SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Jean Rounds, the wife of Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, died Tuesday following a battle with cancer. She was 65.
Jean Rounds had a sarcoma cancer and had been undergoing treatment since May of 2019. Doctors initially found a malignant, aggressive tumor near her sciatic nerve. She underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, but Mike Rounds said in September of 2020 that doctors later found another tumor during a checkup.
Mike Rounds, who previously served as South Dakota’s governor, won a second Senate term last year while his wife was undergoing treatment. He said in a statement that she died Tuesday morning.
As South Dakota’s first lady from 2003 to 2011, Jean Rounds advocated for childhood literacy through the “Reach out and Read” program and promoted awareness of women’s heart health. She also led the design of the governor’s mansion that was completed in 2005. And she continued to serve on the commission that oversees the state Capitol grounds until her death.
The couple met while attending South Dakota State University, where Jean Rounds earned a degree in office management. She worked in state government for 27 years and held positions at the university, the State Planning Bureau and the Department of Transportation.
“Jean was not only a pillar in her community, she was one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet,” South Dakota's other senator, Republican John Thune, tweeted.
Jean Rounds said in a statement last year that her cancer diagnosis was the hardest challenge she had faced, but that her husband had been with her “every step of the way.”
“He never complained and he sat with me in that hospital room at Mayo Clinic for days on end,” she said.
The couple lived in Fort Pierre, which is just across the Missouri River from the state capital, Pierre. They had four children and 10 grandchildren.
“The love of my life is with the Lord," Mike Rounds said in a statement. “No more treatments. No more pain. Just peace.”