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Memories of Chester Reiten

Chester M. Reiten, 89, Minot, died Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at his residence in Minot.

His funeral was held Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Old Main on the campus of Minot State University, Minot. Visitation was held Monday, January 28, 2013, at Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Minot, ND.

In lieu of flowers, the family requested memorials to the Bethany Lutheran Church Foundation or to Høstfest-Heritage Foundation / Norsk Høstfest.


“His Unique Enthuastic Personality was a Magnet”

Although I had known Chester for many years prior to the onset of the Norsk Hostfest, it was in the early beginnings of that event that I came to know and appreciate him and his abilities. In addition to the Hostfest I served on the Trinity Hospital Board of which he was Chairman. With his encouragement and support I ran for the Senate seat in District 40/50 when he retired from that office. His unique enthuastic personality was a magnet to getting volunteers to work for the Hostfest. It was because people trusted him, liked him and his leadership they were willing to support the event both monetarily and giving of their time volunteering. He always valued this volunteer pool very highly and recognized the fact that it was the backbone and success of the Norsk Hostfest.

I have the fondest memories of Chester. His guidance, mentorship, friendship and support will always be remembered and appreciated.

Senator Karen K. Krebsbach
District 40 – Minot


“An Incredible Asset to the State”

“Betsy and I are very saddened that our good friend Chet Reiten has passed away,” Gov. Dalrymple said. “Chet was an incredible asset to the state. He has left a lasting legacy of service and dedication to Minot, to the state as a whole and to North Dakota’s rich Scandinavian heritage. Our prayers are with his wife, Joy, his entire family and his many friends.”

– Gov. Jack Dalrymple and First Lady Betsy Dalrymple


Remembering Chet Reiten

By KEITH DARNAY | For the Tribune

I first met Chet Reiten in 1979 when I flew into Minot for a job interview at KXMC-TV.

I was escorted into a small room with a small crowd of strangers at the old KX studios on South Broadway. Faces and names blurred during numerous introductions and the conversation was a constant din, like background music.

And then I heard a booming, Norwegian-flavored voice. The crowd stopped talking.

Chet Reiten had entered the room.

He had a larger than life presence and his words were always action oriented: “Take care of this,” “We need to solve that,” “Let’s go with this.”

He was always moving forward.

I was supposedly there for a job interview, but I ended up spending the day following Chet around, from a meeting with his KX Network management staff in Bismarck to some business as Minot mayor to a few phone calls as a North Dakota state senator.

When, at the end of all this, he asked me if I had any questions for him about the job or the TV station or his expectations, I had none — everything I could ever possibly want to know was answered during that frenetic day.

I was working for him less than a month later.

Look up the word mayor and, if the dictionary is worth anything, it will have as the first entry, Chet Reiten.

He embodied everything a mayor should be: Gregarious, self-depreciating, able to speak at the drop of a hat, a strong sense of what needs to be done, the ability to draw together the people who can get it done, an overriding sense of community.

A natural leader, a problem solver, a consensus maker.

Chet was known for his “Quality of Life” speech. At any event where he was called upon to offer a few words, he would always point to the quality of life in Minot in particular, North Dakota in general.

“That’s what it comes down to, you see,” he would emphasize. “Quality of life is so important for us and our children and we’ve got to do what’s right to maintain it, to improve upon it.”

Everything he did, everything he considered, he did so from the point of view of how it would affect the quality of life.

Chet Reiten was one of those rare North Dakota leaders who fit his various public roles in life so comfortably, so naturally that people might be forgiven for thinking his work was easy.

It wasn’t, of course. He knew you couldn’t make everybody happy, no matter how hard you were working in the public interest or for the public good.

Midway through his years as Minot mayor, I asked him once how long he thought he would keep running for the office.

“Until half the voters are unhappy with me,” he answered. “Every time you do something, you have some people who don’t like what you’ve done. And, over time, that number increases. At 50 percent you can’t be effective any longer and it will be time to move on to something else.”

He was a visionary in the sense that he envisioned projects and then built coalitions of people to move the projects from vision to reality.

He took pride in his accomplishments, but he was never prideful. He shared success, pointedly giving credit to others.

That’s how the Norsk Hostfest grew. Sure, Chet had the idea, but every time he was asked about its unique success year after year, he would say it was due to the work of many other people, not him. Hostfest wasn’t about him. It was about heritage, history, community, fun. It was about quality of life.

Hostfest, Chet said, was bigger than any individual, and he went to great lengths trying to ensure Hostfest would go on long after he was gone.

Sadly, we’re now in a world where those efforts will be tested.

Chet Reiten will be missed. Though we are poorer for the loss of his presence, we are richer as the beneficiaries of the time he spent with us and the things he accomplished for us.

As published on The Bismarck Tribune, Remembering Chet Reiten.


Chet was ‘one of the biggest personalities in the Norwegian-American community’

Remembering Chester Reiten | Sons of Norway

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.