement said. “The family of Senator McGovern wishes to extend their gratitude and appreciation for the many prayers and well wishes and requests complete privacy at this time.”
McGovern, 90, has had several health problems in the past year.
After a lecture tour last October to promote a book, he was treated for exhaustion. Two months later, he fell and hit his head just before a scheduled interview with C-SPAN for a program focusing on failed presidential candidates who’ve had a lasting impact on American politics. He was hospitalized for several days.
McGovern also was hospitalized in Florida in April for tests to determine why he occasionally passed out and had difficulty speaking.
This summer, he gave up his homes in Mitchell and Florida so he could be closer to family in Sioux Falls.
But he repeatedly bounced back from the health problems and, although frail, continued to make public appearances. McGovern has supported his grandson, Matt McGovern, a Democrat who is running for a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
George McGovern attended a PUC debate at the South Dakota State Fair on Sept. 1 and greeted old friends and other people before and after the event, and also made a brief, impromptu speech.
Although he has been prominent on the national and world stage for 50 years, McGovern’s roots are deep in eastern South Dakota.
He was born in Avon, lived briefly in Canada, grew up in Mitchell and earned a history degree from Mitchell’s Dakota Wesleyan University before earning a doctorate in history at Northwestern University.
McGovern married Eleanor Stegeberg, of Woonsocket, on Oct. 31, 1943. While McGovern was a champion high school debater, Eleanor and her twin sister had defeated him and his partner. The couple had five children: Ann, Susan, Teresa (Terry), Steve and Mary. Terry and Steve, who both struggled with alcoholism, have died; Steve McGovern died this summer. Eleanor McGovern died in 2007.
George McGovern enrolled in the Army Air Force in December 1941 and later flew bomber missions over Nazi Germany.
He served in the U.S. House from 1957 to 1961 and was a U.S. senator from 1963 to 1981.
In 1972, McGovern was the Democratic nominee for president. He lost in a landslide to President Richard Nixon. McGovern is thought to have lived longer following a presidential campaign — 40 years — than any other major presidential candidate, which is something he is proud of, he said this summer.
McGovern also ran for president in 1968 and 1984 and considered a run for the White House in 1992. He served as the director of Food for Peace from 1961 to 1962 and was a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture from 1999 to 2001, a post he was named to by President Bill Clinton, who had worked for the McGovern presidential campaign in 1972.
McGovern was named a U.N. Global Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001. His longtime interest in battling hunger across the globe endured for decades after his political career ended.
In addition to his political achievements, McGovern is an accomplished author. His two most recent books are “Abraham Lincoln” and “What It Means to Be a Democrat.”
McGovern’s entrance to a hospice comes in the same year that two other longtime South Dakotan political titans entered the same hospice and later died.
Bill Janklow, a four-term governor who also served as attorney general and congressman, and James Abdnor, a four-term congressman who won his only Senate term by defeating McGovern in 1980, both died earlier this year. Both were Republicans.
The hospice is named for William “Bill” Dougherty, a Democrat who served two terms as South Dakota’s lieutenant governor. Dougherty, who died in 2010, was a friend and political ally of McGovern.