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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published April 13 2013

Eriksmoen: Revisiting stories of friends who will be missed

Since this column began almost 10 years ago, a number of the individuals profiled in it have died.

I believe it is time to revisit the stories of these extraordinary North Dakotans and bring closure to their remarkable lives. To me, most of these individuals were more than just subjects for stories.

Through my correspondence with them, I considered them my friends, whom I respected and will greatly miss.

***

In September 2004, I wrote about Duane Traynor, the man who uncovered the Nazi sabotage plot to blow up key manufacturing plants, railway installations, water supply systems and bridges in the U.S. during World War II. He was born and raised in Devils Lake and was a graduate of the University of North Dakota Law School.

In 1937, Traynor began working for the FBI and, with the outbreak of World War II, was put in charge of a special sabotage unit within the bureau. Through questioning one of the key Nazi operatives, Traynor learned the extent of the operation, how the Nazis financed the plot, and, most importantly, the names and locations of the other seven operatives in the U.S.

After Traynor believed he was deceived by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, he resigned in disgust and became a successful lawyer. Traynor died Jan. 26, 2007, at age 96.

***

Another column published in September 2004 was about Robert Schoenhut Jr., an award-winning cinematographer of the movie “Dances with Wolves.” He was a Sioux Indian born and raised on the North Dakota portion of the Standing Rock Reservation.

During the Vietnam War, Schoenhut worked in photo reconnaissance and, after his discharge, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from prestigious film schools. In 1975, he became the first Native American admitted to the Hollywood Cameraman’s Union.

After directing and producing the documentary “Standing Rock: A Vision,” Schoenhut became the chief cameraman of “The Waltons,” “Dallas,” “Knots Landing,” “The A-Team,” and “Quantum Leap.” Schoenhut died July 12, 2006, at age 65.

***

In October 2009, Ken Bartholomew was featured in the “Did You Know That?” column.

Bartholomew was born on a farm near Leonard and, during the 1940s and ’50s, was considered one of the world’s best speed skaters. During that time, Bartholomew won the U.S. National Outdoor Speed Championship 14 times and the North American Outdoor Championship four times.

Because of World War II, no Olympic games were held in 1940 or 1944, when he would have surely competed and most likely won medals. He did compete in 1948 and finished second, coming in one-tenth of a second behind the gold medalist in the 500-meter event.

With this accomplishment, Bartholomew became the first athlete born in North Dakota to win an Olympic medal for the U.S.

In 1968, he was inducted into the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame. He died Oct. 9, 2012, at age 92.

***

In July 2011, I wrote about Liz Anderson. She was a popular singer-songwriter of country-western music. Anderson published more than 250 songs as a composer and was nominated for Grammy Awards for both singing and composing.

For four decades, she composed hit songs for many of the major country artists, including Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Faron Young, Waylon Jennings, Del Reeves, Conway Twitty, Kitty Wells, Charley Pride, Ernest Tubb, Lorrie Morgan and Tammy Wynette.

However, the biggest beneficiary of her compositions was her daughter, Lynn Anderson. Liz Anderson grew up in Grand Forks, where she also got married and gave birth to Lynn. She died Nov. 31, 2011, at age 81.

***

In August 2011, I featured a story about Rudy Froeschle, a World War II pilot who grew up in Hazen. While he was attending the North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU), Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and he enlisted.

After receiving basic, preflight and twin engine training, Froeschle received his wings and was sent to Europe. He and his crew were shot down over Germany, captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Froeschle, who had played trombone in college, was able to obtain a cheap trombone while a prisoner, but the instrument was taken from him by other prisoners and made into a still to brew booze.

Froeschle assisted a number of soldiers as they attempted to escape from the camp. The movie “The Great Escape” was based on this attempt, and the incident about the still made from his trombone was included in the movie.

At the end of the war, Froeschle and the remaining prisoners were liberated. He then went to medical school and practiced medicine in Tioga, Stanley and Hazen, N.D.

Froeschle died Dec. 3, 2012, at age 90.

For those who want to include the death dates in their series of the Did You Know That...? books, the stories about Traynor and Schoenhut are included in Volume 1, the story about Bartholomew is in Volume 5, and the stories about Anderson and Froeschle are in Volume 6.


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“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.