George Harris Shanard


July 30, 1926 - August 3, 2012



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.


Monday, August 6, 2012
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Bittner Funeral Chapel
805 West Havens
Mitchell, South Dakota


Tuesday, August 7, 2012
2:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church
500 East 5th Avenue
Mitchell, South Dakota


American Legion Cemetery
Mitchell, South Dakota

Posted by Bonnie Gores Axelsen on August 15, 2012
My sympathy to your family. The Shanard and Gores families will always have the Lake Madison link. We shared so many good times there. It's never easy to lose a loved one. Thank goodness for the good memories. Take care.
Posted by Mike Mullally, Gamma Alpha, Beta Theta Pi 679 on August 10, 2012
I met Brother Shanard at the old Beta Barn nd it was like meeting an old friend. He was a great guy. We had a common thread to the Burk Family of Pierre. The were our neighbors for much of my life. He was also a cousin of Brother Shanard Burk.
_ Kai _
Mike Mullally 679
Posted by Debra Anderson on August 7, 2012
George was a great man and a great friend. We served many years together in the legislature and he was great fun to work with and a much appreciated ally.
Posted by Bob and Beth Murphy on August 6, 2012
George and my father, W.J. Murphy, were close friends from the 1940's until my Father's passing in 1991. The hunts, the good times, and the laughter we all enjoyed together are immeasurable. The elders of the Shanard clan and the Murphy clan are united once again in the pheasant-filled fields of heaven.
Posted by Rev. William J. Murphy on August 6, 2012
On behalf of the Murphy clan of Illinois and Wisconsin, we extend our sympathy to the family and will always have fond memories of this great friend and hunting buddy!
Posted by Lloyd and Darlene Lueken on August 5, 2012
Posted by Jackie Christiansen on August 4, 2012
I took care of George when I was employed with Home Instead. He was a wonderful man. Very gentle,caring,and fun to be around. His humour was beyond belief , always smiling, and laughing. He had a deep love for his family and friends,and also a steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. May God give his family comfort at this time. He will be missed!
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