Services for the woman some called the "go-to person for Custer County history" will be held Tuesday.
Jessie Sundstrom's award-winning contributions to accurately reporting and recording the past touched so many lives that some Custer schoolchildren composed "I Love History," a tribute song to her.
Sundstrom, the former publisher of the Custer County Chronicle newspaper and Custer County Historical Society member for over 65 years, died September 5 at her home in Custer. She was 91. The Rapid City native was the second-generation of a Black Hills journalism family and is remembered for her stories and editorials about 1970s racial unrest in Custer, including a riot that damaged the local courthouse and drew national media attention.
She is credited with helping preserve the historical landmark and later managed the Custer County 1881 Courthouse Museum. She also was Custer State Park historian for several years, served on the South Dakota Historical Society board of directors for 12 years, and on advisory boards for the State Archives and State Archaeologist's office.
The West River History Conference presented her its top award for preservation and history in 1994. The Badger Clark Memorial Society honored her in 1998 for service in connection with a South Dakota Public Television production of a play about Clark. She was awarded the Governor's Individual Award for History in 1999; the Dreamer's Award from Crazy Horse Memorial in 2001; Custer County Chamber of Commerce community service award in 2002, and the Community Circle for Education Award from the Custer School District in 2003. She was named Gold Discovery Days parade marshal for the Custer community celebration in 2007. In 2003, Custer fourth-graders honored her at an elders program and performed an original song about her life that says in part, "When my life is over and people think of me again, I hope they will remember me as a real true friend."
She is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Custer County Chronicle publisher Carl H. Sundstrom.
A memorial service will be held 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 10, at the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer. Internment will be at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis at 3 p.m.
A memorial has been established in Jessie's name to benefit the 1881 Courthouse Museum.