While having excelled on the gridiron during his college playing days, that momentum carried forward as Williston native Gary Sukut went on to distinguish himself throughout his career and a number of other activities.
As a result, Sukut was recently presented with a prestigious Legends Award, from the University of North Dakota.
This award is given annually through the UND Football Alumni Association.
Sukut finds himself in pretty good company as he joins earlier recipients the likes of former Minnesota Vikings running back Dave Osborn, along with Gene Murphy, who went to become a successful head coach back at UND.
Following a stellar career at Williston High School, following graduation from WHS in 1959, Sukut earned a full-ride scholarship to play football for the Fighting Sioux at UND.
He went on to graduate from UND in the spring of 1963, while graduating once again in the spring of 1970 with master’s degree from the College of Education, with a major in mathematics.
Sukut played football his entire time at UND, however, in those days freshmen were not allowed to play varsity football.
On the field Sukut was used both ways as a defensive end and a tight end on the offensive side of the ball.
Playing two ways is something almost unheard of these days.
During his time at UND, Sukut indicated the football teams were “always competitive.”
He recalled his sophomore season when in the last game that year they were up against Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa came in undefeated and UND had only one setback, now playing for a share of the conference crown.
Recalling, just like it happened yesterday, Sukut told us UND was down 7-3, facing a first and goal from three yards out with only minutes to play.
In four tries UND was kept out of the end zone, letting a piece of the conference crown slip away with the loss.
While in a UND uniform Sukut was selected as a second team All-North Central Conference performer as a junior.
Being named a quad captain in his senior season, Sukut suffered a concussion that turned into vertigo.
That injury cost him the last half of his senior year playing football at the college level.
According to Sukut, the injury also cost him an opportunity for a National Football League tryout.
“I was hoping for an NFL tryout,” he said; but due to the injury, he was unable to “realize that dream.”
One thing he holds on to these days is the fact that into his senior season UND had beaten state rival North Dakota State University for the 13th year in a row.
While at UND Sukut also played some basketball as he went out for the team as a freshman, while going out as a sophomore, he was “kind of beat up,” from the football season.
That ended any further thoughts of playing basketball.
On to teaching
Upon graduation from UND, Sukut entered the workforce and was hired as a teacher for one year in Fairmont, Minnesota.
Following that he returned home to Williston and taught at the Williston UND Extension Center.
While there he taught math, while also helping to coach high school football for about five years, working with the late George Amsden.
Along the way Sukut was learning to eventually take over the family business.
You see, his father came to Williston in 1941 to work as a service technician for Holms Typewriter.
After his parents, Mae and Bill, purchased the typewriter business in 1944, this then led to the beginning of Sukut Office Equipment.
While along with teaching a morning schedule, Sukut found himself out on the street the rest of the time, “selling to build a business.”
We recall penning a Scope column back on June 3, 2005 when Sukut announced the closing of the business, after a 61-year family run.
“The business was in decent shape at that time, but we were ready to be done and move on to do something else,” said Sukut.
Along the way Sukut was heavily involved in the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, along with holding down a seat on the City Commission.
Dedicate Hwy 2
After 25 years of running up and down Hwy 2, Sukut figured it was time for someone else, turning over the reins in 2000.
Sukut first got involved when Ken Lee, a Chamber of Commerce member then working out of Grand Forks, got the effort re-activated in the mid-70s.
It was finally when the slogan, Across the State in 2008, the dream of four lanes of traffic between Williston and Minot became a reality.
With the highway project behind him, Sukut was tabbed to become a politician to serve in Bismarck.
First elected in 2006, he went on to serve as a member of the state House of Representatives from District 1 until 2018.
Once again, during this time, Sukut found himself in a position of serving the public.
Finally time off
Along with his wife Leora, after 53 years of marriage, the couple was able to spend last winter in Montana.
While not a warm place to go to get away from the cold, instead they spent valuable time in gymnasiums watching twin granddaughters close out their senior high school season at Helena, with another state title.
We learned this was the third-straight state championship trophy for this team.
Having graduated from high school, the twins will now be competing in NAIA basketball for the University of Providence, located in Great Falls, Montana.
With three daughters, the Sukuts proudly claim eight grandchildren, along with five great-grandchildren and another boy due in November.
Kathy is the youngest and mother of the twins, while Tammy is the oldest and makes her home in Grand Forks.
On a sad note, we learned that Nadine passed away last spring, due to a case of pneumonia.
Nadine had recently returned to make her home in Williston.
“This was very traumatic in our family and still is, as we are trying to figure it out,” said Gary.
Time, along with strong family support, will work to ease the pain.
Thomas A. Kvamme is a former resident and long time sports editor and columnist for the Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.