North Dakota Family Establishes Deep Roots, One Generation at a Time
Kenny Bugbee moved his family to western North Dakota to work at Hess when the Bakken first boomed. More than 50 years later, both Hess and the Bugbee family have established deep roots in Tioga and have forged unique connections that link a grandfather, his son and two of his grandsons to Hess.
These three generations of the Bugbee family have earned a living at the Hess Tioga Gas Plant and built their lives in the city it supports. Tioga is the self-proclaimed oil capital of North Dakota, and Hess is a major employer in the area. For many North Dakota residents, the name Hess is synonymous with longevity, trust, stability and community. That reputation was built by families like the Bugbees who have been proud and hardworking representatives of Hess and, before that, Amerada Hess for decades in North Dakota. For the Bugbee family - Kenny and his wife, Donna, their six children, 14 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and four dozen foster grandchildren - Hess is the best employer in town. "Hess is by far the best company operating in the area. It's the most dependable and the one that does the most for the community," Kenny Bugbee said. Four of Kenny and Donna Bugbee’s children moved away, and a fifth died. But the youngest, Curtis, stayed close to home. He went to Bismarck State College, graduated in 1988 and returned to Tioga with his wife, Natalie Geatz Bugbee, and three sons, eager to find work.
Kenny Bugbee knew just what to do. He urged Curtis to apply for a job at the gas plant. Curtis started working at Hess in 1990 as an operator and earned a promotion to shift supervisor four years later.
"We celebrated a 50th anniversary at the gas plant in 2004, and it was great to stand there next to my dad. Hess has shown that it's in North Dakota for the long haul," said Curtis Bugbee. "It's committed to the community and the people. I like that, because it separates Hess from some of the other operators who have come here, ones that just want to seek out profit and give nothing back."
Curtis and Natalie Bugbee understand commitment - and know a lot about giving back. They not only reared three sons - Josh, Ryan, and Brent - but also served as foster parents for 50 other North Dakota children, and adopted three of the girls - Jessika, Taylor, and Shyanne.
Like his parents, Curtis Bugbee and his wife joined a church and participated in school activities. They taught their children to hunt and fish, and Natalie shared her love for golfing. And while Curtis and Natalie may enjoy watching the Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings, Tioga is the place they call home.
A handful of years ago, Curtis Bugbee followed his father's example - and urged two of his own sons to look for jobs at Hess. Ryan, 26, is now an electrician at the gas plant and Brent, 25, father of a girl himself now, works in production.
"I never thought twice about having my sons work at Hess because it is a very safety conscious company. It is a company that stresses that safety always trumps production," Curtis Bugbee said.
For both Hess and the Bugbee family, the newest and biggest oil boom in North Dakota is creating dramatic changes. Hess continues to invest in the community and in the people who are its loyal employees.
In the summer of 2011, Natalie Bugbee - a woman Curtis describes as "the most generous, compassionate woman I have ever met" - learned she had breast cancer. She had surgery in July, and completed chemotherapy and other medical services in Williston, N.D., about 50 miles away.
"Hess has been absolutely extraordinary in terms of enabling me to take care of my wife. If I needed to take her to the doctor or take her for treatment, I was not only been permitted to go, I was encouraged to go," Curtis Bugbee said. "All I can say is that Hess is a great place to work."