Minot had a true friend in James D. Ruyak

By now, most Minoters have learned of the passing of James Ruyak, who fought back the Souris River several times in the 1970s and saved Minot from flooding that could have rivaled that of 1969.

If it’s still news, Ruyak, 84, of Remer, Minn., died March 9.

It is difficult this many years later to explain how much the people of Minot depended on Ruyak and placed their trust in the man. In some of those years, that trust was about the only hope Minot had going for it when it came to fending off the raging Mouse. Ruyak was that much of a man.

To read his obituary in Sunday’ paper was enlightening – to people who had perhaps heard of Ruyak or maybe even to some of those who knew and worked alongside the man during his time in Minot. The obituary read in part:

“In 1973, Jim joined the St. Paul District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, incorporating emergency response and recovery into his career path. For three consecutive years in the mid-70’s, as Chief of Construction, he led successful efforts to save the city of Minot, ND, from disastrous flooding. Jim became their hero. He was given a Key to the City and made an Honorary Citizen. A local songwriter wrote ‘The Ballad of Jim.’ Ruyak Point was named for him. His work made network news and The New York Times.”

The Pottstown, Pa., native went on to serve in other areas of the world where his expertise was needed, including to rebuild after the Gulf War, serving in Kuwait and Iraq. He also served in significant ways in the communities he lived in stateside throughout his “retirement” years.

Jim’s family will remember his life and accomplishments Saturday, March 30 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Remer. The Celebration of Life opens at 10 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial. Arrangements are with Rowe Funeral Home of Grand Rapids, Minn.

It would be appropriate for the people of Minot to think good thoughts of Jim that day. We owe him more than words can express.

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