Sunday, October 2, 2016

An odd coincidence

Before I knew that Laila was coming for a visit in September, I had purchased a ticket to see Garrison Keillor at The State Theater in Eau Claire.  Much has been made of Garrison retiring from his weekly show A Prairie Home Companion and I have never seen him perform.  Once I knew Laila would be here, I was lucky enough to get the ticket next to mine, box seats, they're the best!

We enjoyed a meal of appetizers and margueritas before the show at Applebees.

Then we headed off to the show.

We are not that good at 'usies'.

The show opener was a folk singer / guitar player who was great, then Garrison took the stage.
He explained why he was there.

The son of Garrsion's cousin, tragically died in an accidental drowning in Lake Superior in the winter of 2014, and the money raised will continue the work that this young man had begun in Uganda.

The concert was great.  He entertained us in his typical style of limericks and song.
Instead of an intermission, he came down to the floor of the theater and invited those that needed to step out to do so, but the rest of us were invited to stand and sing along.
Garrison led us in about 20 minutes of song.
Hymns, patriotic ballads, songs by The Beatles, and more.
It was very enjoyable and the full theater of 1000 had a good sound.
When he led us in How Great Thou Art, is was truly breathtaking 
and both Laila & I got goosebumps!

This was Friday night.
Now, fast forward to Sunday night.
(I'll fill in the gap later.)

Laila and I arrived at Blue Fin Bay for a one night stay On The Big Lake!
This inn is made up of condos that are privately owned & rented, but the rentals are run like a hotel.
We were getting settled in, listening to the waves and started talking about how anyone accidentally downs in Lake Superior in the winter.
Well, we had Google, so we started looking to see what the rest of the story might be.

Menomonie man drowns in Lake Superior Tuesday

Dec 25, 2014

Amid flares dropping from a plane above to illuminate the dark, turbulent, fog-shrouded waters of Lake Superior, a U.S. Coast Guard boat crew battled the elements for hours on Tuesday night, searching for a man who had been swept from shore near Tofte.

They finally located the man, unresponsive, 400 yards from shore and a half-mile from where he had gone missing — ending a tragic day on the North Shore in which two lives were lost.

Authorities in Cook County on Wednesday identified the two men who drowned Tuesday as Evan Alexander Johnson, 40, of Menomonie, Wis., and Wayne Louis Hoffman, 66, of Spring Green, Wis.

According to information provided by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Coast Guard, Johnson reportedly had gone swimming in Lake Superior at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, after being in a hot tub on shore near Bluefin Bay Resort, about 80 miles northeast of Duluth. After Johnson showed signs of distress in waves estimated at 4 to 6 feet, Hoffman tried to pull him from the 37-degree water but apparently was swept away by a large wave.

Johnson was pulled from the water by 3:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead at Cook County North Shore Hospital in Grand Marais. The search for Hoffman continued into the night, with 11 agencies taking part and the flare-lit scene visible to many residents and visitors along that stretch of the North Shore.

Thomas Spence lives on Springdale Road, about a half-mile from Tofte.
Throughout the evening, he watched a Canadian Coast Guard C-130 airplane drop flares in a large area offshore from Tofte and Taconite Harbor, turning an overcast and cloudy night into what looked like “a war zone,” said Spence, with multiple aircraft in the sky and at least one Coast Guard boat in the water.
“Flying so low through the smoke created by the flares, it was just an eerie and crazy atmosphere,” Spence said. “I had never seen anything like it over the lake; it was so out of place. They were dropping two and three flares at a time.”
The Coast Guard station in Duluth confirmed Spence’s account.

“With assistance from the C-130 utilizing flares for illumination we were able to find the person in the water” at about 10 p.m., Chief Petty Officer Garrett Kravitz said. “We spotted him from the Coast Guard small boat in the water. As soon as we sighted him we immediately got him on board and started CPR while we transported back to Taconite Harbor where we waited for EMS and they took control.”

Hoffman was pronounced dead by personnel on shore.
Spence said he knew it was a recovery effort, in search of a body.
He’d seen law enforcement officials in town before dark and suspected something was up. Facebook filled in the rest as posts informed him of the unfolding tragedy. By the time he witnessed the flares, he had driven to his parents’ house on the lake with what he called a “great vantage point” near Taconite Harbor. He brought a flashlight with him and did some searching himself along the shoreline.
“I kind of thought with the direction of the waves and the way they were searching, anything could happen,” said the 41-year-old Spence.
Kravitz described the conditions on Lake Superior as 6-foot rolling swells with winds out of the east.
“It was a moderately rough night,” said Kravitz, who was on the water aboard the 25-foot response boat based in Duluth.
Spence described the conditions along the shore.
“The waves were crashing pretty good,” he said. “A person unaided would not have been able to get in or out of the water. It was still rolling pretty good even at 9, 10 o’clock.”
Just after 10, as crews located Hoffman’s body, Spence watched the flares cease.
Additional information on what led up to the men going into the lake, and on whether they were related or otherwise knew each other, was not available from authorities on Wednesday.
While the Canadian Coast Guard plane reached the scene, attempts to bring U.S. Coast Guard and Minnesota State Patrol helicopters to the search area were unsuccessful because of icing conditions that kept the aircraft grounded.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Cook County Search and Rescue, Cook County Ambulance, Tofte Fire Department, Tofte Rescue Squad, Lutsen Fire Department and Grand Marais Fire Department also were involved in the search.
— Reprinted with permission from Forum News Service and Duluth News Tribune

We knew nothing of the story until Friday night at The State Theater when Garrison Keillor referenced the sad event.
On Sunday night, we were sitting in a room at Blue Fin Bay Inn & Resort.
Very odd, very sad, and something we won't soon forget.

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