Arlene L. Saugstad

Arlene L. Saugstad, who was a life force for Minot, died Sunday, March 16, 2014, at her home, surrounded by her loving family.

She was just two months short of her 102nd birthday, an event she had taken to celebrating on a major scale after once declaring her refusal to grow old gracefully. And Minot reciprocated, coming to her parties in recent years to celebrate with her, to dance the night away, as it were.

Mrs. Saugstad kept the community alert to all upcoming arts activities in a monthly column she wrote for The Minot Daily News. It was not just a lackluster list, but a column with a theme and a narrative that gave it a certain swagger and was often complimentary to organizations and their leaders. It helped underscore Minot’s reputation as a state leader in arts activities.

Her record of involvement and promotion in the community is exhaustive. There is little that she entered into in which she did not wind up as president or chairman or stage manager or the one people went to for help. She organized and orchestrated countless events that functioned both as entertainment and fundraisers. She had said she would like to be remembered as a volunteer for good causes.

She began life in Bismarck, where she was born May 16, 1912, a daughter of Alvin and Effie (Goodenough) Loehrke.

She was educated there and at Jamestown College, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in history with a minor in English. She did some graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and began a career as a teacher at Bismarck and Wilton.

It was at Wilton where she met Stanley Saugstad, who was Wilton superintendent of schools. In marrying him at Bismarck on her birthday in 1941, she became part of a historic Minot family. He was a third-generation farmer on land homesteaded in Sundre Township near the turn of the 20th century. For the next two years, she worked as his secretary while he was coordinator of wildlife restoration projects for the State Game and Fish Department in Bismarck.

In 1943 they returned to the family farm and lived and farmed there until building a new home in Nedrose Township.

Arlene was active in politics during her husband Stan’s legislative career from 1953-63, and served as a Nedrose Township committee chair.

For eight years, she edited The Ward County Independent, a weekly newspaper that was published from 1902 to 1965. She once was president of the North Dakota Press Women’s Association, and earned awards for stories she wrote and entered in competition.

She also had jobs at Toivo’s Jewelry and Midwest Federal Savings & Loan Association, and was the first director of Town and Country Shopping Center. For 15 years, she chaired the Minot Chamber of Commerce annual flower shows, eventually receiving a Chamber of the Year Award for that effort. She continued to organize, compete in and judge flower shows, and once was president of the North Dakota Horticultural Society.

She was a charter member of the Minot Art Association and chaired its annual art auction for many years. She won an award in a juried art show. In 1988 the association honored her for her service and dedication. She also was a recipient of the governor’s state art award for promotion of art in the Minot area. She was a member of the Minot Area Council of the Arts and the North Dakota Council of the Arts.

The scope of her membership in various organizations and their boards included the Minot Symphony Association and Minot Symphony League, the Minot Opera Company, Greater Minot Zoological Society, the Ward County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Minot Community Chest (now Souris Valley United Way), the YWCA and the Minot Quota Club, where she served two terms as president. She was a committee member of the Norsk Hostfest ethnic style show for many years.

She was a member of the North Dakota State Historical Society and of the Ward County Historical Society, serving as secretary-treasurer of the latter for a number of years.

She was a member of the Minot Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, and in that capacity interviewed individuals who were subjects in the commission’s book, “Plum Valley Women.” This led to her being a cast member of the Reader’s Theater, which was an outgrowth of the book featuring portrayals of pioneer women.

She was a charter member of the Mouse River Players and served as a board member and officer for many years. The company’s theater is named The Arlene. She appeared in several productions and received a plaque as an angel of the theater.

She was a member of the Parent-Teachers Association and was PTA president when her children were students at Minot High School. In addition, she was also a member of the Taube Museum of Art, the P.E.O. Sisterhood, and a supporter of the Minot Chamber Chorale.

Long active as a member of Vincent United Methodist Church in Minot, she served as a trustee, lay leader, and three terms as president of the church women’s group. She was also a Bible school teacher for many years, and chaired the church’s centennial year program of activities. She and her husband contributed four octaves of bells to the church for a bell choir.

Surviving family includes: children, Edward (Marianne) Saugstad, Sinks Grove, W. Va., Gail Saugstad, Brookville, Ohio, Linda (Myron Kaeding) Erickson, Eagan, Minn.; and Craig Saugstad (Margaret Gaarder), Minot; grandchildren, Nels Saugstad, Crystal Saugstad and her fiance, Chad Bechtold, David McNew, Laura McNew, Amy (Don) Greene, Angela (Travis) Griffin, Wendy (Rob) Root, Sandy (Stefan) Lee, and Cristy (Eric) Herfendahl; great-grandchildren, Austin and Sierra Greene, Ki-Lee and Elizabeth Rose Griffin, Julia and Aubrey Root, Elliot and Jack Lee, and Gavyn and Aiden Herfendahl.

Arlene was preceded in death by her mother, Effie; father, Alvin; stepmother, Bess Loehrke; and husband, Stanley, who passed away Aug. 17, 1992.

Funeral: Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 11 a.m., at Vincent United Methodist Church, Minot.

Interment: Rosehill Memorial Park, Minot.

Visitation: Today, March 21, from 2 to 7 p.m., at Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Minot.

Memorials: Are preferred to Vincent United Methodist Church, the Minot Area Council of the Arts, the Taube Museum of Art, Mouse River Players, Minot Chamber Chorale, the P.E.O., Brass Band of Minot, Ward County Historical Society, or the Minot Public Schools Foundation, all of Minot.

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