Updated: 11/08/2012 8:54 AM KSTP.com By: Jennie Olson
A man killed along with his 10-year-old son in a head-on crash in southern Minnesota's Dodge County was a prominent figure in North Dakota's cattle industry.
Jack Reich, 43, of rural Zap, was a longtime official with the North Dakota Stockmen's Association and recently served as the group's president. He died late Tuesday along with his son, Vander, as they returned from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where a tumor was removed from the boy's brain.
"This is such a tragedy. They are such good-hearted people, the salt of the earth; such good, good people," Stockmen's Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson told The Bismarck Tribune. "I wish they could have played out the rest of their story here on Earth. Vander loved to be alongside his dad with the cattle and the horses."
Ellingson said the boy's tumor was diagnosed Oct. 22 and the surgery was scheduled almost immediately. Jack and Mardee Reich were bringing him home to recuperate before he began treatment later this month, she said.
Their Suburban collided head-on with a pickup truck on Highway 14 near Dodge Center. The crash also killed the pickup driver and injured Mardee Reich. She is recuperating in Rochester.
Jason Schmidt, of Medina, a close friend of the Reichs, said the family created a purebred Angus operation from scratch and sold Angus genetics to other producers.
"They put together one of the best set of cows you could ask for in this environment in North Dakota. He (Jack Reich) created it basically from scratch and in the last few years, it was really starting to get legs," he said.
"(Jack) was one of the softest, kindest-hearted cowboys you could ever meet," Schmidt said. "He had a strong handshake and a believable manner."
Keith Kessler, of Beulah, another family friend, said Reich also was part of the effort to introduce North Dakota cattle to the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan. Thousands of cows bred to withstand brutal-cold winters have been airfreighted to Kazakhstan over the past few years through the efforts of a Bismarck company and the North Dakota Trade Office.
"He was just a great family man. He was known worldwide, but he was just an awesome human being," Kessler said.
Schmidt said friends rallied to help the family after Vander's tumor was discovered.
"We were supporting them through that and then to have this happen is a sad situation, to say the least," he said. "The only silver lining is that the young boy was going through some tough times and now he'll always have his dad with him."
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