Bernard “Bernie” Owen LaPlante was born June 27, 1959 to Leroy Sr. and Delores Meeter LaPlante. Born at Cheyenne Agency, South Dakota, he lived with his family north of LaPlant, South Dakota until June 1960 when his family relocated to the new Cheyenne River Agency site at Eagle Butte, South Dakota.
Bernie comes from a family of six (6) siblings – sisters Diana Jensen, Gloria Fire Thunder and Patsy Harper and brothers Cedar, Richard and Leroy Jr.
Bernie was united in marriage to Verzella Condon December 12, 1980 and they were blessed with two (2) sons, Jared and Tyson and one (1) daughter Rebecca Lynn. He is equally blessed with grandsons Jalen and Jason and granddaughter Coco Paige.
Bernie attended schools at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and Sturgis Brown High Schools, graduating from C-EB in 1978. Bernie then entered the “world of work” as a laborer for the BIA roads department and followed that with employment with Lynn’s Super Valu. He worked in various departments of the company and truly enjoyed the retail grocery business.
December 1, 1991 he became the general manager of the tribally owned grocery store known as Lakota Thrifty Mart and has successfully managed the store for twenty-five (25) years. He took great pride in the continued success of the company and seeing many of his visions for future expansion come to fruition. The vision is to expand services to Dupree, then Takini and LaPlant with C-stores, then build a brand new store in Eagle Butte with a 24-hour truck stop.
The Dupree Lakota Thrifty Mart opened its doors in November 2013 and completion of c-stores in Takini and LaPlant are underway. In March of 2013 Chairman Keckler asked Bernie if he would oversee the Management of the Tribe’s Subway and re-open the doors in June of 2013.
In 1972, at the age of 12 Bernie was credited with saving the life of a young child. During the Rapid City flood of 1972, Bernie saw a family struggling to safety with small children. He lifted a small child to his shoulders and carried him uphill to safety. This act earned him recognition from then South Dakota Governor George McGovern and also from the council of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. As a young child, Bernie also took interest in our Native fancy feather dance and enjoyed attending pow-wows and dancing.
Bernie came to know Christ in November of 1980. He was Baptized and became a member of the First Baptist Church in December of 1980. He was a very active member teaching Sunday school, head of the Bus Ministry, leading the youth group and started Mission Outreach in the Communities of Cherry Creek and LaPlant in 1983. The people in those Communities responded to his love and witness and he lead many people to the Lord. Bernie became the first Native American Pastor to be ordained by the First Baptist Church on June 11, 1987.
Bernie enjoyed spending time with his family, always planned activities, family gatherings and was known for having “Griswold” moments on family trips. He loved table games, dice and card games, he was very competitive, had a strategy for everything and absolutely loved winning. Bernie was a Minnesota Vikings fan since 1969, he took his family to the Vikings training camp every August and tried to take in a football game whenever possible, he always said that the team was never going to compete for a Super Bowl unless they had their own stadium to attract good coaches and players. The owners of the team got it done and Bernie was so excited, the organization sold “Legacy” bricks for fans to purchase and these bricks were to be placed at the site of the new stadium within the Legacy Ship. Bernie got one and will now be a part of the organization forever. Bernie also enjoyed playing golf, we put on golf tournaments for ten years and had many friends that played golf. He loved playing poker and had his own home game for years.
Bernie will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by his wife Verzella, children Jared, Tyson (Lacey) and Rebecca. Grandchildren Jalen, Jason and Coco Paige. He will also be missed and cherished by his parents Leroy & Delores (Toni) LaPlante, Sisters Diana Jensen, Gloria Fire Thunder and Patsy (Tommy) Harper, brothers Cedar, Richard and Jr (Kathy) LaPlante. Many nieces and nephews, grandchildren and one great grandchild. Aunt Edie Knight, Aunt Laverne Cummimgs, Aunt Rita (John) Brikeland, Uncle Allen LaPlante and Aunt Darlene Mestes. And many cousins.
Bernie was preceded in death by his grandparents: Mamie (Jewet) and William LaPlante, Adelia (Charger) and Lawrence Meeter. Nephew Lloyd “Danny” Jensen, Jr. Niece Kristi Jensen and grandchild baby Cooper.