Sunday, April 10, 2011





Most people with the name Lassey who immigrated to the United States between 1840 until 1947 came from the United Kingdom. Our grandparents, Constant and Emilie Lassey were an exception in 1900, when they emigrated from Belgium. In fact, the 1920 Census listed only two Lasseys born in Belgium—which would have had to be Constant and Emilie. A few other Lasseys came from other locations in continental Europe. The record thus indicates that Lassey is largely a British name, probably adopted by our grandparents because it seemed more "American" than their Belgian name, which is reported to have been Lasoo. Adopting a simple and easily pronounced name was commonplace for immigrants to this country. [The data on Lassey name origins, taken in part from the and the Personal Ancestry File websites, and in part from our family records, includes census records, military records, ship's logs, immigrant rolls, and other reputable sources.]

In 1840 the only identifiable Lassey family resided in Wisconsin. During the Civil War (1861—65), three Lasseys served in the Union army and one with the Confederates. By 1880, six Lassey families were scattered through Massachusetts, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, or New York, and were occupied largely with some form of agriculture (as was a high proportion of the general population at that time). A few Lassey farmers living in North Carolina actually owned slaves in 1860, and two African-American families had Lassey names in 2000.

By 1900 most of the 39 families with the Lassey surname lived in Massachusetts. The 15 Lassey army registrants for the draft during World War I came largely from there as well. By 1920, of 61 Lassey families nationwide, nine still lived in Massachusetts; nine were in Pennsylvania, eight in New York, four in Texas, and three in Ohio. (This was the period of great western migration.) Five Lassey men served in the army during World War II.

By the year 2000, census records indicate that there were still only 61 Lassey family households in the United States, with the largest numbers now residing in Washington (8), Florida (7), California (6), Kansas (6), and Massachusetts (6), although we know that there were at least four Lassey households in North Dakota at that time—down from at least six in 1950.


Constant (Stany) Lassey (or Lasoo) was born in Caneghen, Belgium, in 1868, to Ferdinand and Julie Verleye Lassey, and immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1890s, where he worked part of the time as a bricklayer and part of the time as a logger in Michigan. He returned briefly to Belgium in 1900, where he met and married Emalie Pieters on May 18, 1900 at Eighem, Belgium (arranged in part by her older sister, apparently living in Michigan, who had requested that Emalie help him select a pair of earrings!). Emalie was born on May 18, 1876, at Petham, Belgium, to Constant and Ludovica Verchatse Pieters.

They returned to the U.S. and initially settled in Illinois, where their sons Julius, Raymond, and Frank were born, on a farm at Seneca. Constant traveled by rail to the Cartwright area in 1905 to stake a claim for a homestead north of town. He returned to Illinois in 1906 to secure his farm machinery and household goods which he transported to Cartwright by rail, bringing his brother, Felix, and two friends with him. He began construction of a house, and adjoining barn, for his family. Emalie came by train in the spring with the three boys, reportedly bringing with her a cow, chickens, a corn seeder, and $1000 in cash (hidden in her sock!). Sophie was born three weeks after her arrival at Cartwright. Two other daughters, Martha and Mary, were born in 1907 and 1909. Emil arrived in 1911, William in 1914, and Morris in 1916.

Constant soon began to expand his initial 160 acre homestead, working the land initially with 24 work horses. He acquired his first tractor, a 30-60 Hart Parr, in 1909. While attempting to cross the Yellowstone River on the ice near Buford, it was almost lost because of rising water; he and his neighbors managed to get it to higher ground on a mat of willows. Using an Emerson plow, the tractor enabled him to break his own sod (soil that had not been previously farmed), and that of several neighbors. He purchased the homesteads of his brother and two other neighbors in 1920. With a neighbor, he purchased a threshing machine and was able to thresh his crops, as well as those of his neighbors.

He expanded his enterprises out in 1916, purchasing the Sanitary Meat Market in Charbonneau, a few miles east of Cartwright. It included a house that was later moved to Cartwright (and became their retirement home in 1931). They bought their first car in 1914, for $200. Julius, Raymond, and Frank helped with farming and the meat business, delivering meat, fish, and cheeses with a one- horse wagon in the Cartwright and Charbonneau area, until 1921 when they closed the meat business.

The farmstead was expanded with a round barn (1918), a log barn, and improvements on the house, including a kitchen built of natural stone. Felix and Constant, and other neighbors, did a lot of work trading for building construction and other work on their neighboring farms during busy seasons—a tradition that continued with other Lassey families at least into the 1950s.

Constant, and sons Julius and Frank, started the Lassey Implement Company in 1926, selling Hart Parr tractors, Nichols and Sheppard Combines, and later, the New Way Harvester (which cut the grain into small stacks for threshing) in Cartwright, Fairview, and vicinity. Unfortunately, the implement business was not able to survive the Great Depression and drought of the early 1930's, when many farmers had to leave their farms and were not able to make payments.

After retiring to their home in Cartwright in 1931, they turned the north farm over to Julius and Raymond, and the farm south of Cartwright over to Dad (purchased in 1929 from the Bank of Minneapolis, after it was foreclosed upon. Dad and Mother lived there continuously after their 1932 marriage, until 2011 when Dad died. Constant and Emalie always planted large gardens, supplying vegetables to the larger family. He also helped out on the farms on a regular basis, helping me, for example, to run a Hart Parr tractor while plowing.

Constant lived 85 years, until 1954, and Emalie lived 91 years, until 1967. Most of their family stayed in the immediate area, and farmed as they had. Julius married Victoria Potter (and later Ann Westfall), and continued to farm, although in later years he established an implement business in Williston; they had two children, Charles and Bonnie. Raymond married Olga Johnson, and farmed until his premature death in 1934; they had two children, Merton and Ardell. Frank married Helen Dore, and farmed until his death; they had one son, Jerry. Sophie married Art Overson (and later, Bert Youngstrom), and had two sons, Don and Clarence. Martha married Henry Winters (and later, Alex Carlson and John Bacon), and had two sons, Glenn and Stanley. Mary married Guy Shaide, who farmed near Cartwright; they had one son, Ronald. Emil married Marion Gangsted, and farmed north of Cartwright; they had three children, David, Allen, and Beverly. Dad married Grace Clark, and farmed south of Cartwright; they had four children, Lila, Bill, Marilyn, and Mavis. Morris married Lillian Thomas (and later, ), and farmed the home place north of Cartwright; they had three children, Sharon, Roger, and Charlotte.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eulogy for Dad’s Funeral


Eulogy at St. Michael's Church, Cartwright

March 5, 2011

Dad was a great and trustworthy human being who served his family, friends, community, state and nation, exceedingly well. He was a mighty pillar of character, integrity, and commitment to the larger good, characteristics that richly served all who knew him and felt his influence.

As you can imagine, he was an enormously helpful example to me during my youth, and ever since, as I attempted to follow in his footsteps—despite choosing an academic career instead of farming and ranching. He would have preferred that I return to the farm and carry on the family tradition. Fortunately, Ron and Mavis, and their family, chose to stay on the farm, and have done an exceptional job of assuming the farming and ranching responsibilities—while caring for, and helping, Dad during his final years. My hearty thanks to them for their dedication and contribution to Dad's well-being.

I have huge respect for Dad's accomplishments over his long life-span. Although his basic occupation was farming, he did a number of other jobs to help support his family. For example, He got a job with the Government Land Utilization Program (part of President Roosevelt's New Deal) in 1935 helping develop water supplies for the government pastures all around McKenzie County. He quickly became foreman of a crew. He also worked part-time as a Farmers Union Insurance Agent over several years.

He served on the Farmers Union Oil Company (now Cenex) Board of Directors for 28 years, including several years as President. He was Inspector in charge of elections for 35 years, was Director and Executive Director of the McKenzie County Grazing Association for 30 years, and was appointed by North Dakota Governor, Arthur Link, to the Regional Advisory Board for the Trails West Committee. Later, he served on the State Advisory Board of the North Dakota Rangeland Resource Program.


He served many years as vestryman and warden for the St. Michael's Episcopal Church here in Cartwright, and was on the Governing Board and President of Sioux Farmers Union local. He helped organize the Cartwright Irrigation District with neighboring farmers.


He was Conservation Achievement winner from the Lower Yellowstone Soil Conservation District in 1976, and was honored at the state Soil Conservation Convention in Fargo. Several magazine and newspaper articles were written about his farming and ranching achievements. He and mother made hundreds of friends from all over the country, who widely respected him for his wonderful character and good humor. He was clearly and deeply trusted by his neighbors, friends, and family. What greater honor could he have wished for?


Because of his leadership at the local, county, and state levels he and Mother were delegates to several national Farmers Union Conventions around the country, and were local representatives to several state political conventions. As their prosperity increased, they traveled extensively, to many parts of the continental United States, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and Europe.


During his long lifetime, Dad was faced with innumerable huge challenges, but he always managed, with Mother, to create a happy and productive household, from which we have all benefited greatly. The family has always been the center of their universe. Dad's extended family now includes 14 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, and 11 great great grandchildren—all of whom held Dad in very high regard.


It is a great honor to be his son.



William R. Lassey

Saturday, December 04, 2010


We happily celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary on December 3, with outings at two of our favorite places: the Camelback Inn for breakfast, and the Phoenician Hotel, where the gingerbread house (250 hours of construction from real gingerbread!) and Christmas tree were displayed. Beautiful place all around with great entertainment and food.


Charlie sent a note indicating that Jay Pfau died on November 30 at age 55. He was the second son of Pete and Jean Pfau (our first cousin). Jay was state wrestling chanpion when in high school, and was also a football star.

Charlie is retiring from federal service on December 31 after 35 years. She is ready for some rest from a stressful job--that has been affecting her health. She is going through some tests to pinpoint, and deal with, the problems, after which she plans to get a part-time "easier" job to keep her busy.

Their family is doing great, and will be getting together in Miles City for Christmas. Michelle and family, and Ryan, live there, where Michelle works for the Miles City Star doing graphics. Her husband and Ryan both work for Mid-Rivers phone/cable/Internet services as installers of communication systems. Grandchildren Tristan (10) and Kaylee (6) are very active and adorable youngsters, according to their grandmother!


Bill and Marie

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Christmas came ahead of Thanksgiving in the town plaza of Kierland Commons, near our condo. Yesterday (Saturday) the place was full of families and kids getting pictures taken with Santa Claus in the little Santa Claus house--with a live band playing Christmas music. Delightful! And, of course all the shops and restaurants nearby were welcoming hosts of shoppers.

An attractive new development, called Scottsdale Quarter, is opening across Scottsdale Blvd from Kierland Commons, with many more stores and restaurants. We enjoyed an outing that included refreshments at "True Foods," a new restaurant that emphasizes healthy eating and drinking. It is owned in part by Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-famous physician who focuses on integrated preventive health care. Our world of local opportunities for recreation, dining, and shopping is rapidly expanding!

Our Thanksgiving eve was also a time of celebration, with some interesting neighbors as our guests for cocktails and appetizers. We are finding lots of stimulating people to enjoy from the immediate area. Starbucks is a great community gathering place, with room for more than 100 people inside and out--often completely packed. It reminds me of Kaye's Cafe in Fairview where we used to go for pie, coffee, and more, while visiting with friends from all over the community!


We talked to Dad on Thanksgiving. He said he had a good dinner at Mavis and Ron's, and had a full tummy! He said it was cold, with several inches of snow on the ground. I told him we were in the process of fixing dinner, and he said it made his mouth water! And, he said when chewing on our turkey we should think of him! So, we did. He said it had been kind of loud there with the sound of the calves and cows that had been separated, with calves now in the feedlot by his house.

Shawn, Tracy, and family were without water for a couple of days. The artesian well located up in the pasture had quit flowing, so they had to drill a new well near their house. Unfortunately, the weather was cold (9 degrees below zero)and miserable all the while!

Will is getting ready to go on a winter trip, possibly to some far-off place like Thailand!

Cindy and Don had a full house for Thanksgiving. Susan, Harvey, Carol, and Julie were all there to see Marilyn and Issy, in Bismarck for medical checkups.


We are hoping to see Ron and Mavis down here sometime in early December, to visit with us and Ron's sister who lives in Mesa. We look forward to that!

Maureen is coming for a meeting on January 23 for several days--so we hope to have multiple chances to see her between her events in downtown Phoenix. She was going to be in San Francisco to see her good friend, Sherry, and then to Washington, D.C. for meetings in early December.

Happy Holidays,

Bill and Marie

Friday, November 12, 2010


We are enjoying these colorful winter flowers around our backyard patio. This is the time of year when summer flowers are pulled out and replaced by the kinds that do well in cooler weather with shorter days. We have been observing, and enjoying, the changes all around us!


Mavis, Ron, Dad, Marilyn, and Issy enjoyed a lunch outing at the South Forty in Sidney to celebrate a 43d anniversary. It is hard to believe that my "little sister" could have been married that long! CONGRATULATIONS!!


Linda Sitter has started helping Dad two days each week. She assists him with bathing, eating, pill-taking, and anything else he needs. She and Dad seem to get along just fine. Vicki Dunbar continues to come regularly to clean the house and help out as needed.


Susan, Julie, and Carol are all very busy with their jobs. Susan and Harvey were in Sidney for a week at the time of Harvey's brother's death, and helped Marilyn and Issy install a new washer and dryer upstairs so Marilyn does not have to do laundry in the basement.

Julie is driving a rental car because she got hit by a deer, requiring some repairs. She was in Plentywood this week where she goes once per month to work with audiology patients.

Williston continues to grow very rapidly because of the oil and gas activity, doubling the population in the last few months. Several new housing developments are going in, as are new mobile home communities. A new oil well has been completed near Trenton, but nothing new is underway around the ranch.


We helped one of our good friends (Zaye Chapin) celebrate her 84th birthday in Tucson on Tuesday of this week, in the company of other friends aged 89 and 95.
Zaye was a colleague of Marie's for many years at the University of Idaho. We had dinner with some other wonderful friends who lived across the street from our house at the Villages of La Paloma. It was fun to see all of them, and to visit some of our old haunts around the city--including a Jazz Society concert while having dinner at the Acacia Restaurant in St. Phillips Plaza.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed being back in the area where we lived for ten years, we have no regrets about moving to Scottsdale. This seems more like home now. We are making some interesting new friends, and really enjoy the Kierland Commons community where we live!


Bill and Marie

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Ron Berry celebrated his 64th birthday today, with a dinner event last evening at the Double Barrel Restaurant in Fairview! He says he plans to wait another couple of years before retiring from his post as headmaster of the Berry Farming Enterprises! The party had to be last night because tonight is reserved for "Trick or Treating" and Halloween parties by various goblins from around the area.

Ron is pleased with the 28-ton per acre sugar beet yield, lowered somewhat by hail on one 100-acre field, but he is aiming for 40 ton per acre next year! After a big storm with 4 inches of blowing snow last week, they hope to get back in the fields for fall tilling next week. The storm was so bad they had to cancel a planned trip to Bismarck with Dad, Marilyn, and Issy for medical checkups. However, there are so many new people moving into the area because of the oil exploration activity that it is getting harder to get appointments with doctors.


Linda Sitter, a school classmate of Mavis, has agreed to provide assistance several days per week with Dad. She has experience helping older people, and has a very good reputation. So, we are highly pleased at the prospect of Mavis and Luke getting some support so Dad can continue to live at home.

Dad is really doing pretty well, but continues to have problems remembering things.


Maureen started her new role last week as a Board of Directors member for a local bank in Helena. It is quite an honor to be selected for such a position, and she even gets well paid for it. Mat continues to serve on the Board of Directors for the hospital. They are community-minded folks! Good for them!

Maureen was in Glendive last week for a meeting on housing--of which there are lots of shortages, particularly of rental housing, in the region because of the influx of people working in the oil fields. She was intending to go to Cartwright for a visit but got caught with snow and blizzard conditions coming, so didn't make it.


We had our Canadian neighbors over for drinks and food on Thursday. They live near Hamilton, Ontario, where we did some research a few years ago for one of our books. Both were born in Italy, immigrated to Canada in their 20s, and now have one of the largest home construction companies in Ontario. Great fun to visit with them!


Bill and Marie

Saturday, October 23, 2010


We picnicked yesterday at Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, about 60 miles east of Scottsdale, and enjoyed the gorgeous collection of plants from Arizona and around the world. Some of the big trees in the first photo were imported from Australia. A year-round creek runs through the park, supplying a constant stream of water for irrigation. And, nearly every kind of cactus that grows in the state or the world is on display in one of the gardens. Beautiful!


Dione, Saul, and Mollie learned last week that Mollie will get to use her Chinese language skills on a three-week adventure to China next summer--sponsored by her school! Sounds really exciting. About 15 of the best Chinese students will go.


It was a banner year for sugar beets, now all out of the ground and on their way to the factory in Sidney. The annual beet harvest dinner, honoring the entire crew, was held last evening. Although they had some truck problems, most of the 24-hour days came off without a hitch and in nearly record time--partly because of good weather for most of the three-week period. It has been a great fall weather-wise so far.

Dad did just fine through it all. He now has help once per week from Vicki Dunbar--who was away for awhile on a trip to Germany. Mavis is attempting to locate another person who can help out as well, especially while Ron and Mavis travel this fall and winter--including a trip down here, we hope. Ron has a sister here that they want to visit.

Mavis, Marilyn, Issy and Dad are going to Bismarck on Wednesday for medical appointments and to see Cindy and others.

Julie had a birthday last week, and enjoyed a family celebration at the Powder Keg in Fairview.

Harvey and Susan were there for the funeral of one of Harvey's brothers who lived in Sidney.

Brett shot his first deer this morning--quite a feat for an outdoorsman like him!

A new gas processing plant is under construction north of Cartwright. It will collect and refine the natural gas from all around the area via several pipelines that are also under construction. Quite a big deal that will employ some folks and increase the revenue to the area.


Bill and Marie