Nonprofit Honors 1972 Flood Heroes



Tanya Manus Journal Staff

Catholic Social Services is one of Rapid City’s positive and lasting legacies from the 1972 flood. Created out of necessity in the midst of a disaster, CSS celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, celebrating the heroes who helped out during and after the floods.

Tickets are on sale now for CSS’s annual gathering and 50th anniversary on October 21 from 5-7pm at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Rapid City. Tickets are $25 and include meals. To purchase tickets, visit or call Kristin Conzet (605-716-6336).

James Kinyon, Executive Director and Director of Counseling at CSS, said: “This is to celebrate his 50th anniversary of rebuilding our city. Many people… taught us how to live and the importance of community. increase.”

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CSS pays tribute to the people and organizations who played a key role in the days, weeks and years after the 1972 floods. Former Rapid City mayor Don Burnett will be a special guest at the celebrations, said Kinyon, who had been elected Mayor of Rapid City just two months before the 1972 floods. .

Founder’s Award: Ozzy Osheim

CSS presents the Monsignor O’Connell Founders Awardee to Retired Funeral Director Ozzie Osheim of Rapid City.

Funeral workers were heroes who guided grieving families through the process of burying flood victims. 238 people died in the flood.

Osheim had been an undertaker for about 20 years at the time of the flood. Rapid City, in 1972 he was her community of 40,000 with three funeral homes. When the flood hit, amidst the chaos, the funeral home owners met on the first day of the disaster to make plans for the unknown.

“Those Fellows never got credit for what they did,” Osheim said. “They didn’t know how many more people would die.”

“All three funeral homes tried to make it as easy as possible for people to identify their loved ones. All three had clerics and nurses in the building,” Osheim said. rice field.

During the first two days of the flood, Behrens Funeral Home was dry and had no electricity or running water. There was no electricity or running water at the Campbell Paula Funeral Home, and about five inches of water in the basement of the Catron Funeral Home.

“Water pooled on the sides of the building,” recalls Osheim. “They got busy, National Guard trucks brought in, local businesses donated equipment. They brought in generators to power us, they brought in water trucks. I was able to function because it would fall.”

During the first two days the bodies were transported to Berens and Campbell Pola. Osheim said Katron’s basement had to be pumped and dried.

“After the first two days, other funeral homes were flooded. When the third day began, all the bodies found were taken to the Katron Funeral Home,” he said.

“There were a lot of long, hard days. It was very difficult. For us, it wasn’t as difficult as it was for the general public. It was very hard and very stressful. Some people have to go to all three funeral homes if they can’t find their loved one, and some have to go to all funeral homes for five days until they find their loved one,” said Osheim. “A lot of people lost loved ones and homes. They were really struggling.”

“Often you want to be devastated and mourned with your family, but that didn’t help anything.” ”

Between the three funeral homes, there were 11 funeral directors working across the city, including Osheim.

“We couldn’t handle that many corpses alone. We didn’t start the identification process[until then]for the first three to four days,” says Osheim. “We started recruiting volunteers from all over the Black Hills. Over the course of three weeks, we had funeral directors from five states. That’s what made it work.”

Osheim and other funeral directors set up the system. After the flood victims were identified, a time was scheduled for funeral directors to meet with families and plan services. The association of funeral directors and local ministers determined that due to the high number of deaths, it was nearly impossible to provide a full funeral service for everyone, Osheim said.

“We agreed to provide cemetery services only and the majority of people agreed. They understood the situation,” he said. “The cemeteries in the area had to take their time to open the graves and complete all the work, so it was really hard. There was some order in the cemetery, as it was agreed to schedule 15 minutes, 30 minutes.”

Osheim said the support he and other funeral directors received was one of his vivid memories of that time.

“One of the things that stands out is the amount of support that funeral professionals have received from the community at large, clerics and the general public. . “The local church brought us food every day, so we catered.”

Osheim, now 95, is a World War II veteran and has been a qualified funeral director for 70 years. Although he retired at 80, “I still stop by the funeral home every day and help with funerals. I still hold my license,” he said.

“I always loved people. It was never difficult for me to go to work. “I had some tough jobs,” he said. “If I can help someone in a small way during a difficult time in life, it’s worth it.”

“I am very proud to have received this award.”

Serving the community in the aftermath of the 1972 floods made him a more serious person.

“It certainly made me realize how valuable life is and how fragile life is,” Osheim said. “It’s hard to put into words.”

Monsignor William O’Connell, for whom the Founder’s Award is named, was a longtime friend of Osheim’s from his arrival in Rapid City in 1957 until his death in 2015. He is planning many funerals for flood victims, Mr Kinyon said.

Medal of the Laureate of the Order of St. Benedict

CSS honors Delores Catron Miller of Rapid City, South Dakota National Guard, Ellsworth Air Force Base with the Order of St. Benedict. The medal is named after the Benedict sisters, who were the first in western South Dakota to bring formal education to women and have a long tradition of serving the poor.

The CSS anniversary celebration is an opportunity to recognize those who responded heroically, and fifty years later, their help should be remembered in times of disaster.

Delores Catron Miller married Dennis Catron, who owned the Catron Funeral Home during the 1972 flood. Catron Miller also served as Past President of the Catholic Community Service Committee. Catron Miller and her children receive awards.

Major General Jeffrey P. Marlett accepts the award on behalf of the South Dakota National Guard. In 1972, the South Dakota National Guard was conducting summer training in the Black Hills when floods struck.

“The South Dakota National Guard played a major role in disaster recovery and subsequent disaster management,” Quinon said. “They responded quickly during the flood. They came together to save people.”

Ellsworth Air Force Base will also be honored. “We will use this event to recognize those who have responded bravely,” he said Kinyon. “Some of these people may not get the recognition they deserve. That’s why we often rely on the military to do incredible things for us. It’s a great opportunity to get to know them.”

CSS will also focus on its milestone 50th anniversary. After the floods, O’Connell went into full-time disaster relief and recovery work, partnering with a number of churches and non-profit organizations, Kinyon said he modeled in all 50 of his states and at least 160 countries around the world. Organized the response to the disaster that occurred.

As a result of the flood, Catholic social services began to develop. O’Connell was asked to develop an organization to serve those in need, regardless of religion. O’Connell invited two of his religious sisters from the Daughters of Charity to help identify the many social service needs of the people of western South Dakota, and Catholic Social Services was initially small. Licensed as an adoption and counseling agency.

During and after the flood, Quignon said people of all faiths stood together to help their communities. A non-profit organization with a mission to support

“We want to reflect the communities we serve,” said Kinyon.

CCS continued its recruitment and counseling work and added more features. The Uplifting Parents program helps single mothers complete their college degrees. Among many other programs and services, CSS provides outpatient mental health care and conducts community outreach activities for suicide prevention. The agency offers parenting classes, western South Dakota disaster assistance, and marriage and family telemedicine services. CSS is also rewriting the Lakota Circle of Hope, a program that brings Lakota values ​​into the school.

“We have a great community, we have donors and supporters,” Kinyon said. “As Christians, we have to live out the story of the Good Samaritan.” Despite our religious and cultural differences, we helped others simply because there was a need.

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