Frank Bengtson, 82, died June 7; going through Dad's things after the funeral, Mom came across a newspaper clipping from December 1950.
My father, a 21-year-old student teacher at the time, made the papers because he saved the life of a man named Clarence Bonham. Bonham, an industrial arts teacher at Bryant Junior High in Minneapolis, was operating a lathe when something went wrong and the wooden spindle he was making shattered; one piece went into Bonham’s arm, severing an artery.
Dad, who was studying under Bonham, applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and doctors later told him his quick action saved Bonham’s life.
Internet research revealed Bonham was 43 at the time, and that he and his wife had two teenage daughters, Mary Jo and Betty Jane. Digging further, I found that Betty Jane married Thomas Lies on Sept. 19, 1959 and that they lived in Princeton, N.J. An online phonebook produced a number so I dialed it; Betty answered.
In a 20-minute conversation, she told me Clarence recovered, eventually left teaching, and built a home on Lake Beltrami. Betty said she and her sister have wonderful memories of living in northern Minnesota. Bonham lived to be 69 years old.
So if Dad hadn’t been there in 1950, Bonham would have been cheated out of 27 years of life. He wouldn’t have seen Betty Jane marry Thomas Lies in 1959. He wouldn’t have built that lake home; Betty Jane and Mary Jo wouldn’t have those northern Minnesota memories. Ironically, my father’s father died suddenly in 1940, leaving two children and a wife.
Fate denied Dad and his sister the teenage memories they otherwise would have had with their father. It could have been the same for the Bonham girls but Dad made sure they got something better.