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We're still learning from Bill, Jean

I see Bill Guy more these days than I did when he was North Dakota's governor. Bill and Jean live in Fargo and they are anything but reclusive. Now in their 80s, the former first couple are as active as a pair of 40-year-olds. They have been marr...

I see Bill Guy more these days than I did when he was North Dakota's governor. Bill and Jean live in Fargo and they are anything but reclusive. Now in their 80s, the former first couple are as active as a pair of 40-year-olds. They have been married for 63 years.

My wife and I frequently run into them at a movie matinee or a restaurant or a college event.

About a year ago Bill was featured speaker at the Cass County Historical Society's annual meeting. He had us laughing 'til we hurt with stories of his state and military service.

A few months ago Bill and Jean were guests at a North Dakota Historical Society luncheon at the Fargo Town & Country Club. We all were asked to stand and introduce ourselves, so we went through the motions. Bill got up and spoke eloquently for a good five minutes, not about history, but about the future.

And that's what has distinguished Bill and Jean in the years since they left elected public life. They never "retired" in the sense of leaving public service behind. Their interest in the direction of their state has not waned. Bill continues to advance the discussion about North Dakota's future through his occasional commentaries on these pages, his public speaking and private conversations with current political, business and education leaders.

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Now there's an opportunity for younger North Dakotans - many of whom probably don't know much about Bill and Jean Guy - to know them through their own words. The new issue of "North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains" features a transcribed and edited oral history by the former first couple. The magazine is published by the state Historical Society. The extensive article was edited by state archivist Gerald G. Newborg. The Guy article is one of a series of oral histories by governors going back to the late John Davis.

It's a great read.

The Guy era (in and out of office) spans much of the state's modern history. He holds the distinction of being the state's longest-serving governor (1961-1973), but he was in public life years before, beginning in 1950 as a township official in Amenia, N.D., where his family farmed. He served in the Legislature and ran for the U.S. Senate in 1974, losing to incumbent Sen. Milton Young by 186 votes out of some 240,000 cast. He established the North Dakota Roughrider Award, the state's highest honor for a citizen of achievement.

It's all in the article, including personal reminicenses of Bill's youth in the Devils Lake area (where he was born) and Jean's family which has roots in Buffalo, Almont, Selfridge, Chaffee and Fargo.

The article should be required reading for North Dakotans who want to understand the state's recent history - not just dates and places, but observations and insights from two people who lived it.

Bill and Jean are the quintessential North Dakota couple. Their personal story spans an era of change and development. They were major players in shaping the foundation on which today's leaders can build. And most remarkable of all: We're still learning from them.

Zaleski can be reached at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.

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