Outstanding Graduates

Three weeks of listening to stories about outstanding students from Langdon High School and Langdon Area High School has been a snapshot of life and customs in our area. One of the first things that appeared came with the duplication of names. Think three Kathy Krams in a two-year period or two Jason Krams, both very bright. Or maybe two Allan Braatens, two or three Christopher Olsons, or other sound and spell alike examples. People by those names were chosen as outstanding graduates and putting the right person with the year listed became a challenge.

The original names were engraved on a trophy which remains at the school. To save time or space, an early engraver went to one initial rather than a first name for some of the early winners. Which person with that last name graduated in that year? What if the yearbook lists and pictures someone that was not on the list or even in school that year? When the clipping file did not answer those questions, I tried parents who offered even more interesting stories about where these talented young people are today. Some are living right in our community.

A translation of this information began right from the beginning so we will start with the years when the recipients were all boys. The award went to D. (Dale) Ramage in 1952 whose story was in last week. The next year, 1953, Kenneth Mukomela was valedictorian, an outstanding basketball player, and received the outstanding award. He went on to Mayville State where he played basketball, was valedictorian of his class, and speaker for his college graduation. Military service, wife and children were part of his life by that time. One of his first teaching positions was at Garrison where possibly he also coached basketball. Later the Mukomela family moved to Marshall, MN, where Ken taught at Southwest State University until retirement. A long-time member of the National Guard, he took sabbaticals when reactivated for longer periods of time and over the years rose through the Guard rankings.

Possibly the engraving was too small for an earlier newspaper story because the 1954 name given is K. Johnson. Actually, the award went to Kenneth Johannson, son of Frank and Ina, who went on to become a lawyer with offices in Crookston. Local readers may remember having their first taste of soft ice cream when his mother built and operated Dairyland along Highway 1.

1955 lists R. Power. who was Robert Joseph Power, son of Richard and Dorothy Power. His Power grandparents were two pioneer era teachers who met each other when they were hired to share teaching duties at one of the first Langdon schools. Bob is remembered as “in everything” and a whiz in math. He went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from UND and to earn both his master’s and doctorate in philosophy from Emory University in Atlanta. Much of his career was spent teaching at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He taught math, philosophy and logic classes as well as spending time in administration. For relaxation we are told he spent time constructing logic problems for puzzle books. He died in Ohio in 1988.

Tom Belzer received the award in 1956 and spent much of his life in Oregon. Relatives no longer live here so I did not find information on his career. The 1957 award went to Harry Franta, son of Ed and Jennie Franta. Harry played football at LHS, edited the yearbook, and held many offices. He inherited some of his father’s writing skills and possibly his sense of humor. There are memories of classic letters Harry wrote each Christmas. Harry and Margo moved to Utah when their son and “the smartest grandsons ever” settled there in later years. Harry died in 2017.

Jim Symons received the award in 1958 and may have been the first farm recipient on the list. The Symons family lived in Langdon and also had farmland east of Langdon. His last reported address was Fargo. There was no award given in 1959, and I am told this was because of tragic car accidents featuring local teenage boys. Robert Haugen and Donald Knudson were killed and others in the car injured around this time. Several from the 1959 and 1960 classes also lost their lives in other accidents. The Haugen-Knudson award, still given annually, was established at that time.

In 1960 the faculty chose Keith Brooks for the award. Keith served in the military (draft laws were still in effect) and went to school to become a mortician then entered the family business. Keith spent most of his adult life working along with his father, brother Bill, daughter Marnie and other family members. Keith died in 2004.

Patrick Bodelson was chosen in 1961. His first stop was UND where he joined the University’s ROTC unit. From that point on each clipping shows him receiving additional awards and often a promotion. By 1966 Lt. Bodelson married Lynda Hart over the Christmas holidays. Lynda, at that time, was a junior at UND so she finished her semester and by February joined her new husband who was then stationed in West Germany. Patrick has had tours of duty around the world ever since, taking Lynda and their daughters along whenever possible. Wherever they lived, family and friends included the spot in their winter travels. In recent years they have made their home in Georgia.

In 1962 the award went to R. Crockett – son of Richard (Dick) and Janice Crockett. Because they lived across the street, I do know that neighbors called this Richard “Dickie” to keep the two Dicks straight. Another cousin, who also graduated from LHS, is known as Rick, an example of how families like familiar names. This Richard went on to become a lawyer, practicing in Fargo and later moving to Minnesota where the family may still live. The 1963 award went to Bernie Kiley, son of Eddie and Irene Kiley. Bernie was very musical and also played basketball. At UND he was part of the Varsity Bards and headed that group for a time. He also had a degree in mechanical engineering and spent time working for Pan Am and other firms in Wyoming. He is now deceased.

In 1964 the award changed, and an award for the Outstanding Girl was also established. Because locating the married names or career information on the girls is more difficult, the listing for this column will save the girls for another time. Tom Valentine was given the award in 1964 with mention of his farming background and that he was known as a wrestler, a sport his sons and grandsons enjoyed as well. Tom still lives on the farm. The 1965 award went to Justin Price, son of Robert and Bernice Price. Always musical, Justin was featured in many school programs and part of the LHS Band. As a high school junior he was chosen to go to Europe with other talented musicians – possibly one of the first LHS students to make what has become an annual trip for some special musicians. Justin continued his musical career at UND and other schools, eventually settling in New Mexico where he taught music and performed with the bassoon. The 1966 award went to Wayne Greene, son or Orlin and Shirley Greene. He went on to work with a nationally known food supplier – the Centennial book says Green Giant. There is a memory that Wayne was tall, and his name was Greene but he probably did not do any of the commercials.

Dennis Throndset was the Outstanding Boy in 1967 and has earned many outstanding awards in the years between. He went into teaching, coaching, was elementary principal, and has served on many boards and committees down through the years. Farther down the list, you will learn that some outstanding characteristics may be genetic. In 1968 the faculty chose Daniel Hart, the son of Leonard and Vera Hart. Danny was in music and drama in high school and interested in producing entertainment. One of his next stops was the PBS television studio in Fargo. Later he worked in television on the east coast (Boston or New York) and later in Holland. One reunion directory gives his address as Belgium, but he does make it back to Langdon occasionally.

1968 was the year St. Alphonsus High School closed and the first year the combined schools had one hundred graduates. How do you handle awards when they are all in one building? By that time there had already been students from Wales in the Langdon group and the outstanding award criteria had dropped from four continuous to two continuous years at LHS. The first list I found listed the Outstanding Boy trophy going to Jon Tveten in 1969, Joel Jacobson in 1970 and did not list Allan Braaten at all! Here is what happened as near as I could find proof of sorts. In 1969 Jon Tveten had already passed the series of tests which earned him a Merit Scholarship, sponsored in part by Cargill which happened to be the elevator where his father was employed. Jon was definitely an honor student but so was Joel Jacobson who had good grades, had won trophies at state wrestling, and was in FFA. Also, in 1969, Senator Mark Andrews had nominated Allan Braaten for West Point. Allan had already received his Eagle Scout rating and was an all-around good kid, but he was not a member of the 1969 class. The annual for 1970 shows Allan as getting the award that year. An earlier newspaper clipping lists Jon as valedictorian and Joel as salutatorian for 1969. But wait, there were three young ladies from St. Alphonsus whose academic scores ranked up there with Jon and Joel! Jon and one of the girls became co-valedictorians. Joel and the other two became co-salutatorians. The two boys were each awarded the Outstanding Boy designation. Where are they now? Jon Tveten went on to become a medical doctor practicing in Redlands, CA. Joel went to NDSU to wrestle and study agriculture. Today Joel and his sons are still farming, some of the land being original homesteads owned by their family and neighbors for more than a century. Jon, whose father died recently, is still a doctor in California.

The 1970 yearbook and the clipping file lists the 1970 award going to Allan Braaten, son of Arnold and Marion Braaten, who had also qualified for West Point along with another of his classmates (name not given). Allan did spend two years at West Point but then transferred to UND because the military was not his major goal. He wanted to help young people with problems and had learned about a special school in Austin, MN. In retrospect this was the start of work with special education and special needs children. To the best of my knowledge, he is still living and working in Austin.

The 1971 award went to Carl Brehmer, son of Allen and Mary Brehmer, who grew up in the Dresden area. Carl went on to become an RN, and the Wales Centennial Book lists him as specializing in trauma patients in the Phoenix area. The 1972 award went to Phil Boe, son of Edsel Boe, a family who left Langdon for Dickinson in 1975. In 1973 the award went to Mike Murie, son of John and Zilpha Murie. Mike went to UND and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. One of the reunion books lists him living in Grand Forks. The 1974 award went to Alfred Padden who has had a long career in the Army. There are frequent moves with Army careers, but reunion data lists him at Ft. Meade, MD. In 1975, Brent Mikkelsen was chosen. There are quite a few Mikkelsen families, but Brent appears to have been living in or near Seattle at the time of one of the reunions.

Dennis Gendreau was the 1976 choice. He is the son of Stan and Evelyn Gendreau. He became a funeral director working in Williston and currently he lives in the Bismarck area. In 1977, John (Brian) Delebo, son of John and Joyce Delebo, was chosen as outstanding. For some reason Minnetonka, MN, sounds right. I do not remember his career but know he has children his parents were very proud of.

The 1978 winners were covered in last week’s column, and we will continue the listing beginning with the girls when we have enough information to identify them.


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