George Harris Shanard was born on July 30, 1926 to J. Harris and Martha Shanard in Bridgewater, SD. He died August 3, 2012 in his home, 4 days after his 86th birthday.
George was educated in Bridgewater Public Schools and enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17. He served in World War II on the USS Audubon and the USS General R.M. Blatchford as a part of the United States Navy Pacific Theater from 1944–1946. He was a decorated Radarman Third Class when he was honorably discharged.
He returned to his beloved South Dakota and entered the University of South Dakota where he joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. This affiliation provided the genesis for many lifelong friendships. He graduated in 1950 with a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota. He then returned to Bridgewater to be the fourth generation of Shanards to run the family grain business, Shanard Inc. George married Iris Achenbach on June 22, 1952 and they had four children: George III, Laurie, Kari and Heidi.
As an avid sports fan with a golden broadcast voice, George spent many years broadcasting State A and B basketball tournaments and USD football and basketball games for KSOO radio and television. He also provided the voice for “Coyote Seeds, your friend in agriculture!”
George was a founding owner of the Ramkota Companies and served on the Board of Directors for many years. He was Chairman of the Board for Kelly Inns until his retirement in 2009. He was passionate about the incredible success of these companies, and the significant legacy he helped to build.
George moved the family business headquarters from Bridgewater to Mitchell in 1972 and established Big Green Fertilizer. His passion for agriculture, transportation and water development motivated him to run for and be elected to the South Dakota State Senate, in which he served from 1974–1992. He was Assistant Majority Leader for twelve years and was then elected Majority Leader for four years from 1989–1992. He has been described as “a very, very effective leader”. He is credited, by many, with saving the rail system in South Dakota, as well as many other accomplishments.
In 1984, George married Neva Linn. They wintered in Naples, Florida in Quail Creek Village, where family and friends enjoyed great golf and fun social times with Grandpa.
George was active in the National Grain and Feed Association, the American Legion, the Shriners (Jesters), Masonic Lodge, the Elks and Mitchell Industrial Development along with many other local, state and national organizations.
George was preceded in death by his parents, Martha and Harris Shanard, his wife Neva Shanard, his son George Shanard III, his brother David Shanard, his son-in-law Greg Koenders, and his nephew John Shanard, as well as numerous relatives and friends.
Grateful for having shared his life are his sister, Jean Ann Beach of Sioux Falls; his daughters, Laurie Shanard (David Smalley) of Burlington VT, Kari Shanard-Koenders of Sioux Falls, Heidi Neuhart of Mitchell; his step-daughter, Kristine (Greg) Winneke of Oklahoma City, OK; and his former wife, Iris Shanard of Bridgewater. His grandchildren, Shannon Koenders, Jacob Smalley and Cole Neuhart will also miss their Grandpa. They remember him as being a fun-loving and playful man who helped them all understand the importance of responsibility.
Through George’s legislative career, his extensive business ventures, hunting and fishing trips with many friends, and his day-to-day interactions with family, it can be said that he touched many lives. His mischievous grin and twinkle in his eye will be remembered by all who knew him.
To honor a great man and to celebrate his life, a visitation will be held Monday, August 8 at the Bittner Funeral Chapel from 6:00-8:00pm. Funeral Services have been set for Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at the First Presbyterian Church, Mitchell, SD at 2:00pm with Interment to follow at the American Legion Cemetery with military honors.
Memorials may be directed to Children’s Care Hospital and School, Sioux Falls, SD,
the University of South Dakota Foundation, Vermillion, SD or a charity of your choice.