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Published February 05, 2014, 12:14 PM

Herman Stern to receive ND's Rough Rider Award posthumously

BISMARCK – Businessman Herman Stern will be the 40th recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, North Dakota's highest commendation for its citizens, Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Wednesday.

BISMARCK – Businessman Herman Stern will be the 40th recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, North Dakota's highest commendation for its citizens, Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Wednesday.

Dalrymple will officially present Stern’s family with the award during a March 13 event in Fargo. Stern passed away in 1980 and will be receiving the award posthumously.

“When you think of a leader and visionary whose contributions have impacted generations of North Dakotans, Herman Stern rises to the top,” Dalrymple said in a news release. “In addition to building a successful business, he made pioneering contributions to North Dakota’s economy and communities, and initiated programs to support youth and those in need, contributions that are still making a difference today. His dedication to helping others and to building a strong foundation for our state has forged a legacy that lives on in North Dakota.”

Louise Erdrich was the last recipient of the Rough Rider Award. The author was honored last year.

Stern was born in Oberbrechen, Germany in 1887, the youngest of eight children. He came to America at the age of 16 to work at the Straus Clothing Store in Casselton, a clothing store established by his cousin, Morris Straus. In 1907, Stern became manager of the store when a second store opened in Valley City.

Three years later, Stern became manager of the Valley City store and remained there for the next 70 years. In addition to Casselton and Valley City, the company operated stores in LaMoure, Carrington, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Devils Lake.

Today, after more than 130 years of operation, Straus Clothing has a store in Fargo with a third generation of Stern family members running the business. John and Rick Stern have succeeded their father, Ed Stern, in running the family store.

In addition to his business contributions, Stern was also very active in community and statewide organizations and initiatives, establishing many programs that were pivotal in North Dakota’s progress, and remain so today.

In 1924, Stern founded the Greater North Dakota Association, known today as the Greater North Dakota Chamber, and served as the organization’s first president.

In 1937, under Stern’s vision and direction, the North Dakota Winter Show made its debut in Valley City. The show was established to promote North Dakota’s agriculture industry and feature the work of 4-H clubs, FFA groups and other ag-related organizations and businesses. After 77 years, the Winter Show is the oldest and longest running agriculture show in the state, drawing visitors and exhibitors from across the country and Canada.

Stern chaired the fundraising campaign to raise money for the construction of the North Dakota Winter Show Event Center, the show’s home still today.

Stern was active with Boy Scouts of America and was instrumental in establishing councils in Fargo, Valley City, Wahpeton and Grand Forks, councils that later formed the Northern Lights Council.

With family and friends in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, Stern became worried about their welfare and embarked on a mission to bring them to America. He felt it was “just an accident that I came to this country” and he and his wife, Adeline, had the “responsibility to make it possible for other people to continue to live and have an opportunity to enjoy this great country of ours, which was so good to us.”

With assistance from state leaders and the U.S. State Department, Stern made it possible for between 175 and 200 German Jews to escape the Holocaust and come to America. Each individual required a visa, a process that took weeks or months. Stern tracked each visa and contacted different agencies throughout the process to ensure the application was moving forward. He had to personally guarantee that none of the individuals would become wards of the state.

In 1967, on Stern’s 70th birthday, several of those he helped bring to America honored him with a framed resolution of appreciation. He was also honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York for his extraordinary deeds.

Stern was also active in Rotary and the Masonic Order, and was instrumental in establishing a program called the Community Chest, in which people would donate money to help address the needs of the community not funded by taxes. That program later became the United Way of Barnes County, another of Stern’s visions that is still impacting people today.

“We are so honored to accept this prestigious award on behalf of our grandfather, Herman Stern,” said John Stern, spokesperson for the Stern family. “His contributions to our family and our state are significant and his vision continues to guide Straus Clothing and the state of North Dakota still today. We are proud that Herman is being honored for his valuable accomplishments and that his legacy will live on as a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.”

Dalrymple will present the award to members of the Stern family on March 13 during a luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Fargo.

The luncheon is sponsored by the GNDC and will be held in conjunction with the organization’s quarterly board meeting. Dalrymple will unveil a portrait of Stern that will hang in the state Capitol in Bismarck, along with the portraits of other notable North Dakotans.

For more information about the event or to register for the luncheon, please visit www.ndchamber.com.

List of Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award winners:

•Lawrence Welk, entertainer, 1961

•Dorothy Stickney, actress, 1961

•Ivan Dmitri, artist, 1962

•Roger Maris, athlete, 1964

•Eric Sevareid, journalist, 1964

•Gen. Harold K. Johnson, military service, 1965

•Dr. Anne H. Carlsen, educator, 1966

•Edward K. Thompson, journalist, 1968

•Dr. Robert Henry Bahmer, archiving, 1970

•Louis L’Amour, author, 1972

•Bertin C. Gamble, entrepreneur, 1972

•Casper Oimoen, athlete, 1973

•Peggy Lee, entertainer, 1975

•Harold Schafer, entrepreneur, 1975

•Era Bell Thompson, journalist, 1976

•Dr. Leon Orris Jacobson, physician, 1976

•Elizabeth Bodine, humanitarian, 1979

•Phyllis Frelich, actress, 1981

•Cliff “Fido” Purpur, athlete, 1981

•Gen. David C. Jones, military service, 1982

•Ronald N. Davies, judge, 1987

•Phil Jackson, athlete, 1992

•Larry Woiwode, author, 1992

•Angie Dickinson, actress, 1992

•Rev. Richard C. Halverson, minister, 1994

•Brynhild Haugland, legislator, 1995

•Admiral William A. Owens, military service, 1996

•Carl Ben Eielson, pioneer aviator, 1997

•Warren Christopher, public service, 1998

•Bobby Vee, entertainer, 1999

•Chester “Chet” Reitan, entrepreneur, 2002

•Thomas J. Clifford, educator, 2002

•Sister Thomas Welder, educator, 2004

•Harry J. Pearce, business leader, 2004

•William C. Marcil, business leader, 2006

•Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, military service, 2008

•Doug Burgum, entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2009

•Ronald D. Offutt, agribusiness leader and philanthropist, 2011

•Louise Erdrich, author, 2013.

Source: North Dakota governor’s office