My tributes to some very special people

I am committed to serving others, and I enjoy learning from other people. Life is a classroom, and my teachers are other people. This page is a tribute to some people who had a special impact on me.

Bonnie Kooiker – My sister Bonnie was only 27 when she died on 10/20/2007. She’s an inspiration to me. She is one of the reasons I am in politics. When I told her in 2002 that I didn’t think I was cut out for public office because I don’t like playing games, she told me that’s why I should run for office.

Kacy DeVries – Kacy was my best friend in high school. He died in a car accident in 1993, only moments after I last saw him. His life, and his death, changed me forever.

Lee Ann Roetman – Lee passed away on Easter morning, 2014. She had post-polio when she was 15 months old, and she used crutches or a wheelchair for the next 65 years — she impacted a lot of lives. She was my occupational therapist, starting when I was a child and she helped me with my walking after my major surgeries to treat my cerebral palsy. Her advocacy for people with disabilities was extraordinary.

Jack and Ann van der Geest – Holocaust survivors Jack and Ann van der Geest were great friends of mine. I helped led the effort to organize a recognition by the city and state honoring Jack on the 66th anniversary of Jack’s amazing escape from Buchenwald Death Camp. He “died” at Buchenwald on 3/3/1943, and he died again on 3/5/2009 — just days after being recognized for his commitment to freedom. Knowing Jack is one of the highlights of my life.

Bill Groethe – I love photography. I wish I had more time to be involved in it. Bill’s photography is in the Smithsonian and in museums all over the country. He is a very talented photographer, and his 9/2/1948 picture of the last survivors of the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn is on of my favorite pictures. In 2009 I led the effort to have Bill recognized by the city and state for his contributions to preserving our history. If you haven’t met Bill, make sure you do. His knowledge of Rapid City and Black Hills history is amazing.

Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong – Officers Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong were two of Rapid City’s finest. They both gave their lives for our community on August 2, 2011.

Judge Rollie Grosshans – Judge Grosshans was a close friend of mine, and died of ALS disease on June 7, 2012. He administered the oath of office to me when I was sworn in as Mayor on July 5, 2011.