Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A sober reminder along a recreational trail in Faribault February 16, 2017

SOMETIMES A DEVIATION from the planned can lead to the unexpected. That happened last Sunday afternoon after iced-over trails at River Bend Nature Center prompted Randy and me to walk elsewhere. We chose the Northern Link Trail. Occasional ponding of snow melt covered the ice-free pathway in Faribault’s North Alexander Park. This would work; we were both wearing snow boots.

Stepping from the car, I braced into a brisk wind that whipped across the flat and mostly open terrain along the bank of Faribault Lake, a widening of the Cannon River. Full sunlight and the beautiful bold blue of the river and sky fooled me into thinking this would be a comfortable walk. Only when sheltered in the boughs of windbreak evergreens did I feel any warmth. We cut our walk short because of the cold.

 

minnesota-madd-plaque-98

 

But not before we paused to study an unexpected find. Randy noticed a marker cemented into grass bordering the pathway. It and an adjacent tree honor those injured or killed in drunk driving crashes. The 1989 date led me to believe the Minnesota Mothers Against Drunk Driving plaque was connected to Greg Fette of Faribault. Kim Morrow, Greg’s sister, confirmed that, noting that the death of Tina Johnson of Lonsdale also prompted the marker installation and tree planting. Like Greg, Tina died in 1984. She was 18. Greg was just 16. Both were killed as a result of crashes involving drunk drivers.

Greg died not all that far from the marker site at the intersection of Second Avenue and Minnesota State Highway 3. The driver of the vehicle that struck Greg’s car had a blood alcohol content level of 0.19, according to media reports. He got six months in jail under the Huber law, Kim said. Attitudes toward drunk driving were much different in 1984 than they are today.

After their son’s death, Joyce and Dick Fette worked with Tina’s parents, Nancy and Dennis Johnson, to effect change and create awareness regarding drunk driving. The list of their accomplishments is remarkable as is their tenacity. Joyce remains active in the Rice-Scott Chapter MADD Victim Impact Panel that meets six times annually. Nancy helped found Minnesotans for Safe Driving. Both couples have been honored many times for their efforts.

I admire these parents who, in their grief, actively and vocally took a stand against drunk driving. They have made a difference in Minnesota laws and how we view the problem of drunk driving. And in Faribault, along a recreational trail used by runners and bikers and walkers, this simple plaque serves as a visual reminder of the families affected by the bad choices of others. Because two men chose to drink and drive, Greg and Tina died.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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13 Responses to “A sober reminder along a recreational trail in Faribault”

  1. So many seemingly small decisions are made by people who are not aware that even the smallest wrong decision can have great consequence to others on any given day! May those who were the victims of such a decision, Rest In Peace!

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Sobering marker to happen upon but a reminder of what happens when poor choices are made.

  3. Sandra Says:

    So many years later, the problem and danger persists. Thank you.

  4. Heartbreaking that young lives were cut short because of the senseless act of others. This story reminds me of another couple of kids who died because of a drunk driver. I think that they were from MN as well. I remember hearing about in school and getting a post card with their pictures. I’ll see if I can find it.

  5. Jackie Says:

    As a nurse in the ER for 16 years I saw too much of this sadness. One of the hardest things for me to do was to care for the drunk that was injured, but had no remorse for the fatality he just caused.(because they are usually too drunk to care) I think of a young lady from Zumbro Falls, she was only 16, I still remember that night like it was yesterday…..so sad.


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