Fred Romkema

“To Yourself Always Be True”
Words and music by Marianne Fridell
with Mrs. Schuler’s 4th Grade Class
©2016 Marianne Fridell




      Fred Romkema

Raised on a farm in Armour, 5 AM alarm
Milking cows before school in the dairy barn.
Town kids had a better deal, their lives seemed charmed.
Education, I told myself, “This is my ticket off the farm!”

I rode my Uncle’s horse each week to the Armour Library.
I read whatever books they had, especially mysteries.
I learned to think in Algebra. Thinking is a tool.
And anything you were good at, you did it for the school.

Life can be a challenge. So what are you going to do?
Whatever you experience, whoever you are—be you!
To yourself—always be true!

In our little town, my uncle bought the first TV.
We went to check it out with curiosity.
Lone Ranger on the radio, my mind conjured up animation.
TV was a let down, no match for imagination.

Some folks call me ‘Trapper’ because that’s what I did
I trapped rabbits and foxes and one badger as a kid.
Be forewarned that a nickname given to you.
Might last a long, long time and stick to you like glue.


72,000 miles. That’s how far I’ve run.
Add 26.2 miles for the New York Marathon.
Eating oatmeal and running are my daily rites.
And perhaps why I’ve never had a sick day in my life.

Experience means more to me than anything I’ve owned.
Working hard to make life better in this state that is my home.
Working to make life better in this town that is my home.
Making life better for everyone, that’s what you’ve got to own.


Find a way to do it. Work around it.

On July 3, 1947 Fred William Romkema was born. He was born in Artesia, California to Earnest and Florence Romkema. Fred has two younger siblings: one brother, George, and one sister, Patricia.

Fred grew up on a farm in Armour, South Dakota. He had many jobs on the farm as a child, such as milking the dairy cows, and gathering and cleaning the eggs. One of Fred’s favorite activities was to trap animals and sell the fur, which earned him the nickname “Fred the Trapper”. Growing up they had utility animals for pets, but he fondly recalled a dog named Tippy.

One of the most notable inventions that Fred remembers, growing up, was television. Although many people were excited by television, Fred felt disappointed by it because he much preferred listening to the radio and creating his own pictures with his imagination. Fred enjoyed going to school, he especially liked getting to socialize with his peers. At recess he spent his time running around, playing football, and softball. Fred’s main transportation to and from school was a Yamaha motorcycle. Fred’s favorite subjects in school were history, government, and he loved reading! He didn’t have a favorite teacher until he got to high school. Once he got to high school his Algebra teacher soon became his favorite.

Growing up, Fred enjoyed listening to rock and roll, or Golden Oldies as they are known now. In high school, for fun, Fred and his friends rode up and down the street in their cars, honking at each other. His first car was a blue and white ’58 Chevy. Man that car was fast! Socializing was, and still is, important to Fred. In high school he never missed a dance! He loved hanging out with his friends.

Fred started his college career at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He had roommates from New York and that was quite the experience. He loved meeting people from all over the United States. For his second year in college he transferred to Vermillion, South Dakota. He got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Speech Pathology.

After school, Fred went to Europe and he said it was a life changing experience. Fred’s first job was a speech pathologist in Sioux City, Iowa. He then worked as a speech therapist in the public schools for four years. Fred started the Northern Hills Training Center and ran it for 38 years. From 1979-1996 Fred was a part of the Spearfish City Council, including serving as the mayor of Spearfish. Fred is currently finishing his last term as a State Representative for Lawrence County.

Fred married Patti in 1975. She passed away in 1990. In 1997, Fred was lucky enough to find another wonderful woman to share his life with, Priscilla. Fred has three sons, Mark, Jason, and Adam. He has seven grandchildren and one great grandchild and they are ALL boys!

Some know Fred as the Marathon Man. He has run over 72,000 miles throughout the 46 marathons he has now ran in, including 22 Boston Marathons and just recently, the New York Marathon. When Fred isn’t enjoying his daily oatmeal at home, he said that he likes to eat at locally owned places to help support his community. Fred’s advice to us was to study hard in school and make good friends! School and education are absolutely important!

Life is full of opportunities and experiences, and whatever you choose to do, always be true to yourself.

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