Husband made ultimate vow to his bride -- then kept it

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2007 - 12:29 AM

David and Dawn Blackburn were newlyweds when he made the ultimate vow.

David and Dawn Blackburn were newlyweds when he made the ultimate vow.

"He said if it ever came down to it, 'I would die for you,' " Dawn Blackburn recalled Monday.

"And that's exactly what he did."

The Blackburns, who had been married for five years, were returning to their Spring Grove, Minn., home from dinner in LaCrosse, Wis., early Sunday when their car slid along a flooded road near La Crescent, Minn., into a ditch.

David, who had celebrated his 37th birthday Friday, helped Dawn, 34, and friend Terri Peterson climb a nearby tree to safety. But David was convinced the tree would not support three adults.

"I begged him to get back into the tree," Dawn said. "He said there was no room.

"I tried pulling his hand a couple of times. He said, 'I love you.' And then he was gone. I think he knew."

David's foot apparently became stuck between the tree and the couple's vehicle, Dawn said. There were reports that David was washed away in a downpour, but Dawn thinks he was pinned against the vehicle. Through the dark downpour, there was no way to know.

"My husband's gone. Can anybody help me?" Dawn shouted until she grew hoarse.

Through two rescue attempts over three hours, she waited in the tree. Finally, Dawn and Peterson were taken to safety by boat, she said. David's body was found, in their vehicle.

David was a hero. But David had always been a hero, others recalled.

"He was always singing, always upbeat, always outside playing with their four boys," said Lori Stoen, Dawn's aunt. "When things needed to be taken care of, David's the one who pulled things together."

He was always that way, said Shelley Fogel, whose husband, Jeff, and David grew up together near LaCrosse. "He was always cheerful," Fogel said Monday. "He made everything fun. He had a great passion for life."

He cherished his time with sons Michael, 5, and Noah, 3, and stepsons David, 17, and Jacob, 13, said Fogel.

"He told me he loved me just before he died," Dawn Blackburn said. "What a remarkable man."

PAUL LEVY

THE VICTIMS

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