Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
“Hello, my name is Chester.”
Long before he was known by simply his first name, Hastings, ND native and Norwegian-American Chester M. Reiten was making his mark on his city, his state, his country and his heritage.
Ensign Reiten, US Navy, served in WW II, his tour of duty flanked by college attendance. He graduated from NDSU in 1948 with a degree in Ag Soil Sciences, and also with a title that, to this day, is his most cherished: husband to Joy Steenson Reiten. A navy veteran herself (WAVE), Joy Reiten represented all women veterans when recognized with an SAHF Meritorious Award in 1995. In his first career out of college, County Agent Reiten left Wells County (ND) a better place, revitalizing the area’s 4-H program and working with farmers to improve rural living and ag production.
Reiten eventually entered a field that would prove to be his lasting livelihood—broadcasting—and over the course of a decade entrepreneur Reiten went from a radio farm director to owner/operator of radio and TV stations in western ND. An innovator in the business, Reiten was often first out of the gate in adopting breakthrough technology, a philosophy that paid off in career success. Living out another philosophy, that of giving back, Mayor Reiten led Minot for 14 years. State Senator Reiten served North Dakota for 16 years; and Chairman of the Board Reiten guided Minot’s Trinity Health for more than a decade.
In 1978, Reiten sat down with friends who shared his interest in celebrating the Nordic heritage so personal to them and so prevalent in the region. The seeds of Norsk Høstfest were sown, and from an initial gathering of a few thousand, Høstfest grew into an international festival attracting tens of thousands of Scandinavian enthusiasts. President Reiten has been at the helm of Norsk Høstfest Association since its inception, and continues to be the driving force behind the event. His efforts earned him the Medal of St. Olav, awarded by Norway’s King Harald V. Reiten is also a recipient of North Dakota’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.
This man of patriotism, devotion, ambition, leadership, vision and dedication has held many titles throughout his life: ensign, husband, county agent, entrepreneur, mayor, senator, chairman, president. Yet he’s known to most by merely his first name and the greeting his booming voice delivers to friends both old and not yet met…”Hello, my name is Chester.”
Chester Reiten passed away Jan. 22, 2013. He was 89.