Widow warns of the dangers of oilfield workCathy Ries has some blunt advice for anyone thinking of going to North Dakota’s oilfields to make extra money: “Don’t.” If a loved one is adamant about going, she said, “Make sure that every day you work there you realize the decisions you make, your work ethic — everything — could cost someone else their life if not their own.”
By: By Anna Jauhola , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
SALEM, S.D. — Cathy Ries has some blunt advice for anyone thinking of going to North Dakota’s oilfields to make extra money: “Don’t.”
If a loved one is adamant about going, she said, “Make sure that every day you work there you realize the decisions you make, your work ethic — everything — could cost someone else their life if not their own.”
Cathy is the widow of Richard “Rich” Ries, 38, of Salem, who died Jan. 27 in a boiler explosion near Keene, N.D. She said extended family is helping her and the couple’s two junior-high-aged children work through the tragedy.
“I didn’t think this was a possibility,” she said of Rich’s death. “I hope others look at it more seriously than we did, even though you don’t want to think about it.”
Rich planned to work in the oilfields for two years to make extra money, Cathy said in tearful interviews recently with The Daily Republic. He started Sept. 1 with Patterson UTI Drilling Company. Prior to that, he worked for Gessner Welding in Salem for 14 years.
Cathy said the qualifications for the Bernie Saggau Award in Iowa are a good description of her husband, who is an Iowa native and received the award during high school.
The award honors a student from each Iowa high school every year who best exemplifies a patriotic spirit; strong religious and moral convictions; the qualities of honesty, integrity and sportsmanship; and the belief that both games and life should be conducted by the rules.
“That’s him,” Cathy said, her voice cracking.
Cathy and Rich met through a friend in Iowa, where they both grew up. Cathy had three children from a previous marriage and always wanted to move to South Dakota, where her parents were raised and her family spent many vacations.
“That’s all there was to it,” she said with a laugh. “After my first son went to college, I said I was going to South Dakota to shop for a town.”
When she chose Salem, Rich moved there in 1997 before Cathy did so he could be with her, she said.
The couple married in 2002. Cathy said counseling will eventually be sought for their two children.
“Jared’s just wrestling for his dad now,” she said. “The kids are doing fine. Everybody in the family is pulling together.”
Cathy’s three children from her previous marriage live nearby — in Sioux Falls, Salem and Harrisburg — and Rich’s family isn’t far away in Iowa.
Cathy said Rich had life insurance, and she expects minimal financial strain resulting from his death.
“I’ll just have to be careful. I’m not rich, I’m not poor — I’m going to be OK,” she said.
Anna Jauhola is a reporter
at The Daily Republic,
which is owned by Forum