Chester Reiten

Chester Reiten, 89, died Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, while holding his wife’s hand, in a Minot assisted living facility.

Chester Maynard Reiten was born Nov. 14, 1923, at Hastings, in Barnes County, to Lars and Carrie (Smedshammer) Reiten. He was raised on a farm and graduated from Hastings High School in 1941. He started college that fall at North Dakota Agricultural College, now North Dakota State University, in Fargo. During World War II, Chet enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 7, 1943, serving as an ensign and commanding officer of a Landing Craft Infantry Ship (LCI) in the U.S. Navy. Chester was in the Pacific Theatre where the U.S. was preparing to invade Japan and the war ended. He received an honorable discharge in July 1946.

Upon his discharge from the Navy, he returned to college under the G.I. bill, where he met another Navy veteran, Joy Louise Steenson. They were married in Fargo on Aug. 15, 1947.

After graduating with a degree in soils from NDAC in 1948, the couple moved to Jamestown, where he was assistant county agent, and later to Fessenden, where he was county agent. In 1951, they moved back to Jamestown, where he began his career in radio and television as farm director for KSJB radio. They returned to Fargo, where he was the sales manager at KXJB-TV. In 1955, they moved to Minot, where he became the station manager at KCJB -TV, later changed to KXMC-TV. He eventually owned television stations at Minot, Williston, Bismarck and Dickinson, which are now owned by his children. He also owned three radio stations in Minot that were sold in February 2000.

Chester was first elected mayor of Minot in 1970 and served 14 years. In 1972, he was elected to the N.D. State Senate, serving for 16 years. Chester served as chairman of the Senate Industry, Business and Labor Committee, and also held the position of Senate Pro Tem. Chester was involved in the community as chairman of the Trinity Hospital Board in Minot, a longtime Rotary Club member and president of the Minot Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the Sons of Norway. Chester was a member of Bethany Lutheran Church, where he served on the church council and taught Sunday school for many years.

Reiten’s radio and television background was a natural introduction to the entertainment industry, which served him well when he started the internationally known Norsk Hstfest in Minot. The festival began in 1978, and has continued for more than 35 years. In addition to celebrating the strong Scandinavian heritage of the area, he brought in great entertainers such as Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and returning Hstfest favorites such as Bjoro Haaland, Charley Pride, Williams and Ree and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Among his personal highlights, Reiten met the King of Norway, Olav V, in 1988, and hosted King Olav V’s daughter, Princess Astrid, at the Norsk Hstfest on two separate occasions and King Olav V’s granddaughter, Princess Martha Louise, in 2005. Reiten was one of only a handful of Americans to receive personally the St. Olav Medal from the King of Norway as a result of his work with Norsk Hstfest and his promotion of Norwegian and Scandinavian heritage. Reiten was inducted into the Scandinavian American Hall of Fame in Minot in 2011.

In 2002, Chet was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the highest honor presented by the state by then Gov. John Hoeven.

For a number of years, the Reitens spent part of each winter in Arizona. He and Joy, his wife, moved to an assisted living facility in July 2012.

Survivors include: Joy, his wife, of Minot; sons, Steven of Harwood, David (Carla) of Minot, and Tim (Deanna) of Bismarck; daughters, Kathleen (Douglas) Hruby, Bismarck, and Melanie Reiten (Gerald) Shonkwiler, San Diego; grandchildren, Kaleb Hruby, Aleah Hruby, Harrison Hruby and John Reiten; brother, Donald (Alma), Dent, Minn.; and sister, Vivian Weisser, Stanwood, Wash.; and many nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by: his parents; and his brother, Joseph.

Funeral: Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 1 p.m. at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Old Main on the campus of Minot State University, Minot.

Interment: will be held at a later date.

Visitation: Monday from 2 to 7 p.m. at Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Minot.

Memorials: The family prefers memorials to the Bethany Lutheran Foundation or to the Norsk Hstfest Foundation, both Minot.

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