Gordon was born on April 26, 1929 to his Norwegian immigrant parents, Gunder and Johanna (Kvamme) Rugland on the family farm south of Palermo, Burke Township, ND. Gordon was baptized, confirmed and a lifelong member of Faith Lutheran Church which his parents helped charter upon their arrival to “The New Country”. He spoke only Norwegian when he started first grade at the one room country school. Since it was next door to the farm, their home was also the “teacherage”, meaning the teacher lived with them during the school year. Gordon and his brother, Kenneth, recall diving under their covers when they heard her footsteps, since she had to come through their bedroom to get to her room. Gordon was invited to play music at this teacher’s 100th birthday party a few years ago. While home on leave from the Army years later, Gordon met his future wife, Beverly, the teacher at that little country school.
Life on the farm was hard after a dusty decade without much rain, which was known as The Dirty Thirties. Gordon farmed with teams of horses. For fun they listened to the big console radio and spent time with their many Norwegian neighbors. He spoke of the lean Christmas’s, where their only gift may have come from the Sunday School, a brown bag containing an orange and hard candy. Gordon being the youngest of 3 siblings, got to attend high school in Palermo and Minot, graduating from Minot’s Model High School in 1947. Meanwhile, his brother and sister had to quit school after 8th grade to help on the family farm. While attending school in Minot, he and friends formed a motorcycle club called The Nite Riders. He rode an Indian brand motorcycle & later used motorcycles to herd his cattle, rather than using horses. For his 60th birthday he treated himself to a Honda Goldwing, started taking piano lessons from Lois Enander and taught himself to play the fiddle and later the mandolin.
Gordon was drafted into the Army and trained in the Signal Corps. Since he spoke a foreign language, he was fortunate to be sent to peacetime Germany while other Army buddies were sent to war in Korea. After the Army, Gordon returned to Minot. He worked for St.Croix Motors and then with the Great Northern Railroad as a brakeman. He married Beverly Ball on August 2, 1953 in Stanley, and they moved to her family’s farm north of Clear Lake. Hardship followed when his entire first herd of cattle was wiped out from disease. Their old house was so cold, he recalls waking during the night to make sure their 2 baby girls were still covered up, even pinning blankets together so they’d stay warm. They were finally able to buy their own farm nearby from Osmund and Anetta Schjerveim. Gordon overheard Anetta urging Osmund to sell to the young couple since Gordon spoke to them in Norwegian. He described the move to their new farm as quite a trip, putting the chickens into his old car and moving them under cover of darkness. Gordon and Beverly remained there for 6 decades farming wheat, ranching and raising their 3 children. When they quit ranching, they spent many happy snowbird winters in Apache Junction, AZ.
Gordon was a member of the Stanley Golden Age Club, Sons of Norway, served over 50 years on the Idaho Township Board, The Frozen Fingers music organization, over 50 years membership in the American Legion, and longtime mandolin player with “The Palermo Pickers”. He and Lawrence Bruhn gladly shared their talents & even recorded a CD. Gordon and Beverly enjoyed many years “jamming” in Arizona, North Dakota and Florida.
Gordon was preceded in death by his parents; wife Beverly and brother Kenneth both in 2013; and his sister Bernice in 2016.
Survivors include daughters Vonee Pawlowski (Matt), Auburn, MA and Geri Finks (Glenn), LaBelle, FL; son Greg Rugland, Geyser, MT; grandsons Jared Finks (Melissa), Thomasville, GA, Adam Dzwonkoski (Jacquline), Phoenix, AZ and Tom Pawlowski, Charlotte, NC; granddaughters Joanna Finks Chapman (Rob), Tampa, FL, Casey Rugland Tassoul (Jerame), Gilbert, AZ and Erin Rugland, Phoenix, AZ; great grandsons Porter & Greyson Finks; Easton, Beau and Barrett Gordon Chapman; Braxton Tassoul and Desmond Dzwonkoski; great granddaughter Evelyn Dzwonkoski; brother-in-law Earl Ball, Mesa, AZ; cousins, nephews and nieces.
Also left to cherish his memory are special neighbors Lynn and Marlene Grabow, Dallas, Lindsay and Shelby.
Memorials preferred to the Sibyl Center, P.O. Box 628, Stanley, ND 58784; Stanley Golden Age Club and Faith Lutheran Church, Palermo, ND.
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