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Foss remembered as construction pioneer


A man whose work is reflected in numerous buildings throughout the community and the state was remembered Monday as a one of a kind.

Mark Bergmann Foss, a former principal at the architecture firm Foss & Co. his grandfather established in 1898, died Friday at the MeritCare Palliative Care Unit in Fargo. He was 80.

Foss was the last in his family to be involved in the company and was dedicated to his work and his family, said Robert Ames, a principal at the firm now known as Foss Architecture & Interiors.

Foss pioneered the lift-slab technique, commonly used in buildings such as the Fargo High Rise, while studying for his master's at the University of North Dakota in 1955.

The technique is a process by which concrete floor slabs are poured on the ground, one on top of another, and lifted into place.


Foss joined his grandfather's firm that year as a civil and structural engineer, later serving as president before retiring in 2000.

Foss also obtained a bachelor's degree from UND in 1951 and played football, basketball and ran track. He remained active at the university, serving on several boards and committees and most recently establishing a private fund to collect donations for UND's lawsuit with the NCAA over the Fighting Sioux nickname.

Tim O'Keefe, executive director of the UND Foundation, recalled Foss as an exceptional student, athlete and person.

"Mark was a one of a kind that I'm not sure that we create in our society anymore," O'Keefe said. "He was really just an exceptional human being."

In 1972, Foss received the UND Sioux Award, the university's highest honor bestowed to alumni. He also received the Spirit of Sioux Award in 2002.

Phil Harmeson, UND's vice president for general administration, remembered Foss as "an incredibly humble man with incredible talents."

Earl Strinden, CEO emeritus of the UND Foundation, called Foss a "friend of long-standing" he was fortunate to have known.

Foss' daughter, Lisa Ritter, said her father was similar to a sturdy oak tree with deep roots in family, friends, faith and philanthropy.


"His priorities were the things that mattered and all the organizations he worked for looked upon him for his leadership and good judgment," Ritter said.

Foss served as a board member and fund raiser for several local organizations, including the YMCA and the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead.

Ritter said the family recently shared a "heartwarming experience" when they gathered for Foss' 80th birthday in November, "knowing that this was likely his last birthday."

While her father died from severe heart failure, he had a very big and charitable heart, Ritter said, noting the funeral service scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Nativity Catholic Church will be the one-year anniversary of the massive heart attack he suffered.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541

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