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Anna Jauhola, Forum Communications Co., Published February 16 2012

Widow of oil worker hopes others won’t take decision to work in oil fields lightly

SALEM, S.D. – Cathy Ries has some blunt advice for anyone thinking of going to North Dakota’s oil fields to make extra money: “Don’t.”

If a loved one is adamant about going, she said, “Make sure that every day you work there you realize the decisions you make, your work ethic – everything – could cost someone else their life if not their own.”

Cathy is the widow of Richard “Rich” Ries, 38, of Salem, who died Jan. 27 in a boiler explosion near Keene, N.D. She said extended family is helping her and the couple’s two junior-high-aged children work through the tragedy.

“I didn’t think this was a possibility,” she said of Rich’s death. “I hope others look at it more seriously than we did, even though you don’t want to think about it.”

Rich planned to work in North Dakota for two years to make extra money, Cathy said in tearful interviews recently.

He started Sept. 1 with Patterson UTI Drilling Co. He had worked for Gessner Welding in Salem for 14 years.

Cathy said the qualifications for the Bernie Saggau Award in Iowa are a good description of her husband, who is an Iowa native and received the award in high school.

The award honors a student from each Iowa high school every year who best exemplifies a patriotic spirit, strong religious and moral convictions, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and the belief that both games and life should be conducted by the rules.

“That’s him,” Cathy said, her voice cracking.

The couple married in 2002. Cathy said counseling will eventually be sought for their children. Her three children from her previous marriage live nearby, as does Rich’s family.

Cathy said her husband had life insurance, and she expects minimal financial strain resulting from his death.

“I’ll just have to be careful. I’m not rich, I’m not poor – I’m going to be OK,” she said.

Anna Jauhola writes for The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D.