Capital Electric remembers former general manager Sid Soma
O.S. “Sid” Soma, former general manager for Capital Electric Cooperative from 1964 to 1983, passed away Aug. 18 in Bismarck. He was 94 years old.
Born in Deadwood, S.D., on July 14, 1921, Sid graduated from Newell High School and attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he played football before enlisting in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He served 3 ½ years aboard the light cruiser USS Brooklyn, earning the rank of EMC 1st class.
An advocate for rural electrification, Sid worked as a lineman for Butte Electric Cooperative in Newell, S.D., and as a line inspector for Black Hills Electric Cooperative in Custer, S.D., prior to entering the service. He vividly remembered the building of the power lines — and how construction stopped due to WWII and a lack of funding.
Sid returned to South Dakota and his job at Butte Electric, following his honorable discharge. He married Helen Gyopyos, of Elmira, N.Y., nearly 72 years ago, and they were blessed with two children, David and Crystal. Helen also worked at Butte Electric as a billing clerk.
When electric companies started building power lines and getting easements again, Sid became the manager of Butte Electric. He was the youngest manager every hired by any electric cooperative.
When the co-op’s members had questions or concerns, they often called Sid at home — and Helen would serve as dispatch, taking notes on mileage from tree to corner or fence post to hill, helping the linemen find the source of the problem. Even though Sid was the manager, when the linemen became too busy or were short a hand, Sid would head to the field and help.
“That tells you what kind of person he was,” Helen reflects.
Sid took great pleasure in helping provide power to rural areas. He shared a story with Helen about a farm family that was about to get electric service for the first time. When the linemen announced the power was on, Sid asked the farm wife flip a switch. When the light came on, she cried. She could hardly believe they finally had electricity.
“He pushed and worked hard for people to have that joy,” Helen reflects. “He knew how hard his mother had to work, until they scraped up enough money for a generator so his mother could use a washing machine to wash clothes.”
Sid became the general manager of West River Electric Cooperative in 1948, in Wall, S.D. He also became an advocate for telecommunications cooperatives in rural areas, and eventually served in the dual role as general manager of Golden West Telephone from 1954 until 1964.
In 1964, Sid and his family moved to Bismarck where he accepted the position of general manager of Capital Electric Cooperative, which he held until his retirement in 1983.
Helen says Sid took many employees under his wing over the years, giving them advice and supporting them and their families. “He had a good, good heart,” Helen says. “He always talked about all his linemen as ‘his boys.’ He respected the work they did, and he always praised them for the job they did.”
After retirement, Sid and Helen enjoyed antique shows, spent time at their summer home in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and traveled to Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California during the winters. Sid also continued to fish, keep a garden, refinish antique furniture and tinker with “stuff.”
Sid was committed to community throughout his career, before Touchstone Energy® made it one of its core values. While in Wall, Sid served on the Wall School Board; served two terms as Mayor; sat on the board of directors of the Black Hills, Badlands and Lakes Association; served as chairman of the Pennington County Red Cross; and served as a lay member of the Governor’s Council on Highway Safety. In Bismarck he served on numerous boards including Missouri Slope Lutheran Care Center, the St. Alexius Lay Advisory Board, Burleigh County Red Cross, Salvation Army, North Dakota Power Use Council, ND REC Manager’s Association, and as chairman of the Board of Trustees at McCabe United Methodist Church. He is a lifetime member of the Bismarck Elks, American Legion and Kiwanis Club.
Up until his death, many current and former cooperative employees would stop by the couple’s house in Bismarck and talk to him because, “he was a good, stalwart person who would always listen to anybody who had a problem,” Helen says.
Sid is survived by his wife, Helen; son, David; and daughter, Crystal; two grandchildren, Travis (Danielle) Smith, Bismarck, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Meissner, Denver, Colo.; six great-grandchildren, Hunter, Madelyn, Zander, Brandon, Alec, and Harper; nephews, Gerald (Mary Ellen) Soma, Calif., and Jon Soma, Md.; niece, Patricia (Al) Wilcove, Fla.; numerous cousins; great-nephews, and great-nieces.
Capital Electric Cooperative honors the career and commitment of O.S. “Sid” Soma, and extends its condolences to his family members and friends.