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Longtime Dickinson Elks member Larry Bares named state's Elk of the Year

Elaine and Larry Bares, of Dickinson, sit with Larry’s North Dakota Elk of the Year award on July 30. (Press Photo by Linda Sailer)

Larry Bares, of Dickinson, said serving his community led him to being named North Dakota's Elk of the Year.

A member of the Elks Lodge No. 1137 for 58 years, Bares was honored during the North Dakota State Elks Association convention on July 18. He was selected from among a group of nominees from eight Elks Lodges across the state.

"I think the award was well-deserved and a long-time coming," said Don Bares, his son and Elks member. "He's been so involved with the Elks, giving a ton of his time and efforts. He's served over the years on the local, state and national levels. I think he's always believed in the Elks, and felt that if you get involved in something, you do it well."

While Larry and his wife, Elaine, appreciate having an Elks lounge and restaurant to support in Dickinson, he said that's not what Elkdom is about.

"The main thing is service to the community and to our youth," Larry said.

He referenced the Elks scholarships and honors given to its Hoop Shoot winners, the Elks Teens of the Month, the Scouting program and support of veterans. He served on the Elks Camp Grassick committee from 2008 to 2014.

Camp Grassick serves children and adults with disabilities and special needs through six sessions throughout the summer. Larry and Elaine have volunteered at the camp several times. A carpenter by trade, he helped with renovations to buildings at Camp Grassick, on the south side of Lake Isabel near Dawson.

"Last year, he built a new shower, reroofed a bunch of houses and remodeled the windows," said Elaine.

Larry said he joined the Elks when he was 21 years old after an invitation from Val Alex.

"I was very honored to be asked to join," Larry said. "I think it gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of pride. It was a tremendous feeling."

The lodge still requires a sponsor for members to join.

Larry was elected as an officer—a seven-year commitment because the officers move through the chairs.

He served as the lodge's exalted ruler from 1987-88. Over the years, he also served as Hoop Shoot chairman and youth activities chairman. He headed the construction for the Elks Sodbuster Bar, and assisted with the main bar expansion and deck addition.

He and his wife have attended the Elks' national convention in Atlanta, as well as most state conventions. He served as state president from 2010-11.

Larry has held jobs that were strictly for fun—serving as a doorman and welcoming new members. He also chaired the lodge's gaming committee and helped upgrade its bylaws.

Larry began his career by teaching at Lefor, then taught at Trinity High School from 1962 to 1966.

After working five years with Hauck Millwork—now TMI Systems Design Corp.—he taught the construction trades at Dickinson High School from 1969 to 1976. He also coached track, football and basketball.

Larry started Donco, Inc., constructing new houses in the Dickinson area. The corporation operated from 1976 to 2011, when it dissolved. He has been retired for the five years.

On the civic level, Larry was a member and president of the Dickinson Area Builders Association. He received the local Builder of the Year award in 1987 and the Spike award for membership recruitment. He currently serves as president of the Dickinson Board of Adjustments, and is chairman of the Southwest Water Authority Board. He's also a longtime member of the Dickinson State University Blue Hawk Booster Club.

Larry and Elaine are the parents of Don and a daughter, Renee Fransen, of Coleharbor. They have four grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

Favorite memories are perhaps associated with his tenure as exalted ruler, when the Elks Sodbusters Band entertained for social gatherings, when the lodges paraded down Main Street during state conventions or when officers were installed during the rituals.

"The rituals brought everybody very close together," he said. "Everybody learned their parts and everybody knew the meaning of their parts. It all meant a lot."