A proud smile slowly stretched across Angie Dukart’s face as she watched her daughter, Iris, confidently stride toward the podium to address the large crowd at the Killdeer FFA banquet at the High Plains Culture Center on March 29.
By Staff Writer
For the DC Herald
Iris, a freshman at Killdeer High School, walked briskly with grace and confidence in her blue corduroy FFA jacket with her name stitched in gold over her heart and the FFA logo worn like a badge of honor on the other side. She smiled back at her mom and gazed into the crowd of young faces beaming with excitement for the future.
Many of the students wore the same jacket while older supporters remembered what it was like to do so.
Her mom was one of them. So was her dad. And her grandfather. In fact, over the years, 19 relatives – in addition to her parents and grandfather, there have been aunts, uncles and many cousins – have worn the Navy blue jacket.
And when Iris, for the first time in her young career, began to share the FFA Creed with the crowd, Angie’s eyes began to well up. She remembered those words, cherishing each one as her daughter so eloquently stated.
For Iris, it was a night to remember, one that she shared with her family – her parents, and two brothers, Ian, 11, and Jude, who just happened to turn 7 on that night.
And sitting a few spots from the podium was Ira’s cousin, Colby, one of the officers sitting at the head table. Colby is a junior and the chapter Parliamentarian.
“I’m so proud of her,” Angie said as she captured on her cellular phone Iris reciting the Creed. “She’s always wanted to do this.”
And with no pressure from her family. One of Iris’ earliest recollections was a photograph of her dad and grandfather wearing their blue FFA jackets. A decade later, she followed in their footsteps, joining Killdeer FFA chapter while in junior high school.
But this night was more than just a special moment for one little girl and her family. As the faces looked back at Iris, she knew this was a special night for family – the FFA family.
“We’re as close as any family,” Ira said.
Senior Ryan Karey, the chapter president, agreed.
“There is a lot of camaraderie between us. FFA has helped us come together closer,” Karey said. “The things I learned from FFA will be with me forever.”
Once you join that long blue line, you never lose that passion, he said.
It was, however, a bitter-sweet night for the chapter. While members on this night were congratulated for their efforts and many achievements this year, it was also a time they said goodbye to a mentor, advisor, and perhaps more importantly, a friend. It would be Killdeer FFA Chapter sponsor Larry Lundberg final awards banquet. He is retiring after three decades as the Ag teacher and FFA Advisor.
“He is definitely going to leave a lasting legacy,” Karey said. “The passion that he instilled will carry on for the life of the FFA chapter.”
For senior Matt Stroh, the chapter vice president, Lundberg’s quiet demeanor influenced him as a seventh-grader and helped him develop a lad in the back ground to a leader.
It happened one day when the chapter was returning from a Winter Leadership Conference in Bismarck. The winter weather made travel slow, and Stroh admits that he was a little bored. He saw Lundberg and decided to strike up a conversation.
It was the best decision of his FFA career.
“He made me feel like I was something. We talked about a lot of different things. He kind of pointed me to livestock evaluation. He made it sound so fun, so I decided to go into it,” Stroh said.
And it has paid off big time.
Over the past two years, Stroh excelled in the event, placing in the top 20 each year out of 200 competitors.
“He’s had a tremendous impact. Not just on me, but everybody,” he said.
Those are kind words for a kind man.
As he spoke to the banquet crowd, he was humbled and gave his thanks, to the students, to the parents, to his co-workers and colleagues and his family.
Lundberg said “You don’t have a career teaching without the help of a lot of people,” he said, and that working with the Ag Community gave him the opportunity to “work with a lot of great people.”
“Thank you parents, for giving me the opportunity to work with your kids,” he said.
Moments later, the long blue line gave the man they followed for 30 years a standing ovation – a fitting tribute for a friend.