Chester Reiten will be remembered for many things by many people in this region and, in fact, far from here as well.
KX News Director Jim Olson was hired when Chet was in charge at KXMC-TV, more than 26 years ago.
Jim has some thoughts about the man who had a hand in so much of what's happening in our area.
"Hi, My name is Chester!"
Those words, spoken so often by the man with the imposing presence and big voice, often helped those within earshot to realize that this was a man worth listening to. And that "total package," the large stature coupled with the smile and friendly greeting, helped Chet Reiten accomplish many things in his life. His friends and co-workers described it best over the years.
(Rod Romine, Longtime KX Employee) "His ability to get people to do things he wanted to get done and they felt good about doing it...it's a great gift."
(Bob Schempp, Former Minot City Manager) "He's not the type that demands that people follow him and orders people to follow him, he's a leader and people are willing to follow him."
That ability to lead people to greater accomplishments while being viewed, not as a taskmaster but rather as a fellow traveler on the journey, helped Chet Reiten excel in many areas. His hard work, great ideas, and investment in people he trusted and respected, helped Chet build a communications company that provided television and radio service to all of western North Dakota.
(2002-Chester Reiten) "It was brand new, we came into the business and went at it. But these were very competent people."
His desire to be a community servant pushed him into politics and a 14-year stint as mayor of Minot - during a time that the two rivers feeding into the area frequently ran over their banks.He responded to the 1969 flood by spearheading the effort to devise a flood protection system that spanned state, province, and international borders. Meanwhile, he was moving on to a bigger stage - the state legislature where he served 16 years. He also displayed his leadership talents with the local Chamber of Commerce and hospital board of directors. When I interviewed him for a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of KXMC television, he said giving to the community was not unique to him.
(2003-Chester Reiten) "Don't put a halo on my head - that's what you do in towns this size."
Yes, but few people did it as well as Chet. And in 1978, Chet spearheaded the birth of Norsk Hostfest - the event that he is perhaps best known for - and certainly most widely known for. The festival grew - with his friendly yet strong leadership - into one of the premiere events in North America. It led to his meeting the king of Norway and being given the medal of St. Olav by King Harald. It brought princesses and major entertainers to North Dakota to see and participate in the festival. And it gave Chet a chance to help tens of thousands of people discover their heritage - and just have fun.
(2005-Chester Reiten) "It's to have people have a good time, meet their friends, buy what they want, and visit. That's the Hostfest."
His accomplishments were noted in 2002 when Governor John Hoeven presented Chester with the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award - the state's highest honor. His portrait now hangs with 37 others in the halls of the state capitol - the state's hall of fame.
(2002-Chester Reiten) "I don't know it's fair to say, 'Look what I did,' you have to say, 'Look what these people did.'"
Through it all, Chet was quick to remind us all that it was the love of his life, his wife Joy, who meant more to him than anything.
(2003-Chester Reiten) "In all this stuff, my real confidant and partner was my wife Joy. We've been married 56 years. She always worried about the business, she had five children to raise."
Finally, a personal note. Chet ran KXMC when I was hired back in 1986. My first week of employment ended with a Saturday night sportscast that I though had not gone so well. Right after leaving the set following the news, the phone rang and it was my boss Chester. His words I'll never forget. You've got a great future in this business, he said. The big man with the big voice and the big title had made a simple statement that made an indelible impression. Just like he did so many times with so many people while being a key leader in this state's history.
There's a poignant tribute to Chet Reiten on the Norsk Hostfest website.
It's the text of the Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame induction award that you can find at hostfest.com. Just click on 'awards' and 'hall of fame' and you'll find the tribute.