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Family of stabbing victim recall Hartze's life

DEVILS LAKE -- Teaching at the North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake was a dream realized for Paula Hartze, according to her brother.

"She was very hard of hearing. For her to make it through school (and earn a master's degree) is a very big deal," Jay Skabo, her brother, said in a phone interview from Dickinson."Then to go back and help kids who were in her same situation. . . .

"It was her life calling. She was proud of being able to help the kids and she got a lot of enjoyment out of helping."

Hartze's life calling, and her life, ended in tragedy.

Devils Lake police say Hartze, 43, was murdered in her home. Her body was discovered Sunday; police said she may have been killed Saturday.

Hartze died as a result of stab wounds to the torso, according to Police Chief Bruce Kemmet. He said there were no signs of forced entry to Hartze's home, and officers do not believe the public is at risk.

Police have not named a suspect and have not made an arrest, Kemmet said Tuesday.

"It's been a very difficult time for all of us," said Dennis Fogelson, state School for the Deaf superintendent. "Everyone is still in shock."

'Very beloved teacher'

Born with a hearing impairment, Hartze graduated from Dickinson High School in 1983 and attended college in both Dickinson and Valley City. She followed in the teaching footsteps of her parents, Joan and Leland Skabo. Paula first taught in Solen, then in Devils Lake, at the state School for the Deaf.

The School for the Deaf, established in 1890, is run by the state Department of Instruction. It's for students from younger than 1 to age 21 who have severe to profound hearing loss.

"Paula was an exceptional person," Joan Skabo said in a phone interview. "She overcame her (impairment) and was a good teacher. These students, they were her children."

Hartze was an English teacher at the school in Devils Lake for the past 13 years, according to Fogelson.

"She was a very beloved teacher. We are going to miss her," Fogelson said. Hartze's death "is a tragedy, and we are trying to cope with it right now."

Herald e-mails inviting comments about Hartze from co-workers went unanswered Tuesday afternoon.

The North Dakota School for the Deaf will hold a memorial service for Hartze at 1 p.m. Thursday in the school's gymnasium, Fogelson said.

Family members have requested that any memorial donations be marked for the Friends of Deaf Children Foundation, c/o North Dakota School for the Deaf, 1401 College Drive N., Devils Lake, N.D., 58301.

'Something like this doesn't go away'

Joan Skabo said her daughter was loved by many, as was evident Tuesday as telephone calls with prayers for the family came to their Dickinson home.

"Paula always had a twinkle in her eye, and she had the cutest smile," her mother said. "This is tough. It'll be tough for the rest of our lives. Something like this doesn't go away."

Hartze loved the color black, her new SUV and cats, Leland Skabo said Tuesday. Divorced in 2002, his daughter didn't have children, but she cared for her two cats as if they were.

"She gave her mother a T-shirt that said, 'You mean all my grandchildren are cats?'" he said.

Hartze was active in theater, from junior high through her teaching career, her father said. She directed plays at the School for the Deaf, and was active in Devils Lake area community theater for a while. According to a submission several years ago at, a Web site that helps connect classmates, Hartze wrote, "My picture (along with my ex-husband and the rest of the cast of "Love, Sex and the IRS") is on the Wall of Fame at Spirit Lake Casino, right next to Williams and Ree!"

"She was always smiling. Some of her humor, between she and her mother, was too deep for me to catch onto," Leland said. "She was an easy kid to raise, not many demands. I'm sure that's what every parent says."

With a voice that caught in his throat momentarily, Paula Hartze's father said he would wear a tie Paula gave him to his daughter's funeral.

"It has sign language," he said, "that says, 'I love you' on it."

The Grand Forks Herald and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.