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Patrick Springer, Published February 05 2014

'Visionary' merchant behind Straus Clothing stores to receive ND's Rough Rider Award posthumously

FARGO – Herman Stern was a driving force at Straus Clothing for decades, founded the Greater North Dakota Association and spearheaded the North Dakota Winter Show.

To recognize those accomplishments, Stern, who emigrated from Germany to Casselton at the age of 16, was named posthumously Wednesday as the 40th recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.

“When you think of a leader and visionary whose contributions have impacted generations of North Dakotans, Herman Stern rises to the top,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in announcing North Dakota’s highest honor.

Stern, who was born in 1887, the youngest of eight children, came to work at Straus Clothing in Casselton, a store established by his cousin, Morris Straus. Stern became manager of the store in 1907, and three years later was manager of the store in Valley City and remained there for 70 years.

Straus, which has a store in Fargo, once had shops in LaMoure, Carrington, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Devils Lake, in addition to the stores in Valley City and Carrington.

During World War II, Stern was instrumental in allowing between 175 and 200 German Jews to escape the Holocaust and come to America. He was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York for his outstanding efforts.

“In addition to building a successful business, he made pioneering contributions to North Dakota’s economy and communities,” Dalrymple said. “His dedication to helping others and to building a strong foundation for our state has forged a legacy that lives on in North Dakota.”

Rick Stern, who runs Straus Clothing in Fargo with his brother, John, is Herman Stern’s grandson.

“It’s nice that people still remember our grandfather,” he said. Herman Stern died in 1980.

Stern said it’s humbling to reflect upon his grandfather’s many achievements in business, civic and community engagement and humanitarianism.

“It kind of reinforces how inadequate we are compared to what he did,” he said. “Holy smokes.”

As a Valley City merchant, Herman Stern played a leading role in the fundraising drive to build a home for the North Dakota Winter Show, which opened in 1937.

“It was the largest crop and livestock show between Minneapolis and Seattle at one time,” said Tom Nix, a former winter show president. “It still means a lot to Valley City,” drawing thousands every year in early March.

Dalrymple will present the Rough Rider Award to the Stern family in Fargo on March 13.

For more information about the event or to register for the luncheon, please visit www.ndchamber.com.

List of Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award winners:

•Lawrence Welk, entertainer, 1961

•Dorothy Stickney, actress, 1961

•Ivan Dmitri, artist, 1962

•Roger Maris, athlete, 1964

•Eric Sevareid, journalist, 1964

•Gen. Harold K. Johnson, military service, 1965

•Dr. Anne H. Carlsen, educator, 1966

•Edward K. Thompson, journalist, 1968

•Dr. Robert Henry Bahmer, archiving, 1970

•Louis L’Amour, author, 1972

•Bertin C. Gamble, entrepreneur, 1972

•Casper Oimoen, athlete, 1973

•Peggy Lee, entertainer, 1975

•Harold Schafer, entrepreneur, 1975

•Era Bell Thompson, journalist, 1976

•Dr. Leon Orris Jacobson, physician, 1976

•Elizabeth Bodine, humanitarian, 1979

•Phyllis Frelich, actress, 1981

•Cliff “Fido” Purpur, athlete, 1981

•Gen. David C. Jones, military service, 1982

•Ronald N. Davies, judge, 1987

•Phil Jackson, athlete, 1992

•Larry Woiwode, author, 1992

•Angie Dickinson, actress, 1992

•Rev. Richard C. Halverson, minister, 1994

•Brynhild Haugland, legislator, 1995

•Admiral William A. Owens, military service, 1996

•Carl Ben Eielson, pioneer aviator, 1997

•Warren Christopher, public service, 1998

•Bobby Vee, entertainer, 1999

•Chester “Chet” Reitan, entrepreneur, 2002

•Thomas J. Clifford, educator, 2002

•Sister Thomas Welder, educator, 2004

•Harry J. Pearce, business leader, 2004

•William C. Marcil, business leader, 2006

•Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, military service, 2008

•Doug Burgum, entrepreneur and philanthropist, 2009

•Ronald D. Offutt, agribusiness leader and philanthropist, 2011

•Louise Erdrich, author, 2013.

Source: North Dakota governor’s office

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522