When the Red River slipped its banks and caused historic flooding in April 1997, Humboldt, Minn., was largely underwater — and became a destination for Lloyd Fanum.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary dispatched Fanum and fellow volunteer Dan Forby to Humboldt to operate a communications center to relay messages between boats on the water, a helicopter in the air and headquarters back in Fargo.
After stopping at a grocery store for supplies, the volunteers drove through shallow floodwaters to reach a motor home in Humboldt. They stayed five days, and were thankful for workers at a nearby natural gas pumping station who allowed them to share their kitchen and bathroom.
In the end, Forby said that he and Fanum received awards of merit. The Coast Guard says about 60 auxiliary members participated in the Red River relief effort.
"Lloyd and I got to be really good friends," said Forby, 84, of Bloomington. "When you're in an operation like that for five days, you get almost as much talking done as you get 10 hours sitting in a boat on a lake up in Canada, trying to catch walleyes."
Fanum, 91, of Alexandria, and formerly of Hastings, died April 14. Following service during World War II and the Korean War, Fanum volunteered for decades with U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, which is a uniformed volunteer component of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The auxiliary conducts safety patrols on local waterways, assists with homeland security duties and provides boating classes and vessel checks.
"He was very service-oriented," said fellow volunteer Chuck Woodward, 74, of Burnsville. "He loved the water. He loved the auxiliary. He loved the military."
Fanum was born in St. Paul and attended Johnson High School. In 1944, he dropped out and joined the Merchant Marine during World War II. Fanum was aboard boats that ran past German submarine blockades, Woodward said, to deliver supplies to the Soviet Union, then a U.S. ally.
After retiring from the Merchant Marine in 1947, Fanum earned his high school diploma in night school. He worked for Maplewood-based 3M before being drafted into the Army during the Korean War, said Jim Christiansen, a cousin living in Richmond, British Columbia.
Fanum married after returning home from the war, and the couple had a son named William. Fanum returned to work at 3M, where family members said he worked until 1982.
As a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Fanum rescued two teenagers in a canoe during a storm and strong winds on Lake St. Croix that threatened to capsize the vessel. On the Mississippi River, he rescued a water skier who had been hit by a boat.
In the spring, Fanum worked on ice breakers on Lake Superior. In 2011, he represented the Coast Guard as grand marshal of the Manitou Days Grande Parade in White Bear Lake.
In 1979, Fanum was part of the flotilla that escorted President Jimmy Carter on a boating trip down the Mississippi. Years later, his work during the Red River flood put him in contact with former President Bill Clinton — an online Coast Guard Auxiliary publication includes a picture of Fanum shaking Clinton's hand during an event in 2012 commemorating the 1997 flood response effort.
It had been a rough winter that year in the Red River Valley. When spring finally arrived, the flood caused $4 billion worth of destruction across the valley, damaging eight of every 10 homes in Grand Forks alone.
"The river on the Minnesota side was 20 miles out of its bank," Forby said. "We didn't know how long we were going to be there."
Fanum is survived by his son, a cousin and two grandchildren. Services have been held.