Small State of ND
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
It has often been said that ties run close in North Dakota. It’s the biggest small town in the world—or so it seems.
On this date in 1968, the Minot Daily News published a story that illustrated that point in an unexpected way. Mark Marsall, a former resident of Mandan, who was then living in California, met Robert E. Larson, of Minot, while in Mexico, out in the Pacific Ocean—when Larson saved Marsall’s life.
Larson was in Mexico on a business trip with college friend Steve Bergren, from Chicago, who was fluent in Spanish and would serve as translator. On the night they arrived, they were relaxing around the hotel pool when a woman ran up to them and asked if they could swim. The two men could definitely swim—they had taken and passed a diving course while at Stanford. When they said they could, the woman told them that two men were drowning in the ocean.
According to reports, Marsall and his teenage son Joe had been caught in a stiff undertow, or rip current. Responding to the Marsall’s cries for help, Larson and his friend quickly swam to the two men. They found Marsall, but not his son—Marsall had told his son Joe to take off for the shore, to save his own life. Marsall meanwhile, was almost on his last breath. Larson towed him back to the coast while Bergren stayed behind to look for Joe. Towing a person with one arm and while swimming for two was difficult for Larson. However, after about ten minutes, Marsall was sufficiently rested to hold onto Larson’s swim trunks, making it easier for them to get to shore.
Marsall’s son Joe made it back safely, too, and Bergren gave up his search and came in, so all four were accounted for and safe, and Bergren and Larson were heroes.
Water incidents and resultant injury and death can occur almost anywhere, but perhaps it’s not a death most North Dakotans are mindful of, living as they do in a land-locked region. But in this instance, meeting an old North Dakota neighbor was more than a lucky break—it was a saving grace.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Minot Daily News, Friday, December 13, 1968, p1 and 2