Bully Spirit Award Presented by Rolf Sletten

Rolf Sletten, the first ever Bully Spirit Award recipient, presented the prestigious award to the third recipients, Jim and Joanne Kack.

Rolf’s recognition speech of the outstanding Bully Spirit Jim and Joanne have shown over the years follows.

Rolf’s Recognition

Jim and Joanne, in this world there are people who give and there are people who take.

Some people are scared to death that they might give more than they get and consequently, they almost never give anything of themselves, not of their time, their talents, or their money. If on rare occasion, they do give something of themselves, and are not generously and immediately rewarded, they feel that life is unfair, and they are victims cheated out of something they had coming. I think, “What’s in it for me” is a pretty common attitude. Those are words to live by for too many people.

On the other hand, we have people who give willingly, cheerfully, and generously wonderful people. People with soul and conscience who are not afraid to be generous, people who want to give back to other people and to the community. They are people who don’t worry that they might be giving more than they get.  

These are people who understand that giving is its own reward. The Medora we all know and love today, could not have been built and it could not function without those generous giving people. YOU are those people (Rough Rider Members). Thank you for that.

There is a third group, a part of that second group. These are the people who give when no one is looking. They give generously, quietly, and anonymously. Now I’m talking about people like Jim and Joanne Kack. 

Actually, I’m talking about Jim and Joanne. Their contributions to Medora have been huge. Their financial gifts have been extremely generous. I won’t be any more specific than that, but they have been very, very generous and they have given much more in time and talent.  

“Our’s was the glory of work and the joy of living”
-Theodore Roosevelt

Everybody knows that when things were stressful, Sheila would occasionally go over to the laundry to help out, but who knew that Joanne and her sister Dianne would also go over there and do the same thing. Almost no one knew that until right now and that is the real point here.   

If I was going to describe Jim and Joanne’s contributions to Medora in just three words those words would be “generous”, “humble” and “gracious”.  Gracious generosity and humility.

Jim and Joanne have been contributing to Medora, throughout the entire 34-year history of the TRMF and long before that and very few people are aware of what they have done. The truth is there are only two people in this room who know the full extent of their contributions and unfortunately, those two people are Jim and Joanne and I know, they aren’t talking so we will never really know all that they have done.

They have always stayed in the background, never seeking any attention for themselves and never wanting any. They have NEVER wanted any attention focused on themselves. In fact, they have worked hard to avoid it. The truth is that any attention makes them very uncomfortable.

Well, BUMMER ABOUT THAT, we are all here today to say “Thank You” Jim and Joanne.

I only wish that Harold could be here to participate in this event. He would be misty-eyed, brimming over with enthusiasm, and grinning from ear to ear. He would be so proud of what has been accomplished in Medora and he would be deeeeelighted in his daughter and his son-in-law. He would be standing here instead of me and Jim, Joanne he would be so very very proud of you.

Remarks from Friends and Family

A lot of people are very proud of you. Look at the people who have come here to see you today. The Schafers are here, the O’Keefe’s are here. Many friends, some of them from far-away places, are here. The Medora Founders are here, the TRMF membership is here.

A lot of people are proud of you and a lot of people love you.

Randy talks passionately, about the way the two of you guided the difficult transition from a family run business to an organization that could stand alone and how you did it with infinite grace. That is huge. If you had done nothing more, then that in itself, would be reason enough to give you the Bully Spirit Award but, of course, there is much more.

Bill Sorensen describes you as “people who have shown for decades that your love for Medora never fades”.

Tim O’Keefe says that “Jim and Joanne are the philanthropists we all should be”. And he will talk at great length about your gracious generosity.

Ed Schafer said, “Theirs is the glory of work and the joy of living”. He said that quote from TR, describes Jim and Joanne perfectly hard work and the joy of living and he points out that your joy of living is centered in family a point that many people were quick to make. Actually, almost everyone I talked to, spoke of your deep commitment to family.

Brandy Minick says, they are “Stewards of the land” and she explains that she considers that to be one of the greatest compliments that can ever be bestowed on anyone. For the past 40 or more years you have certainly been faithful stewards of Medora and that stewardship has inspired many other people.including me. There are people in this room who have become involved in Medora only because they have been inspired by your example and your commitment.

Concho  Minick says, “If they were trees, Jim and Joanne would be willows – obviously and distinctly different than the common form there is a wisdom there, an insight, and a warm glow of love and inclusion that radiates out in an unmistakable aura of difference that you can’t miss”.

Sandy Tjaden says, “Jim and Joanne are kind, giving, and willing and Medora has been the fortunate recipient of all of that.”

Medora Sletten (Middle)

Medora Sletten says, quote: “my mother says they’re the most normal people in our family”.  I THINK that’s a compliment.

Mark Limond says, “Wonderful (he’s quoting Harold).  They are wonderful, the happiest people I know.”

Elmer Knutson said “What?…Who are these people anyway?” Ok, I just made that up.

And Dianne Schafer. Maybe Dianne said it best of all.  She simply said “They are the kindest, most considerate people I know”. Tough to top that, I think.  

Dianne also said “you can’t think about Jim without thinking about Joanne and you can’t think about Joanne without thinking about Jim”. That is the truth. She pointed out that you even share the same email. I said “How can you possibly carry on an affair if you share your email with your spouse?”   no secrets there.

You may not know it but we nearly lost Jim to a career in show business. It’s true. At one point in the 1970s, Jim and Joanne were in Vail. They went to see a stand-up comic. The comedian chose someone in the crowd to pick on. He chose Jim. That was a mistake. Every time the comedian fired off a zinger, Jim fired back with his own and Jim was winning. He soon had the crowd in the palm of his hand they were eating it up. The comedian called Jim up on the stage to play the drums. Jim was a drummer and the whole thing was wildly successful. The next morning the comedian called Jim and asked him to go on the road with him. Jim said, “naaaw, If I drank that much every day, I’d be dead in a month I better not go.”

It’s difficult and dangerous to start listing Jim and Joanne’s contributions to Medora because there is no way to make the list complete. It will always be inadequate but with that understanding, I want to mention just a couple of things.

The first is that, as Randy said, the TRMF had to go through a  difficult transition period as the Medora operations evolved from a family business to a Foundation that in the very early days was often focused on “what does Harold want?” or “what would Harold do?”, and then, from there to a strong, dynamic and independent, stand-alone organization. Jim and Joanne played a very big role in guiding that transition. Always very quietly, and very graciously.  

The importance of that guidance would be hard to exaggerate. Randy describes Jim as the “anchor” during those first twenty years the connecting point between this fledgling organization and the family. He tells how during the early board meetings Jim wouldn’t say too much because he wanted the organization to find its own way but once in a while,  he would quietly say “you might want to think about this”, and Randy quickly came to understand and appreciate the wisdom in that gentle advice. He figured out that if Jim said “you might want to think about this or that then it was time to give this or that some serious thought”.

Both Ed and Randy make a big point of stressing how, during the Foundations formative years, Jim and Joanne played a huge role in keeping the Foundation focused on the ideals and values that Harold stood for.   Their loyalty to Harold was steadfast. That’s important. We still stand for those same values and if we ever lose sight of those values then, unfortunately, Medora will become a very different place.

I have to mention the Schafer Center. Everyone agrees that Jim and Joanne were at the very center of that project. Would it have been built without them? Some people in the family say most likely not, some say “yes probably yes” but everyone agrees that without Jim and Joanne it certainly would not have turned out to be the beautiful expression of Harold’s life that it is today.   

This was a huge task, not the least of which was to get the family corralled and pointed in one direction.

There were all kinds of ideas about how we might honor Harold. Some people wanted to illuminate the buttes on the east side of town. Dramatic for sure, but a bit problematic.  

Another idea was to build display cases along the walkways leading down to the amphitheater. This was in the days before the escalator when everyone had to walk up and down the hill.   

In any event, the decision to build a brick and mortar museum won out, and then most of the work fell on Jim and Joanne. They hired the architects, and the curators, and the contractors. They gathered the artifacts and memorabilia.  

At one point they sent out a call to all ships at sea asking everyone to send in all the Gold Seal memorabilia that could be found. This stuff had been stored away for years, in attics and cellars, garages and warehouses all across the country. Boxes of stuff came from far and wide. A huge amount of stuff that all had to be sorted out and organized, by you guessed it –Jim and Joanne.   

And there were boxes of files, and boxes of files, and did I mention, boxes of files, that all had to be read and evaluated and organized and yes, once again the task fell on Jim and Joanne.

And then after all that they donated that beautiful old-west bar that now stands in the Schafer Center.

Finally, I want to mention one of Jim and Joanne’s smaller contributions to Medora. Please go to the Roughriders Hotel. Look in the Lobby, in the restaurant, and in the bar. In all those places you will find beautiful stained-glass windows. Those were all gifts from Jim and Joanne.

They represent a tiny fraction of their giving in Medora but they are very beautiful and very visible and I hope that every time you look at those windows you will think of Jim and Joanne Kack and you will remember that they have spent much of their lives quietly making Medora a much better place.

At this point I will ask Jim and Joanne to step up here on the stage.

The Bully Spirit Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. The heart of the Bully Spirit is the allure of the Badlands and the landscape’s capacity for healing, inspiration and, the expansion of one’s soul. The life of the Bully Spirit is seen in the human capacity for goodness and achievement. That goodness and achievement is represented in the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Harold Schafer. Each was touched by their love for Medora and the Badlands, and each had an extraordinary life of positive, life-changing impact.

On behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, its Board of Directors, our Founders, and our entire membership it is my great honor to present to you the Bully Spirit Award. It is most certainly so very well deserved.