In memoriam: highlighting southwest North Dakota’s losses in 2020
They called southwest North Dakota home and we were lucky for it. They inspired, guided, mentored and loved the Western Edge of North Dakota and her people.
2020 witnessed many losses. We remember and honor all those who passed this year, and ask that our readers take the time to reflect on the many blessings, memories and impacts made by each loss.
The Press wishes we could honor every loss, but with our limited space available we have selected a handful of people to stand in honor of the many who have passed who dedicated their lives to make southwest North Dakota a better place. As we honor these men and women, we ask that our readers reflect on their own personal losses in 2020, and take a brief moment to reflect on the 49 deaths in Stark County, the 1,479 in North Dakota and the 524,000 in the United States attributed to COVID-19.
Today we individually remember a 33 year active firefighter whose trailblazing life inspired those around him to live up to their very best; A quick-witted longtime engineer whose family, city and community were always at the forefront of everything he did; A smiling rock for many faculty, students and staff whose personal mission saw him mentor and guide student athletes for more than 50 years as a coach and teacher in Dickinson; and a crosswalk hero whose smile and gentle mentorship inspired students to be kind and be safe.
Join us in remembrance of all those who brought progress to Dickinson.
Kenneth “Ken” Keller, 1943-2020
A Dickinson native, Keller was a devoted teacher, coach and athletic director and was noted for his years of service to Trinity Catholic Schools and Killdeer Public Schools. Keller loved being an educator, teaching his students both in-and-out of the classroom. As head coach for the Titans’ basketball team and football team, he left an indelible impression in the minds of countless youth and did his best to be a role model and mentor to every student. Trinity honored Keller in July 2020 by naming its home court “Ken Keller Court.” Keller was also inducted into the North Dakota Athletic Directors Hall of Fame. Keller died on Sept. 8 from complications with cancer.
Craig Kubas, 1977-2020
A loving family man, devoted Catholic and beloved mainstay of Dickinson’s city hall, Kubas was a Trinity alumni that cared heavily about the community of southwest North Dakota. After earning his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at North Dakota State University, Kubas began his career as a civil engineer at Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson in 1996 and continued for 17 years before becoming the City Engineer for Dickinson in 2013. Kubas took pride in knowing he was given the opportunity to shape the community he cared passionately about. The epitome of progress, Kubas maintained an eye toward Dickinson’s future and brought about much of it in his time as city engineer. Kubas was diagnosed with brain cancer and battled for three-and-a-half years. Kubas died on July 18, 2020 at his home in Gladstone, N.D.
Hilary Hartman, 1965-2020
A fighter, through and through, Hartman was diagnosed with T-cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in June of 2019 — and yet, continued to be an active part of Dickinson’s public safety. A Dickinson native and Trinity alumni, Hartman began his firefighting career as a volunteer firefighter for the Dickinson Fire Department in 1987, where he would remain in a full-time position until his death. He wore his responsibility with pride, his uniform with distinction and his love for his fellow fire team members on his sleeve. It was never a job, but a calling for Hartman to serve Dickinson and her citizens. Hartman died on Jan. 20, 2020 at Sanford Health in Bismarck, N.D.
Larry League, 1945-2020
Despite being a native of Wichita, Kan., the legacy left by Larry League in southwestern North Dakota will stand the test of time. Following a decorated service in the United States Navy, in which League served as honor guard for President John F. Kennedy and General Douglas MacArthur’s funerals, he would relocate to Dickinson. League taught as an assistant professor at Dickinson State University for over 20 years, spending his summers as a private dinosaur hunter. His remarkable findings, with his wife Alice, would serve as the bedrock of the Dakota Dinosaur Museum, now known as the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, which he founded in 1994. League died from Mesothelioma on June 2 in his home in Estes Park, Col.
Rachelle Ross, 1972-2020
A native of Hazen, N.D., the unexpected death of Ross struck an emotional toll for the community of Dickinson — particularly with the many students, parents and staff members at Lincoln Elementary in Dickinson. Ross was a paraprofessional at Lincoln Elementary and earned the admiration of many of the young students and parents as she worked the crosswalks as a patroller. To the students she was known as the “crosswalk hero.” Ross was devoted to her job and loved socializing with the children, hearing their laughs and seeing their smiles. As a result, she quickly became a favorite to everyone at the school. Ross died unexpectedly at her home on March 2. Prior to her funeral on March 6, Ross was honored at Lincoln Elementary with a service attended by an outpouring of students, parents, staff and family.