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Family farm becomes final resting place

FRYBURG -- Two members of a family that received one of the first oil checks in North Dakota were laid to rest on their family farm Saturday.

Family and friends buried the ashes of William "Bill" May and his mother, Luella May, in a memorial garden near the site of where the barn used to stand.

Patriarch of the family, Herman May, is also buried there. The family chose the site because Herman May loved that particular spot on the farm.

Herman and Luella's daughter, Karen May, said oil was discovered on the farm shortly after she and her siblings were born.

"No one believed it at first and there were many articles in the papers here and on the East Coast," Karen May said. "It was a big deal back then -- we were kind of local celebrities for a short time."

Karen May said no one believed that there was oil in North Dakota because it was just so out of the blue and there hadn't been many discoveries in the upper Midwest at that time.

"They would be even more surprised to find that the oil is still being pumped out of there today," she added.

The May family's story begins much like that of many other North Dakota families, Karen May said, "Although there were a few twists of fate."

Upon coming of age, Herman May established his homestead north of Killdeer in 1934, at the age of 23. He met school teacher Luella Hollenbeck in 1938 and they married in the spring of 1940, Karen May said.

Three years later they had a son, William "Bill" May. The family then moved to Fryburg to be closer to a school, Karen May said, adding the family built their home by hand.

After oil was discovered, the family moved to Dickinson in 1955 to be near a high school and college, however, they drove back and forth to Fryburg to farm for many years.

"Bill especially loved the farm. In his teen years he worked for several ranches in the Beach area," Carol May said.

"Bill never forgot his western North Dakota Badlands heritage," Karen and Carol May said. "We all have fond memories of family gatherings and adventures out there."

After graduating from Dickinson High School, Bill went on to study architecture at Wahpeton State School of Science and Moorhead State University in Minnesota.

He met sweetheart Carol (Trieglaff) May in college and they wed July 3, 1965.

Carol said what she loved most about her late husband was his trustworthiness, good nature and love of the Lord.

A year after their marriage the family was faced with yet another twist of fate, Bill was drafted.

"Bill didn't want to go into the Army through the draft, so instead he enlisted and proudly served his country while being stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., Fort Sill, Okla. and the DMZ between North and South Korea," Carol May said.

He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Bill's military service earned him military rights at the burial Saturday.

Three veterans' organizations in the area (Belfield, Dickinson and Bismarck) came out to pay its respects and give Bill a proper military sendoff since he was a member of the Army.

"The military sendoff includes a 21-gun salute, playing taps and presentation of the American Flag to the family," said Art Wanner.

Bill and Carol were married 44 years. They have two daughters Nancy M. (May) Kuledge and Dr. Julie M. Kolgjini (husband Xhevahir).

Bill taught architecture and drafting for many years at the college level, free-lanced and continued to do mini-projects after his retirement, Carol said.

She added he also loved going to his grandchildren's (Andrew, Joshua and Rebecca Kuledge and Hana Kolgjini) games and events.

Bill died of a heart attack on Dec. 21, 2009 in Minnesota.

"It (his passing) was a shock to all of us, he was quite young considering most members of our family have lived up into their 90s," Karen May said.

The following year the family was hit with another passing, Luella in August.

Karen said burying Luella and Bill alongside Herman in the Memorial Garden seemed fitting.

"It is a special place to our family, it's a place to reflect, contemplate, cry, laugh, visit and discover family history," Karen May said, adding other family members plan to be buried there as well.

The garden consists of bricks with each family member's name carved on them, trees, sagebrush, scoria rock, logs, tiger lilies, columbine, native grasses, benches and a piece of an old tractor.