Forty-three North Dakotans have been honored with the rank of Colonel in the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders since North Dakota began giving its highest award to its highest achievers in 1961. It’s time to make it forty-five.
The award was created by former Governor William L. Guy as part of North Dakota’s commemoration of the Dakota Territory Centennial, to recognize current or former North Dakotans “who have been influenced by our state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor on North Dakota and its citizens.”
Its first recipient was Lawrence Welk, famous for bringing his music and his North Dakota German-Russian accent into the national spotlight. It was presented by Gov. Guy just 8 months into his first term as Governor, in August of 1961, followed closely by Broadway actress Dorothy Stickney just three months later.
Its ranks include ten people who have excelled in the arts, a few journalists, a couple of high-ranking military officers and educators, nine business leaders, and just four athletes. There are 33 male Colonels and just 10 females.
Governor Burgum can change a few of those numbers (and make history) by appointing twin sisters Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando to the North Dakota Rough Riders Hall of Fame.
As athletes, they would join Roger Maris, Cliff “Fido” Purpur, Casper Oimoen and Phil Jackson—pretty heady company. You know about the achievements of Maris and Jackson. The Lamoureux sisters have something in common with the other two. Purpur was the first North Dakotan to play in the National Hockey League and later was the hockey coach at UND, where the sisters played hockey in college. Oimoen was a ski jumper who competed in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympics. He did not win a medal.
Only two North Dakotans other than the Lamoureux sisters have won Winter Olympics medals: John Noah of Fargo was on the silver medal U.S. Men’s Hockey team in 1952, and Ken Purpur, younger brother of Fido, was a member of the 1956 men’s team which also took silver. Three others have won medals at the Summer Olympics: track stars John Bennet and Cliff Cushman and boxer Virgil Hill. All won silver. Oh, two more won silvers in the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014—a pair of sisters named Lamoureux.
But until last month no North Dakotan had ever won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics, and no North Dakotan playing for a U. S. team had ever brought home a gold medal from the Summer Olympics. I’m qualifying that statement with the words “U.S. team” because in 1928, a woman named Ethel Catherwood, who was actually born in the small town of Hannah, North Dakota, along the Canadian border, but raised in Saskatchewan, won the gold in the high jump at the Summer Olympics competing for Team Canada. So she doesn’t count.
Olympic Gold Medalists. Two of them. The first ever for North Dakota. And they didn’t just win them for themselves—they won them for their country. In a very big way. Monique tied the score with Team Canada near the end of regulation play to send the game into overtime, and Jocelyne scored the winning goal in the subsequent shootout. If any pair of North Dakotans has ever “reflected credit and honor” on their home state, it is these two.
Doug Burgum’s been in office nearly 15 months and hasn’t yet nominated anyone to the Rough Riders Hall of Fame. Now he can make history by inducting two people at once.
Guy, who created the Hall of Fame, made 11 appointments, the most of any governor. Art Link made 8, Allen Olson just 3, George Sinner 4, Ed Schafer 6, John Hoeven 7 and Jack Dalrymple 6. Interestingly, Burgum himself is a member, appointed by Hoeven in 2009 for his business achievements.
In fact, of the all the appointees (13) since Hoeven took office in 2001, seven have come from the business world and only two of the 13 were women—Sister Thomas Welder, President of the University of Mary, and author Louise Erdrich. Old white men were the Colonels of choice of Hoeven and Dalrymple, although Hoeven did appoint the first Native American, Medal of Honor winner Woodrow Wilson Keeble. You can look at the whole list and read their biographies here.
But those are not the reasons to give the honor of Colonel in the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders Hall of Fame to the Lamoureux sisters. They have earned this honor in a way no other recipient of the award has earned it.
Their former UND coach said “Those kids worked so hard for so many years to be prepared for that moment. They put in pre-dawn workouts. They sprinted around the Cushman Field track when nobody was around. They found ice time at Ralph Engelstad Arena to hone their skills”
And another UND coach said “Those two deserve it more than anybody else. They’ve worked longer and harder than anyone. They’ve dedicated their lives to winning a gold medal.”
No other North Dakotan has won more than one medal at any Olympics. The Lamoureux sisters now have a gold hanging beside their silvers. I hope Governor Burgum will honor them. Right now.
Footnote: I’ve made a couple changes to this since I first posted it. One of my readers told me on Facebook that John Noah and Andre Gambucci were silver medalists in 1952 on the U. S. men’s hockey team, so I added them to the list of North Dakotans who had won a winter Olympics medal. Then another writer pointed out that was true, but Andre Gambucci never lived in North Dakota–he was a Minnesotan. So I deleted Andre from the blog post. His brother, Sergio, did live here, and was actually on the 1956 U.S. Hockey team, which also won silver, but couldnt’make the trip because of family obligations. If he had, he would have won a silver medal. Also, another reader reminded me that the Lamoureux sisters won silver in both 2010 and 2014, so I fixed that as well. So I think I’ve got everything right now. Thanks to my readers.