Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Still missing: Daryl “Dice” Budenski of Northfield November 29, 2022

I photographed this missing person sign along a Northfield city street in August. Daryl “Dice” Budenski remains missing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

IF YOU’VE EVER EXPERIENCED the panic of a loved one temporarily gone missing, then you hold insight into a loss that extends beyond minutes to hours to days, then weeks, months, years. That is reality for too many families across this country, including right here in Minnesota and right here in my county of Rice.

Slightly over a year ago, 71-year-old Daryl “Dice” Budenski vanished, last seen around 3:30 pm October 1, 2021, near Koester Apartments in Northfield. His baseball cap and money clip were found during subsequent searches, according to media reports. But nothing else. Dice, who has brown hair and brown eyes, stands 5-feet 9-inches tall and weighs 145 pounds, remains missing.

Photographed in the window of a downtown Northfield business several months after Daryl Budenski disappeared. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2022)

Entering year two now of his disappearance, those who know and love Dice are resolute in their desire to bring him home. A Search for Daryl Budenski Facebook page centers those efforts. Missing persons signs are still posted in Northfield.

In a recent Facebook post, childhood friend David Johnson wrote the following poignant memory about Dice:

He was my first friend in 1955. Along with his brother Steve, we did everything together. Collected baseball cards, stamps and coins, rode bikes, attended church school, built snowforts…we ruled Division and Woodley Sts. He gave his best effort in High School sports and was a teammate of my first tournament softball win. A Northfield lifer, he loved his sports.

From David’s description, I can almost picture the two young boys racing their bikes through the neighborhood, rolling and hoisting gigantic snowballs into snow forts, huddling together over coveted baseball cards pulled from bubblegum packs. Because of David’s stories, I now feel an emotional connection to Dice (whom I don’t know). Dice is a friend. Dice is someone who loves sports. Dice is a part of the fabric of Northfield. He is rooted there. He is not just another missing person in Minnesota. He has a community of family. He is loved.

I read urgency, frustration, concern and more in the Facebook posts and comments all aimed at finding Dice. Those feelings are justified. Recently, $2,000 was raised through GoFundMe to place a memorial bench honoring Daryl “Dice” Budenski in downtown Northfield. That is telling. The initial hopeful mindset of finding Dice alive leans into bringing him home. What hasn’t changed is the depth of love and care so many hold for him.

IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION on the disappearance of Daryl “Dice” Budenski or his where-abouts, contact the Northfield Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or the nearest law enforcement agency.

I photographed this missing person bulletin posted in a Redwood Falls convenience store in 2018. Mato Dow was last seen on October 13, 2017, in Redwood Falls. If you know of his whereabouts or have any information related to his disappearance, contact the Redwood Falls Police Department. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2018)

CURRENTLY, 101 INDIVIDUALS are listed as missing on the Minnesota Missing and Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse website. That includes nine missing in southeastern Minnesota, from the communities of Owatonna, Janesville, Rochester, Wabasha, Winona, Hastings and Mankato. Daryl Budenski is not on that list. John Deeny has been missing the longest, disappearing from Janesville in March 1973. His current age is 69. The most recently listed in my area is Wendy Khan, gone missing from Mankato in June 2018. She is now 51. If you have any information on any of the 101 missing, please contact law enforcement.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling