In 1974, Art and Grace first became acquainted with Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Their interest in the state, and in children, led to their ongoing support of the Ranch. They made their first cash gift in 1974, and continued their support throughout the rest of Art’s life. Grace continues to support the Ranch today.
Grace Link grew up on a farm, and when she married Art, she expected to live her life as a farmer’s wife. “I would have been very happy with that type of life,” she said.
Art’s political aspirations took her in other directions, and sometimes being in the limelight was difficult for her. “I didn’t choose to be a public figure. I’m more of a homebody. But I was supportive of Art’s choices and it has been a good life.”
Grace and Art met at a dance when she was only fifteen. He was playing in the band so she only met him briefly. About three weeks later, Grace’s parents were playing for Art’s sister’s wedding dance, and they met again. This time he asked her to dance.
“We took our time, but we kept in touch. I guess I was always somewhat attracted to him. I liked his philosophy. I liked his lifestyle. I came from a family where there was no alcohol, no tobacco, good clean living. He came from the same kind of family. It just seemed like it was a good fit.”
Five years later, they married and lived on the family ranch in the northwestern part of North Dakota, near Alexander. While running the ranch and growing their family, Art became involved in the community. He was active in the Farmer’s Union, served on the township board and the school board, and was a state legislator for 24 years. In 1971, Art was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he served two years before he was elected as Governor of North Dakota.
While Art’s community involvement is more well-known, Grace did her share of volunteer work. As their six children were growing up in Alexander, Grace and Art both served as project leaders in the Lads and Lassies 4-H Club. They were also involved with county contests and the county fair, and in the 1960s, they helped organize and establish the new McKenzie County Fairgrounds. Years later, they became involved in the establishment of a 4-H building in Bismarck.
As First Lady of North Dakota, Grace spent most of her time sharing hospitality with people around the state. I gave lots of tours, she said, The Governor’s Residence was only about 12 years old when we moved into it. Every time an organization had a meeting in Bismarck, they’d arrange for the spouses to tour the Governor’s residence.”
Since Art’s death in 2010, Grace has made several significant gifts to the Hope in the Heartland Campaign. An office in the new Fargo facility was dedicated in his honor. The plaque outside the room reads, “This room is dedicated to the Glory of God in honor of the Art Link Family.”
Grace contributes their giving natures to their parents. “My father and mother were very giving people. We didn’t have a lot to give, but when I outgrew my clothes, my mother saw that they were given to neighbors who needed them. My dad was always volunteering to do things for people. Art’s parents were very much the same way. It was just natural for us to give.”
The Ranch became one of their favorite charities because of their shared philosophy about children. “Our philosophy has always been that we have children in our state who come from deprived homes, and others who come from good homes, but have gotten onto the wrong path. If by going to the Ranch they can get themselves on the right track again, it is worth so much.”
Grace continues to hold that philosophy and wants others to know that “the Ranch gives children a home, and kindness. You can work with young people, whatever their problems may be, and get them going on the right road again.”
And as for her life in the spotlight, Grace grew to appreciate the friends she made as she welcomed people into her home. “I’ve known people from all over the state. I have friends from all over. I guess that’d probably be the best part.”
Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.