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Bob Lind, Published July 22 2012

Lind: Connections to proud military history remembered fondly

Anybody who has (or had) a relative in military service has reason to be proud.

Such is the case for Bernice Haakenson, Fargo, even though her connection to a veteran is through her sister.

Neighbors carried the story of the three Check brothers: Ray, Leonard and Gilbert, of Williston, N.D. All three served during World War II and received high honors.

Ray and Leonard were killed during the war. Only Gilbert, the middle brother, survived. He went on to serve in the Army during the Korean War and received the Distinguished Service Cross.

Gil, now deceased, was Bernice’s brother-in-law; he was married to Bernice’s sister Thelma.

Bernice writes that Thelma, who lives in a retirement home in North Carolina, came to Fargo last fall to help Bernice celebrate her 100th birthday.

The families of the sisters and of the Check brothers all lived in Williston during World War II.

Now, decades later, Bernice still proudly writes of her connection to one of those Check boys.

Rail tragedy memories

Neighbors also carried the story of the Northern Pacific’s passenger train derailment in 1962 near Missoula, Mont., in which a 2-year-old girl from Washington state was killed.

Mary Rehak, Fargo, writes that her grandparents were passengers on that train.

George and Sarah Griffin, Jamestown, N.D., were returning home after visiting their son and his family on the West Coast.

Sarah’s injuries included spinal and rib fractures. George’s wrist was broken, and on top of that, while he was helping other injured passengers, he had a heart attack.

The two were hospitalized in different hospitals in Missoula.

“I remember our extended family in Jamestown waiting anxiously for telephone updates,” Mary writes.

After several days, George and Sarah were flown on a medical plane to Trinity Hospital, Jamestown.

This was “very traumatic and emotional for them in many ways,” Mary says. “I remember their talk about the circumstances causing the derailment and their expressions of sadness about the little girl who died.”

That accident was blamed on the train’s crew, who had been drinking.

Those crew members were in violation of railroad Rule G, which bans any railroad employee who has been drinking from stepping onto railroad property. That rule was in effect long before this 1962 accident.

The information on Rule G comes from a longtime Forum reader in Minnesota who asks that his name not be given. Although not a railroader himself, he knows about railroads because his father and his brother were engineers for the BNSF line.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com