On a wet road in southeastern Minnesota, the NDSA lost two friends last month. On Nov. 6, NDSA Past President Jack Reich of Zap and his wife Mardee were returning home from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with their 10-year-old son Vander, who, on Oct. 22, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Vander had undergone surgery for the tumor in late October and, on the evening of Nov. 6, the family was traveling back to North Dakota so that he could recuperate for a few weeks before starting follow-up treatments.
A pickup driven by Scott D.Hodgman, an agri-businessman from the West Concord, Minn., area, collided with the Reiches’ SUV head-on, killing Jack, Vander and Hodgman.
Mardee sustained serious injuries and was returned to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, where she has since been released.
“Jack was the kind of guy who, if you talked to him one time, you felt like you had been friends for years. He was a cowboy and a gentleman. I respected the way he led this organization as president and I valued his friendship,” said NDSA President Jason Zahn of Towner, “and I know many NDSA members did, too.” Jack was born on Sept. 15, 1969, in Mandan, to Delvin and Joyce (Boland) Reich. He attended Zap public schools and graduated as salutatorian in 1988.
He competed in high school rodeo as a bareback rider and competed at the National High School National Finals Rodeo numerous times.
He also competed on the rodeo team for Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont., and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in animal science in 1993. Jack was a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association for several years, until his passion for ranching and family outweighed the draw of the arena.
Jack married Mardee Williams from Eudora, Kan., on May 3, 1996, in Shawnee, Kan. Jack’s friends and neighbors quickly embraced Mardee and the couple went on to have three children, Vander, age 10; Kaydee, age 7; and Will, age 3.
Jack enjoyed working with horses, roping and hunting with Vander, but his true passions in life were his family and the herd of Angus cattle that he built from the ground up. The Reich family owns and operates Reich Angus, which is known for the registered Angus bulls that the family sells at auction on their ranch each February.
Jack was no stranger to the NDSA family, after serving two terms as a director and six years on the NDSA’s executive committee, including two years as president. During his tenure on the board, Jack helped facilitate exports of beef cattle to Kazakhstan and welcomed foreign investors to the state who were considering opening up a sizeable beef processing plant here. He was a source of inspiration to ranchers across the state during some of the most devastating winter and spring storms in recent history and led the Stockmen’s Foundation through a large-scale relief effort.
“Jack had much of his herd synchronized when one of the wildest blizzards in recent history struck the state in 2010,” said NDSA Past President Jason Schmidt. “Even though it was a busy time for his ranch, Jack always made time to visit with reporters and offer a positive message about ranching and the perseverance of North Dakota ranchers.” That year, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Foundation, which began when Reich took over the reigns as president in 2008, distributed $50,000 in relief funds to ranching operations that were decimated by the tumultuous weather.
“Jack was a leader in the North Dakota beef industry, through the NDSA as well as the North Dakota Angus Association, where he was serving as a director,” added NDSA Vice President and fellow Angus breeder Steve Brooks of Bowman. “He and Mardee had built their Angus herd up to 300 head from scratch and many of us were encouraging him to run for the American Angus Association board.” “As much as he loved his Angus cows and was proud of being a part of the beef industry, he was equally proud of his family,” added NDSA Past President Jason Schmidt of Medina. “Jack enjoyed sharing stories about his family and was proud that they all had an interest in livestock, rodeo and the outdoors from a young age.” Jack is accompanied in death by his oldest son, Vander, and was preceded in death by his mother, Joyce. He is survived by his wife Mardee and their children, Kaydee and Will, his father Delvin, all of Zap; his sister Stephanie Keltner and her husband Larry of Terry, Mont.; and his brother Joe Reich of Zap; along with several nieces and nephews and extended family and scores of friends in the beef, rodeo and Zap communities.