Friday, January 25, 2013

Remembering Chester Reiten

Sons of Norway was saddened to learn this week of the passing of Chester Reiten. Chester, or Chet to his close friends, was one of the biggest personalities in the Norwegian-American community of the Upper Midwest. Probably best known as the founder of Norsk Høstfest, the largest Scandinavian festival in North America, Chester was also a man dedicated to his community, his state and to the celebration of Norwegian heritage. His passing will be felt and mourned by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the North America and Norway.

Pam Davy, the Executive Director of Norsk Høstfest had this to say about Chester’s passing, “although this man, to whom the Scandinavian-American community owes so much, may have left us physically, let there be no doubt that his leadership and inspiration will live on for as long as there is a Norsk Høstfest.”

Beyond being the founder and driving force behind Norsk Høstfest, Chester was a man dedicated to making his community a better place to live. To that end, he served as the mayor of Minot, ND for 14 years, including during the 1969 Souris River flood recovery—during which time he played a significant role in future flood protection plans. He was also a North Dakota state senator for 16 years. For his service to communities across the state, Chester’s passing was even acknowledged on the floor of the state senate floor this week.

For me, personally, Chester was always a larger-than-life personality. He had a presence that you could feel whenever he walked into a room and a way about him that took charge of any situation that needed his attention. Having been a regular Norsk Høstfest attendee for the last 13 years as a Sons of Norway staff member, I had a lot of opportunities to see and speak with him and I’m going to miss him greatly. The Norwegian-American community has lost a great champion this week.

If you knew Chester or ever had the pleasure of meeting him, please share your memories in the comments below.

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