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Maureen McMullen, Published November 01 2013

Former 5-term Fargo state lawmaker dies

FARGO – Al Soukup had a personal mantra: “If you’re going to do something, do it right.”

The idea of doing things right and doing the right thing followed him through his careers as a businessman and a North Dakota legislator, and in his lifelong dedication to community service, family and colleagues said Friday.

After a brief battle with lung cancer, Soukup, 85, died in his Fargo home early Wednesday morning.

Having proudly served in the U.S. Air Force, Soukup graduated from Dakota Business College and entered a more than 30-year career at Northwestern Bell Phone Co.

Soon after his retirement from the phone company, the Republican served in the North Dakota House of Representatives, representing the 44th District, which covers parts of north Fargo. He served five terms, starting in 1989.

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark, who served the 44th District alongside Soukup from 1994 to 1997, recalls a supportive mentor with a calm demeanor.

“In politics, it’s easy to get your hackles up about one thing or another,” Clark said. “But the most anyone would ever get out of him like that was a chuckle.”

Though he served as a Republican, Soukup prided himself on looking past political parties and cooperating for the good of North Dakota, family said.

“Politics can be very dividing and very partisan,” said Soukup’s son, Greg. “But Dad, with his upbringing and his conservatism, he knew the right thing, and he would work with anybody to get that done.”

Despite his diligence in his career and raising six children, Soukup made a routine of helping others.

Whether volunteering at Shanley High School, organizing a sandbag team to save his neighbor’s flooding lake cabins or using his fluency in Czech to help a relocated Czech family get back on their feet, Soukup found deep satisfaction in helping those in need.

“He never liked the attention that comes with it; that’s not what he did it for,” his son said. “He did it because it was the right thing to do, and it benefitted somebody other than him.”

In his later years, Soukup routinely drove 60 miles from his home on Turtle Lake to volunteer more than 700 hours visiting with patients at Sanford Health in Fargo.

“He was very outgoing and always had a smile on his face,” said Tracy Braeger, Sanford’s supervisor of volunteer services. “People really took to him because of his outgoingness.”

Even when Soukup was at his summer home in Lake Havasu, Ariz., Sanford was never far from his mind.

“He would think of us and send us his fruit from out there,” said Judy Aufk, a Sanford guest service representative. “He would send us a case of grapefruit so everyone would have grapefruit from his tree. That’s how thoughtful he was.”

During his free time, Soukup enjoyed fishing and boating with his grandchildren and was passionate about hunting deer with his sons and grandsons.