McGovern, 85, died of heart failure at her home in Mitchell, SD early
Thursday morning, January 25, 2007.
Funeral services will be at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, at the First United
Methodist Church, Mitchell, SD, 310 North Rowley, with a private
burial at Graceland Cemetery, Mitchell, SD. Visitation will be Friday,
January 26, 2007, 6-8 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church,
Mitchell, SD. Memorials may be directed to Doctors Without Borders,
SD Animal Welfare League, or The George and Eleanor McGovern Library
and Center for Public Service. Arrangements are under the direction
of Bittner Funeral Chapel.
Eleanor was born November 25, 1921, on a farm near Woonsocket, SD
to Earl and Marian Payne Stegeberg. When Eleanor and her twin sister,
Ila, were 11 years old, their mother died, leaving them to help their
father raise their younger sister, Phyllis. She attended school in
Woonsocket, SD and graduated in 1940, as salutatorian . Following
graduation she attended Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD
where she met her future husband George McGovern. She worked as a
legal secretary for Herbert Hitchcock and Fred Nichol in Mitchell,
On October 31, 1943 she married George McGovern at the Woonsocket
Methodist Church where George’s father, a minister, officiated.
They raised five children. During their married life Eleanor and
her husband lived in Mitchell, SD, Washington, DC, Stevensville,
MT, and Rome, Italy and traveled widely.
Eleanor campaigned for her husband, as he ran for the South Dakota
US House of Representatives, the US Senate and again when he ran
for president in 1972. Frequently she discussed national and international
issues in the media. Following that time, she addressed civic, academic
and women’s groups as an advocate for children, family life
and the roles of women. She wrote articles and gave interviews on
many issues, including alcoholism. She wrote her memoir, Uphill:
A Personal Journey, in 1973. Her other activities included being
a volunteer for the Child Development Center and the Women’s
Democratic Club. She was a board member for Dakota Wesleyan University,
The Psychiatric Institute Foundation, The Child Study Association,
The Erickson Institute of Chicago and Odyssey House of New York.
She was an active participant in the Martha Movement and helped establish
the McGovern Family Foundation for research on alcoholism. She loved
nature and was a voracious reader.
She is survived by her husband George, four children: Ann McGovern
, Stevensville, MT; Susan McGovern and husband James Rowen, Milwaukee,
WI; Steven McGovern, Madison, WI; Mary McGovern-McKinnon, Dinton,
England; ten grandchildren: Timothy Mead, Kevin Mead, Bryan Wilson,
Matthew McGovern-Rowen, Sam Rowen, Marian Frey-McGovern, Colleen
Frey-McGovern, Caroline McKinnon, A.D. McKinnon, Aubrey McKinnon;
six great grandchildren: Darien Mead, Derek Mead, Leo Rowen, Cooper
Rowen, Wilbur Mead, Conner McGlauflin; a sister Phyllis Riffe, Jamestown,
ND; and many nieces and nephews; also her beloved pets, Ursa and
She was preceded in death by her parents; her daughter Teresa in
1994; a twin sister, Ila, in 1996.