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Published February 03, 2014, 07:58 PM

Grand Forks prosecutor Dwight Kalash dies

Dwight Kalash, Grand Forks city prosecutor for 22 years and city judge in Thompson, N.D., for nearly as long, died Sunday in Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake. He was 66.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Dwight Kalash, Grand Forks city prosecutor for 22 years and city judge in Thompson, N.D., for nearly as long, died Sunday in Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake. He was 66.

“He was the most wonderful person,” said Darla Feilen, clerk of the municipal court for 25 years, half of them with Kalash. “He was very good at what he did and didn’t get overly excited if things didn’t go his way.”

Kalash grew up in Wahpeton, N.D., graduated from UND’s law school, joining the North Dakota bar in 1971. He joined the Army that year and worked until 1974 as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, mostly in the Washington, D.C., area. He received a medical discharge in 1974 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but the illness seemed to be in remission for decades, friends said.

Kalash came back to Grand Forks, worked for UND for a year, and then joined the private practice of Carlton Nelson in 1975. By 1978, he was prosecutor in municipal court in Grand Forks.

He and his wife, Sherri, moved to Thompson more than 30 years ago and he was elected municipal judge there about 1985, holding both positions until he retired in 2000.

He had a style as prosecutor in court that included a gruff grilling of a defendant, Feilen said: “And so what is it that makes you believe you are not guilty?”

But he really was kind, she said.

“He was an extraordinary guy, just an awesome person to work with and a great friend,” Feilen said. When she married her husband in 2007, “he invited us along to his time-share (condo) in Mexico with his family,” Feilen said.

Dwight and Sherri Kalash moved to Devils Lake several years ago to be near one of their sons and grandchildren.

‘Law and order man’

Gary Euren, an assistant state’s attorney for Cass County in Fargo, was Kalash’s assistant prosecutor for nearly 10 years and took over the office for five years when Kalash retired.

“I just saw him Friday night,” said Euren, who picked up one of the Kalash’s three sons on the way to Devils Lake for a last visit.

Euren and Kalash both attended Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Forks.

“He was creative, a real man of words,” Euren said. “He loved to use them properly. A good prosecutor, a good law and order man, a great mentor, a great friend, a strong Christian.”

He spoke bluntly, too.

In 1989, Kalash explained to the Herald why no one ran against then-new state District Judge Bruce Bohlman, who always had a good reputation: “The Holy Ghost couldn’t beat Bruce Bohlman.”

Kalash, a Republican, made good friends across a “disparate” spectrum of liberals and conservatives, Euren said. “If you were a friend, he was a good friend.”

Kristi Pettit Venhuizen began working for Kalash in his law firm and as an assistant city prosecutor in 1998.

“He was a great mentor,” she said. “It was very important to him that people be ethical and that you treat everyone with respect. And every day he would ask me, ‘Are you still having fun?’”

Kalash treated her well, Venhuizen said.

“He gave up full-time practice in 2000 and I took over the practice and he worked for me for a few years,” she said. She remained assistant city prosecutor under Euren until he moved to Fargo in 2005 and she took over the position.

Kalash was recognized at the Grand Forks City Council meeting Monday. “He will be missed,” Mayor Mike Brown said. “Our condolences go out to his family.

Lived with MS

Diagnosed as a young man with multiple sclerosis, Kalash held it at bay for years until the symptoms began bothering him in the late 1990s, Euren said.

Venhuizen said he probably would have made the Army a career except for his MS diagnosis 40 years ago.

Kalash entered the hospital last Wednesday.

“He was well aware of his situation,” Euren said of his Friday visit with Kalash. “His three boys were there and Sherri.”

The family plans to hold a public memorial service for Kalash sometime in the spring.

His survivors include his wife, Sharon, known as Sherri; and their three sons, Chris, Bismarck; Matt, Florida; and Joe, West Fargo, and several grandchildren.

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