Obituary: Trying to save a life, Eric Dietz lost his own

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2013 - 11:04 PM

Eric Dietz didn't let anything stop him.

"He was very adventurous," said his mother, Lisa Dietz of Golden Valley.

On Jan. 6, a day when the surf was extraordinarily rough along Kehena Beach in Lower Puna on Hawaii's Big Island, Dietz, who grew up in the Twin Cities, is presumed to have drowned while trying to help another swimmer get to shore, his mother said. He was 29.

Hawaiian officials said a search for Dietz's body was suspended after three days. Currents in that area are extremely strong, said police Capt. Mitch Kanehailua. The beach, which is off the beaten path, is popular with nearby residents who generally know that the area has dangerous currents with a surf that is rough most of the year, he said.

On the day Dietz was reported missing, a surf advisory had been posted, Kanehailua said. Amid a pounding surf, a body boarder got to Dietz, but it appeared that he had already died, Kanehailua said. And then a wave separated the two, he said.

Dietz's mother said she last talked to her son two days before he died. "He was the happiest I've ever known him to be," she said. "I think Hawaii gave him life. It gave him the freedom to be himself."

Dietz had been in Hawaii, where his father lives, since March, was living in a commune with other artists, his mother said. "He was an incredible musician," she said.

Growing up in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Dietz graduated from Southwest High School in 2001 and attended Augsburg College and then the University of Minnesota, where he studied mathematics, music and computers, said his sister, Amelia Cohoes of Minneapolis. "He was an involved, loving man," she said.

Besides his mother and sister, he is survived by his son, Noah Jansen of Anoka; his father, James Cohoes of Ocean View, Hawaii; a brother, Sam Cohoes of Minneapolis; his grandmother, Ceil Mills of St. Paul, and his grandfather, Tom Ramsay of Leesburg, Va.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at Anodyne Art Center in St. Paul, followed by a potluck dinner.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788

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