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“A Pain that Doesn’t Dull with Time"

Trevor Skarphol was killed in a workplace incident on May 25th, 2012. Since then, his father, Jay has had many conversations with God asking why he took his son instead of him that fateful day.

“Each day is a gift, not a given right. If we all fully embrace
this fact, we can make the right choices to help us WORK
safely, DRIVE safely, and LIVE safely – every day.”
– Jay Skarphol

JAY's story

"Post Retirement Plan"

Jay Skarphol had his post-retirement planned out. But that was before tragedy struck and the Skarphol family was changed forever.

Living and working in the oil fields of western North Dakota as a senior environmental health and safety specialist, Skarphol, a native of the Tioga area, wrapped up his long career in the Bakken region in July of 2011 to move to Fargo. He was 56. He and his wife, Jeanne, had purchased a home in Fargo three years earlier to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Jeanne was already living there, enjoying being a grandma and helping with daycare.

“My plan was to work part-time at Fleet Farm or Scheels for the discount on the guns and ammo and the clothes and ride things out that way,” Skarphol says.

Fate intervened.

Play Video about Trevor's Story 44 Video Cover

"I still hear her voice to this day."

On Friday, May 25, 2012, Memorial Day Weekend, the Skarphol family was changed forever. Their eldest son, Trevor, who was the lead electrician on the project was killed at a West Fargo construction site. He was 35 days short of his 31st birthday. He left behind his wife, Angie; son, Jaxon, age 8 1/2; and son, Bo, 2 years, 10 months.

Trevor had planned to quit early that day and head to his cabin on Ottertail Lake. His father was the last family member he spoke with before the accident.

Trevor called me at 9:30 to check on Bo because he was fussy that morning when he dropped him off at our home. That was our last conversation. For Skarphol, the events of the day are blurred by emotion and grief. The first indication that something was wrong came in the form of a phone call. His daughter, Tennille, a surgical tech at a Fargo hospital, reported in a shaky voice that they had just received a Level 4 trauma call from Trevor’s worksite, and that it involved one of the electricians.

Shortly after, Tennille’s husband, Steve, called to say he was coming to pick up his father-in-law so they could head to the building site. En route, Tennille called again. Her message of four words forever ring in Skarphol’s head: “Dad, it was Trevor!” By this time, the police had visited the hospital and informed Tennille and Trevor’s wife, Angie, also a surgical tech, that the accident was fatal.

“I still hear her voice to this day. A daughter is not supposed to have to tell her dad that he just lost his son.”

“Why couldn’t God have taken me instead of him?"

Skarphol and his son-in-law turned their vehicle around, as now the task at hand was to inform Skarphol’s wife, Jeanne, of the tragic news. “How in the hell am I gonna tell her?” he remembers asking himself. My voice was cracking when I came through the door. She was in the hallway and I caught her and grabbed her and said it was Trevor. She reacted the way a mother would react.

The rest of the day was a blur between going to the hospital, the funeral home, notifying family members.

To this day, Skarphol’s fatherly reaction to the tragedy is, “Why couldn’t God have taken me, instead of him?” He was hitting his stride and things were really going good: he finds a great gal, he’s got a little family, he’s lead electrician on a job, they have a place on a lake. Then this happens and everything comes crashing down!

Skarphol’s monument is his work in safety, helping keep families whole.

Skarphol’s background in safety was both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side his knowledge helped him understand how things unfolded that day at the worksite; on the curse side, it added to his anguish as he realized the tragedy was preventable.

That prevention piece is exactly what brought Skarphol back into safety work. As the events of May 25, 2012, continued to churn in his mind, Skarphol felt “called” to send Chuck Clairmont, the executive director of the North Dakota Safety Council, whom he knew from attending safety conferences, an email: “Hey, you got anything going in the eastern part of the state?” This was six months after losing Trevor. The email was sent at 2 pm; Clairmont got back to him by 9 the following morning.

“If I can do something in safety to turn someone’s head to make them think about what they’re doing, and to make the right choices, then it’s all worthwhile,” says Skarphol.

Skarphol, now 67, has recently retired after 10 ½ years from his position as a safety consultant with the North Dakota Safety Council and will continue his mission to keep tragedy from happening to someone else with “Trevor’s Story”

Some build monuments following a significant loss;
                Skarphol’s monument is his work in safety, helping keep families whole.

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