Hats off to Arlene

Arlene Saugstad rode in the North Dakota State Fair Parade as the grand marshal when she was 98 and danced at both her 100th birthday party in 2012 and her 101th birthday last year.

Saugstad, who continued to write a monthly arts column for The Minot Daily News, died Sunday at her home near Minot at the age of 101.

Known by many as “the hat lady” due to the many different hats that she wore, Saugstad devoted much of her time over the years to Minot’s art community art, music and theater. Among her many honors and recognitions, the Mouse River Players, an organization that she helped organize in 1972, named its theater in downtown Minot for her.

Terri Aldrich, executive director of the Minot Area Council of the Arts, said, “Every arts organization in Minot was postively impacted by Arlene and what she chose to do that was to present the arts in the most positive light possible and promote them that way. She was the epitomy of positive public p.r.”

Steve Herron, publisher of The Minot Daily News, said, “Miss Arlene was a special person that the City of Minot will not be able to replace. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know her will miss her friendly smile and kind words. Arlene would have been 102 in May and I know many of us were looking forward to her birthday party. What a great lady. She will be sadly missed by all.”

John Fishpaw, president of the Mouse River Players’ board of directors, said Saugstad, a board member, attended all the board meetings rain, snow or shine until recently. In The Arlene, the Mouse River Players’ theater named in her honor, she had her own special chair, he said. It was a front-row seat.

“She always wanted her name up in lights we’re working on it,” Fishpaw said.

Dina Butcher, of Bismarck, formerly of Minot, told The Minot Daily News for a May 2012, story, that Saugstad “was always willing to give really more than 100 percent of her time to anything that was put in front of her.”

“She’s the last of a breed, though. There aren’t the kind of people who can take the time out of their lives to do what Arlene has done for the community,” she added.

Saugstad’s interests and involvements were many.

Aldrich said Saugstad always felt it was important to attend functions.

“I don’t think there is a cultural entity that I haven’t been involved with over the years,” Saugstad told The Minot Daily News in February 2013, when she was honored by the city for her dedication to the city’s arts and culture.

“I simply find it impossible not to be involved. And I have never needed encouragement to get involved,” she said.

One of her latest projects that she was involved in was Artspace in downtown Minot.

Saugstad remained active in the community until the time of her death.

Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Minot, is in charge of funeral arrangements.