Dennis Todd was a top-notch angler — the longtime Gunflint Trail fishing guide knew how and where to catch big walleyes.
But his lasting legacy, perhaps, is as a compassionate human being.
“He was the kind of guy who touched people,” said Bruce Kerfoot, co-owner of Gunflint Lodge, where Todd worked for 29 years. “He was a giver rather than a taker. He was always doing favors for people. He would drop walleyes off at a widow’s place — just because he was that kind of guy.”
Todd, 59, a Missouri resident, died last September in a boating accident just across the border in Ontario on one of his favorite lakes, Northern Light. Services were held last fall in Missouri, but friends, family and customers will celebrate his life at a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday at Gunflint Lodge.
Todd was well-known on the Gunflint Trail and beyond.
“Former customers are coming from all over the Midwest, along with family and friends from Missouri and many summer homeowners and neighbors,” Kerfoot said.
Kerfoot met Todd, a die-hard angler, at a sports show in Kansas and encouraged him to come north and try guiding. He did.
“He was one of the most loyal, caring persons we had — somebody you always enjoyed having on your team,” Kerfoot said. “He’d do anything for you.”
He loved fishing.
“That was his life,” Kerfoot said.
Last Sept. 12, on a day off, he took a fellow Gunflint Lodge employee fishing to Northern Light Lake, a short portage from Saganaga. They were returning in a boat with a 25-horsepower motor when authorities believe he lost his grip on the outboard’s tiller, causing the boat to make a 90-degree turn, ejecting both passengers into the water.
His fellow employee was wearing a lift jacket, but Todd wasn’t. She swam to shore, but Todd elected to swim for the boat, which had crashed on shore.
“He wasn’t a good swimmer,” Kerfoot said. “He got about halfway there and went down. It was just a fluke accident.”
So how do you replace a fishing legend?
“So far, we haven’t,” Kerfoot said. “They’re not making ’em that way anymore.”