Herman Stern Honored Posthumously
Thursday, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple presented the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award to the family of Herman Stern, a businessman and visionary who managed the Straus Clothing Store in Valley City for 70 years and made numerous contributions to the state, including establishing the North Dakota Winter Show and founding the Greater North Dakota Association, now known as the Greater North Dakota Chamber (GNDC).
Stern, who passed away in 1980, is the 40th recipient of the award, the state’s highest commendation for its citizens.
“When we look back on our state’s history, the past century has been defined by milestones and developments that have laid a strong foundation for the growth and success of our state,” said Dalrymple.
Dalrymple added, “As we reflect on these significant accomplishments, some common themes emerge – themes that are personified by the name Herman Stern. His vision and values have become part of the fabric that makes our state what it is today, and many of the businesses and organizations that are making a difference in communities across our state are rooted in the beliefs, the ambition and the work ethic of this amazing man we honor today.”
Dalrymple presented the award during a luncheon at the Radisson Hotel in Fargo sponsored by the GNDC and attended by more than 150 family members, friends, colleagues and supporters. Stern was recognized for his contributions to the GNDC, the Boy Scouts of America and his sponsorship of more than 100 Jewish refugees during the 1930s.
Stern was born in Oberbrechen, Germany in 1887, the youngest of eight children. He came to America at the age of 16 to work at the Straus Clothing Store in Casselton, a clothing store established by his cousin, Morris Straus. In 1907, Stern became manager of the store when a second store opened in Valley City. Three years later, Stern became manager of the Valley City store and remained there for the next 70 years.
Today, after more than 130 years of operation, Straus Clothing has a store in Fargo with a third generation of Stern family members running the business. John and Rick Stern have succeeded their father, Ed Stern, in running the family store.
With family and friends in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, Stern became worried about their welfare and embarked on a mission to bring them to America. He felt it was “just an accident that I came to this country” and he and his wife, Adeline, had the “responsibility to make it possible for other people to continue to live and have an opportunity to enjoy this great country of ours, which was so good to us.”
With assistance from state leaders and the U.S. State Department, Stern made it possible for more than 100 German Jews to escape the Holocaust and come to America. Each individual required a visa, a process that took weeks or months. Stern tracked each visa and contacted different agencies throughout the process to ensure the application was moving forward. He had to personally guarantee that none of the individuals would become wards of the state. In 1967, on Stern’s 70th birthday, several of those he helped bring to America honored him with a framed resolution of appreciation for his inspiring generosity. He was also honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York for his extraordinary deeds.