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Century Elementary teacher dies from COVID-19

Tim Rygh leaves legacy of faith, inspiration.

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Tim Rygh
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Tim Rygh, a fifth-grade teacher at Century Elementary School, died Tuesday evening, Dec. 22, from COVID-19 at Altru Hospital. He was 49.

Rygh was hospitalized Nov. 8, struggling to breathe because of COVID-19 and bilateral pneumonia, according to a post on the GoFundMe page for a fund drive , organized by Lindsey Johnson, to help the family with medical expenses.

In a Facebook post, Rygh’s wife, Stacey, said her husband battled COVID-19 pneumonia for 44 days in the hospital. He had been on a ventilator for about a month.

“Our hearts are broken as Tim Rygh took his final breath tonight, December 22, 2020, at 8:37 p.m. We can only imagine the beauty and glory that he experienced as he received his miracle of complete healing, running down the streets of gold, into the arms of Jesus,” she said in the post.

“We will miss him forever, and covet your prayers for our family during this excruciating time of pain and loss,” Stacey Rygh said.

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Visitation has been set for 12:30 to 2 p.m. Jan. 2, followed by a funeral service at 2 p.m., at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Grand Forks.

The family wishes to say, “as final words, ‘Thank you so much to the Greater Grand Forks community that has supported them, because they have felt their encouragement,’ ” said Pastor Keith Becker, a longtime friend of the Rygh family, who has served as pastor and now serves as area director of Grand Forks Young Life.

“If people wish to support the family through the GoFundMe page, they would be incredibly grateful,” said Becker, who was asked to speak to local news media on behalf of the Rygh family.

“They want to communicate that 'we’re so thankful that every day with Tim was a good day,’ ” Becker said. “And their charge to all the people is to remember Tim’s mantra, ‘Love God and love people.’ ”

His Christian faith was so important, “because it gave Tim the hope that there is a promise of eternal life that gives purpose to this life on Earth,” Becker said.

Rygh, who is survived by his wife, Stacey, and children, Brayden, Sophie and Sadie, is known by many in the community as a devout Christian, loyal husband, loving father and beloved teacher.

“He leads by example with his calm demeanor and integrity and is highly respected in the Grand Forks community,” Lindsey Johnson wrote on the GoFundMe page. “He truly lives his life to serve others.”

During his hospital stay, Rygh’s battle with COVID-19 included “quite a few complications,” Johnson said, some of which required emergency surgery and medical procedures.

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Rygh has been employed by Grand Forks Public Schools since August 1995.

A former student, Kayla Hipsher said in a Facebook post: “Mr. Rygh was my 4th grade teacher. He was so kind and funny. He was a (sic) amazing teacher.”

Heather Kremer wrote: “Mr. Rygh taught me how to not only be a leader but to give back to others.”

Pete Berg wrote: “Tim was one of the first people I met when I moved into the dorms at UND 30 years ago. He’s the guy everybody loves; someone you just WANT to be friends with. We lost touch over the years, but you never, ever forget a person like him.”

Early Wednesday, Dec. 23, staff members of Century Elementary School were notified of Rygh’s death and given an opportunity to come together virtually to share memories and offer mutual support, Tracy Jentz, communications coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools, said in an email to the Herald.

“Employees also personally reached out to the families of Mr. Rygh’s students and will provide a similar virtual gathering opportunity to all Century fifth-grade families,” Jentz said.

Also Wednesday, all Century Elementary families and GFPS employees were notified of Rygh’s death, she said.

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Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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