Mary Skogen


Mary Skogen, 93, Mandan, formerly of Hettinger, died August 13, 2019 in a Mandan care center. Private family services will be held at a later date. Interment will be with her husband Clifford at North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.

Ruth Mary (always called “Mary”) Gerbracht was born to Russell A. and Elinor (Schultz) Gerbracht of rural Hettinger, on April 7, 1926. When she was but a small child, Russell decided to homestead in rural Perkins County, South Dakota. With five kids in tow, Russell and Elinor moved the family south with two wagons, one pulled by horses, the other by a steel-wheeled tractor. On the trip they passed through the farmstead of Joe Skogen and his family. Clifford remembered well the Gerbrachts caravanning through the yard, where Joe and Russell discussed the latter’s move to South Dakota. One hopes that young Mary and Cliff decided then to marry, but that would be overstating it.

Once settled on a farm in Perkins County, Mary, the eldest daughter, soon learned to cook and otherwise keep a home as Russell and Elinor bought a truck and were soon hauling loads to supplement a meager income from farming in the teeth of the Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties. After eight years in a one-room schoolhouse on the hill, Mary attended a boarding high school in Sorum, SD.  After one year, that school closed and in the fall of 1942 Mary and her younger sister Eva moved to Hettinger to attend high school. They lived in a room connected to a candy store on Main Street, and both worked in the store to help pay rent. It was there that Cliff and Mary were reunited for the first time since the Gerbracht caravan had stopped at the Skogen farm a decade earlier. By winter, the young teenage couple decided they would marry, which they did in Miles City, MT, on February 27, 1943. Mary was sixteen, but she always added, “Almost seventeen.”

The young couple then bought the family homestead from Cliff’s parents, who moved into Hettinger. For the next nearly 20 years, they farmed the land while raising their three children in the very house in which Cliff had been born.

After Cliff joined the North Dakota National Guard and war broke out in Korea, Mary, with two children at that time, followed her husband for his wartime service to Camp Rucker, Ala, and Fort Benning, Ga. In 1952, they returned to Hettinger and the family farm.

To supplement their income as farmers, both Mary and Cliff worked in retail stores in Hettinger. Eventually, they were asked by the Coast-to-Coast hardware store corporation to manage the Hettinger store, which they bought in May 1961. For twenty-nine years they owned and worked together in that hardware store. When asked how a couple could work together every day, Mary replied, “It’s easy. At the store, he’s the boss. At home, I am.”

Retirement in 1990 found them traveling in their motorhome, and eventually buying a home and settling in Yuma, Arizona. They later moved to Spearfish, South Dakota, and, finally, Mandan, North Dakota.

Mary loved to do craftwork, the products of which are scattered around the nation with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Mary is survived by older brother George (Margaret), Bison SD; younger sister Eva, Rapid City, SD; son Gary, Las Vegas, NV; daughter Ruth and Rick Michels, Belle Fourche, SD; son Larry, Mandan, ND; 12 grandchildren; and, 18 great-grandchildren.

Mary was preceded in death by Cliff, her husband of over 70 years; her parents, four siblings, one daughter-in-law, and one grandson. 

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