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Published October 31 2013

4-H roots run deep: Fraases honored as North Dakota 4H Century Family

WEST FARGO - Ramona Fraase wanted to raise a sheep for 4-H. But back then, that was just for the boys clubs, and they didn’t have one – yet.

“And they said you can’t unless you have a boys club,” said the 84-year-old who lived near Chaffee at the time. “This was after World War II, so I conned one of our GIs that just had come back into being a leader.”

Helping get that local 4-H boys club started is just one of many 4-H memories and stories Ramona and the extended Fraase family can recall. Numerous members of the Fraase family were on hand when the family was honored as a North Dakota 4-H Century Family at the Cass County 4-H Awards Celebration in September at the Red River Valley Fair grounds in West Fargo. Century families have 100 years or more of family membership and volunteer service in 4-H, a mark the Fraases obliterated.

The Fraase family traces its 4-H roots back four generations to Ramona’s father, August Zaeske,

who won a blue ribbon for potatoes. Those are some deep roots. Ramona’s not even sure it was 4-H back then. But, if not, it was something like 4-H, she

said.

“I think it was 4-H,” said Ramona, who lives in rural Buffalo. “We call it 4-H; he did.”

With strong roots in agriculture, 4-H describes itself as “a community of 7 million young people around the world learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.”

Ramona eventually became an adult 4-H leader and passed the 4-H tradition on to her children, including Ron, a farmer and crop insurance adjuster.

“I think having animals – and I usually showed pigs – led to my future occupation because I enjoyed animals,” said Ron, 57. “I came home to farm after my education at NDSU, and I wanted to raise cattle and hogs.”

He traces that back to his experience in 4-H. His dad was a farmer, and they raised animals, “but it was just kind of work then,” he said. 4-H was more fun.

He said his sons have all talked about how 4-H helped them. One of those sons is Micah, 24, who works with the West Fargo Park District.

“It really shaped me to who I am, I mean, from my work ethic to my leadership qualities to my personality, my ability to go up and talk to almost anyone is a direct influence of 4-H,” Micah said.

He also values the friends he’s made along the way.

“My best man in my upcoming wedding, he was in the 4-H club with me,” Micah said. “Bison football, the people we tailgate with every Saturday, were in our 4-H club.”

Even though his time as a youth in 4-H is over, he’s giving back to kids in the organization in numerous ways, including at the events where he serves as a judge.

Micah finds that trying to repay the organization for what it’s given him is a losing battle – sort of.

“I remember one day, I was in college and I came back, and I said I don’t know how I can ever give back enough to 4-H,” he said. “Every time I try to give back to 4-H to repay it for what it’s given me, I just get more rewarded. I said I don’t think I can ever win this battle, but I’m going to keep trying.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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