Posted 1/19/16 (Tue)
Lois Mae “Dee” Fleck, 84, of Grassy Butte, died suddenly Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, of a brain hemorrhage at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dickinson.
Lois was born on Oct. 20, 1931 to Carl and Alice (Lange) Kono. She was raised on a farm nine miles west of Grassy Butte. She attended Maverick Flats Rural School until 1943. Lois graduated from Model High School in Dickinson, where she lived with her grandmother, Beppie Birdsall Kono, during high school. She graduated in 1948, then got her teaching certificate through Dickinson State Normal School (Dickinson State University). Other than her high school and college years, Lois lived her entire life at Grassy Butte.
Dee grew up in ranching country where her family raised horses and cattle. Her father set the stage for her lifelong love of horses. He trailed his first herd of about 20 horses from Dickinson to Grassy Butte, by himself, each lead tied to the tail of the horse in front. She and her sister, Doris, rode the nooks and crannies of every hill, nob, and creek up and down Magpie and Bennett Creeks, to the Little Missouri River north and west, places that many folks never see. They chased wild horses throughout the Badlands, and slid their horses down mud-slicked bentonite hills, and helped their dad and neighbors gather cattle and brand. Many days, their parents wouldn’t have known which direction to begin looking if they hadn’t returned home. Magpies were a scourge to livestock. She and her siblings raided magpie nests and traded their bounty to the county agent for cash.
Lois taught school at the Lee School, three miles east of Grassy Butte. While teaching there, she boarded with Owen and Bernice Lee. Her only trip home that fall was at Christmas time, on horseback. On New Year’s Day, 1949, in the midst of one of the deepest snows and longest winters in recorded history, she left home and returned horseback to Lee’s. That winter, the 5th Army/National Guard was called out to clear roads all over the country. It would have been a daunting ride for most 17- year-olds.
While at Lee’s, Lois always said she heard Frank Fleck before she saw him, as he was visiting Lee’s. They even dated on horseback. They married in August of 1949 and she taught at the Scoria Butte School, east of Grassy Butte. Their first son, William/Butch, was born the next spring, and she took him to school with her. She put him in a box under her desk, probably the least drafty place in the building. At least he would have been easy to feed at that age, no lunch bucket needed.
Frank became her soulmate, business partner, and constant companion. They shared 55 years in a busy, work and love-filled life. They farmed, ranched, ran a dairy, trucked cattle, coal, grain, stock salt, and everything that was needed. They provided custom combining, haying, and later swathing for many neighbors throughout their years together. It was a demanding and fulfilling life, stock full and running over.
Lois’ mother died when Lois was about 24 years old. Perhaps it shaped her life of service. Instead of gardening and canning for one family, she simply doubled her garden and canning to include her dad and two siblings still at home. Anything that could be cut to fit into a jar was canned: meats, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. She was a creative cook and liked trying new recipes. She fed any and all who arrived at her table. We told her she could feed an army, and she did, many times over, often at the last minute. Many a hobo enjoyed a plate from her table as well. Lois welcomed all. She sewed, including matching kids clothes to Dad’s shirts. Mom was a historian of the old school with a tremendous memory. She was curator of the Grassy Butte Historical Post Office (museum) since 2005. She knew the township and range throughout the area, who homesteaded where, and if they had left the area. She was one of the last of the local historians with that kind of knowledge.
Lois belonged to 50 Years in The Saddle, and was a volunteer for 20 plus years at the Hilltop Home of Comfort, in Killdeer. She grew many flowers but seldom put any on her own table. Flowers, like food, or time, were meant to share, and to brighten someone’s day. She often left home with a box of cut flowers or food, and delivered them to friends in the nursing home or elsewhere, enroute to the grain elevator or salesring. It was rare for her to forget a neighbor for a Sunday or a holiday, especially if they lived alone. Lois never knew a stranger.
She is survived by her children, William “Butch” (Carla) Fleck, Grassy Butte; Karen (Jim) Bonnet, Bismarck; Scott (Sherry), Shreveport, La.; and Kim (Bob) Bott, Dunseith; She is also survived by six grandchildren who were the supreme joy of her life: Billy Fleck, Grassy Butte; JC Fleck, Tallahassee, Fla.; Kristen (Trent) Henderson, Maize, Kan.; Trampes Brown, Minot; Shawnell (Austin) Anderson, Austin, Texas; and Rocky (Kelly) Brown, Wishek. She took them wherever she went, whenever possible, the field, trucking, chores, or riding. She is also survived by nine great-grandchildren.
Lois was predeceased by her husband, Frank; her parents; all her siblings, Doris Ruf, David Kono, and Shirley Sipe; as well as a great-grandson, Ethan Brown.
Lois lived her life in service to God and neighbor. Ephesians 2: 10, “…he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” She answered a full and generous “yes” to life and everything she was called to do. She went to Methodist Bible School as a child. Those messages could be summed up in the words of John Wesley (1703-1791) and impacted all she was and did:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Can’t was NOT a word in her vocabulary. Rest in peace, good and faithful servant, beloved Mom, Grandma, neighbor and friend.
Dee’s funeral service was at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, January 19, 2016, at Ladbury Funeral Service, Dickinson. Interment took place at the Grassy Butte Cemetery. Visitation was held on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Tuesday from 8 a.m. to service time at Ladbury Funeral Service.
Arrangements are with Ladbury Funeral Service, Dickinson, www.ladburyfuneralservice.com