Rae Ann Gummer Kelsch passed away on Oct. 30, 2018, at Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans, La. She was stricken by a fast-moving bacteria that tragically caused her organs to shut down and finally, her heart to stop. A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at GracePoint Church. A private family burial will be held at a later date at Mandan Union Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Bismarck Funeral Home.
Rae Ann was born to Gordon and Shirley (Brown) Gummer in Mayville on Nov. 16, 1959. She was raised in the town of Mayville, as well as on her grandparents’ farms, where at the age of 12 she was counted on to make full course meals for all of the men in the field, as well as to help drive truck, tractor and combine. This responsibility became a theme in Rae Ann’s life. She was able to do anything she put her mind to, would do it well, and without question or complaint. In high school, in addition to being an excellent student, Rae Ann was involved in choir, band, cheer leading and, not surprising to those who know her, speech and debate. Rae Ann attended the University of North Dakota and received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.
It was in Grand Forks that she met and fell in love with the love of her life, Thomas Kelsch. After three and a half months they were engaged and then married on Sept. 25, 1982. Rae Ann and Tom moved to Mandan where they raised three wonderful children: Zachary, Alexander and Cassandra.
Rae Ann started work in sales at Target, quickly moving up to department manager. However, because of her love of Mandan and North Dakota, as well as Tom’s legal career, she turned down the opportunity to manage her own store out of state. In 1990, after taking a few years off for her family and with children aged five, three and one, Rae Ann ran for the North Dakota Legislature and beat an incumbent. In the legislature, Rae Ann quickly became the Vice Chair of Judiciary and in her third session was appointed and served as the Chair of the House Education Committee from 1995 to 2012. Rae Ann served her community and state, particularly the students, teachers, and schools and was instrumental in getting groundbreaking education funding and equity legislation passed as well as increasing teachers’ salaries.
After her children were all in school, Rae Ann went to work for the wireless industry, initially in sales, moving up to regional manager, then to governmental relations manager for the region. After losing a bid for re-election in 2012, Rae Ann started a successful government affairs company which she operated until her untimely death. Rae Ann received numerous accolades for her hard work. Some of note are: Legislative Service Award; Frank Newman Award for Innovation in Education; “Friend of the Child” Children’s Caucus Award for Legislature; Greater North Dakota Association Community Leadership Award; and Five Outstanding Young North Dakotan Award.
Rae Ann has been very active in serving her community. At the time of her death, she was the Board President of Ruth Meier’s Hospitality House, served on the boards of Heartview, Morton County Housing Authority, Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center and Mandan Kiwanis. Rae Ann previously served as the HIT Inc. Board President and Director of Aid Inc. and Mandan Hospital. Rae Ann has been an elder, deacon, and Sunday School teacher at the First Presbyterian Church of Mandan and served as lay minister to Glencoe and Wilton Presbyterian Churches with Tom.
Even while succeeding in her professional life, Rae Ann’s family remained her one true love and number one priority. She was a pillar of strength that her family relied upon greatly. She fiercely supported every aspect of their lives and was a champion for all of their achievements. Rae Ann has left a large hole in our hearts and in this world. She will be missed.
Rae Ann is survived by her husband, Tom; her children, Zachary (Jenna), Grand Forks, Alexander (Ashley), Mandan and Cassandra Weidman (Jason), Columbus, Ohio; and her granddaughters, Arya, Maielle and Torah, who lovingly called her Gigi. Rae Ann is also survived by her mother, Shirley; brother-in-law, Steve Kelsch (Anne); sister-in-law, Jean Bingert (Chuck); nieces and nephews, Rachelle Fettig (Shawn), Aaron Gummer (Emily), Kyle Bingert, Matthew Bingert (Samantha), Danielle Bingert, and Sarah Kelsch and great-niece Marnie Fettig.
Rae Ann was preceded in death by her dad, Gordon, her brother, Gary, father-in-law, Bill, sister-in-law, Mary, and grandparents Goodman and Della Gummer, Kenneth and Aagot Brown, CF and Mary Kelsch, and Buzz and Jean Wise.
In lieu of flowers memorials can be made to Ruth Meier’s Hospitality House or Dakota Children’s Advocacy Center.
Go to www.bismarckfuneralhome to sign the online guest book or to send a message of condolence to the family.