Tribute to "BOX"
Boxmeyer , Donald H. "Box"~ Age 67 Feb. 11, 1941 - Aug. 10, 2008. Preceded in death by parents Howard and Eleanor; mother- and father-in-law Lillian and Leo Carle; brother-in-law Colin Cotterell; "Adopted" son Ed Gratz; best pal Jim Doyle ("JD"); organ donor and hero Joe Bruender. Survived by devoted wife of 45 years, Kathy (nee Carle); son Chris (Teri); daughter Diana (Ken) Berg; son Erik (Jen); grandchildren Kalie, Jacob and Isaac Berg, Olivia and Natalie Boxmeyer , Charlie and Melanie Adam; and great-grandchildren Shawn, Laynee, Charlee, Catrien and Adam. Also survived by brother Howard (Bette) of Bozeman, Montana; and aunt and uncle, Doris and John Libby of Tucson, AZ. He was lucky to be part of a loving extended family, including brothers- and sisters-in-law Arnold Carle, Darlene and Butz Schwartz, Rich and Sharon Carle, Rog and Bonnie Carle, Judy and Leroy Butler, Janet and Tom DeLong, and Linda Cotterell. He also has many loving nieces and nephews, friend Stan Turner, Maria Manion-Gratz, donor's mom Thora Bruender, and donor's sister and brother-in-law Jan and Tom Schaible. Thanks to many supportive friends and family. Don received a liver/kidney transplant in 2004. He was cared for during that adventure by the exceptional staff at Fairview University of Minnesota Hospital. The medical team who took such wonderful care of Don for many years includes his #1 angel, Ann Kalis, Dr. Ty Dunn, Dr. Sara Shumway, Dr. Tom Ophoven, Dr. Abi Humar and Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, as well as doctors Lake, Buckley, Guessner, Henke, Titone and Fitzpatrick. Don enjoyed weekly lunches with The Tuesday Same-a-Bunch, The Italian Stallions and The Friday Lunch Bunch, and was a member of The Zipper Gang and the West Seventh Boys Club. He wrote for the Pioneer Press for 36 years, retired in 2002 and continued to write on a part-time basis. Don was an avid fisherman, hunter and furniture-maker, and his favorite place was Ashby, Minnesota. In recent years, he loved to spend time with family, especially his grandchildren and his donor's mom and sister in Mankato. He is the author of "A Knack for Knowing Things," published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2003. A Celebration of Don 's Life will be TODAY, 11:00 A.M. at FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH, 8th and Maria, St. Paul. Visitation 1 hour prior to the service at church. Interment will take place at a later date due to a Government snafu.. 678 South Snelling Avenue. 651-698-3878
Updated 9-7-2008Boxmeyer , Donald H. "Box" ~ Age 67 Feb. 11, 1941 - Aug. 10, 2008. A Celebration of Don 's Life was held on Aug. 15, 2008. He was laid to rest on Sept. 4, 2008, at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, the Government snafu finally resolved. "The Deed Is Now Done"
Below you will find a few of my favorite artciles either written by Don or about Don that give you just a glimpse of the man who for many years has touched many lives.
Please click on the title to read the article:
A FINAL DEADLINE, THEN GOODBYE
Don Boxmeyer retires after nearly 36 years of telling the stories of St. Paul
DON BOXMEYER - PIONEER PRESS STAFF WRITER
I remember vividly my first byline here almost 36 years ago, on a short, inside story about a science fair. It was celebrated long and hard at Luigi's saloon, the newspaper's Ready Room that was fortuitously located about 48 steps from the front door of this truth factory, then situated on Fourth Street between Cedar and Minnesota streets.
The day I entered that front door, I think I knew I'd never leave this place. The original plan was to serve the obligatory apprenticeship as a reporter for a few years and then go off to the prestigious world of public relations.
But then I met Harry G. Burnham, the dashing rogue, the Errol Flynn of the newsroom who happened to be its managing editor. I met dapper Don Giese, a reporter who was a mysterious institution all by himself. I got to know Carl Henneman, a haughty old reporter who used to refuse assignments, saying, "I don 't do fires.'' And I met photographer Hy Paul, who said things like "It was an awful murder. The guy got shDot between the heart.''
And I simply never left the place. After many years of covering some of the most exciting beats at the newspaper, I got my chance to be a columnist, even though I didn't have the foggiest idea of what I'd write about.I learned very early on that I was no opinion columnist because I had no opinion on most things. I tend to agree with the most recent argument I hear on most subjects, and I still haven't made up my mind on whether car lots should be closed on Sundays.
I decided against writing advice to our institutional leaders because I remember a wise old labor official who once said, "I've never been so desperate that I've had to take advice from that newspaper.'' And, really, did Norm Coleman need my advice on how to restart a moribund city? Would Jesse Ventura nod his head vigorously after my column was read to him?
My role as a collector of people, of places and of lore became clear the day a friend called and said: "I've got a guy you have to meet. He went to the junkyard to buy a hubcap for his wife's car and wound up buying the junkyard.'' That guy was the late Arv Zaikaner, and he was like finding money under a rock. He was a philosopher, a wise, gentle man who became a good friend and was marvelous material for a columnist.
Through the years, I've paid little attention to the Big Story in the paper, such as the never-ending wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fate of the Twins or Vikings. (The only sporting event I ever covered was a baseball game because one of the catchers was nearly blind. I left after two periods.) We have a roomful of gifted writers and columnists who are good at the Big Story.
I spent my time instead writing about the smallest town in Wisconsin, the shipwrecks of Lake Superior, the search for sunken treasure, and the girl who needed a wheelchair. I became a brother to the old vets who still weep at what they saw, what they felt. I relished describing the "Lost Neighborhoods'' of the city that exist now only in the memories of those who grew up there.
All this may not have been great journalism, but it was my antidote to the news, a refuge from the harsh events of the day that dominate the news pages. It may have worked, because I was able to keep at it for more than 20 years, and no one ever told me to stop.
But now it's time to stop, to go home, where my wife, Kathy (I think it's still Kathy ), looks forward, I'm sure, to having, according to her, "half as much income but twice as much husband.''
This business of retiring is harder on the spouse, I'm finding, than on the retiree.
There's a lot of paperwork connected with my becoming unemployed, and my wife, Kathy , is better at that than I am. She needed a copy of her birth certificate, for instance, so off she went to the city's record center at the Health Department.
She discovered that she has never had a first name. From the day of her birth, she officially has been known simply as "Carle,'' which was her surname until she took mine almost 40 years ago.
And a proud, proper name Carle is, too. Together with Kathleen Ida, as in Kathleen Ida Carle, the whole name describes a lovely, caring person. Confronted with an opportunity to suddenly change her name, I doubt that Kathy was at all tempted to go with Maxine, for instance, or Gertrude, or Jackie O.
I think I would have taken my turn at bat. Had I looked upon a birth certificate simply bearing my last name, I would have gone with Gunnar, Floyd, Chip or Seth. I knew a Seth once, and he was a hoot.
Would be a good name for a columnist, too. How many Seths ever get a column? On the other hand, there's been a Don Riley, the most popular sports columnist this paper has ever known, and Don Del Fiacco, whose columns usually began "So. What do you say to a naked lady? 'How's the family?' "
It's been my privilege to spend most of my adult life with the Rileys and the Del Fiaccos, the Bill Farmers and Bill Sumners and now with Joe Soucheray, Laura Billings and Nick Coleman. And with people like artist Jerry Fearing and writers Karl Karlson, Larry Millett, Kathryn Boardman, Bob Whereatt, Tom Majeski, Steve Dornfeld, Ruben Rosario, George Beran, Virginia Rybin, Bill Diehl, Mary Ann Grossmann and Aron Kahn, among many others. And talented, accomplished editors such as Bill Cento, Jack Finnegan, Fred Heaberlin, Ron Clark, Dan Kelly, Jackie Roedler, Bev Mindrum, Dave Peters and my longtime immediate editor, the best editor I've ever had, Don Effenberger.
I'm fortunate also to have served with the current generation of reporters: talented young writers such as, to name just a few, Toni Coleman, Tim Nelson, Murali Balaji, Lisa Donovan, Amy Becker, Amy Sherman, Todd Nelson, Kermit Pattison, Phillip Pina and Mary Divine. I leave this newsroom in very, very good hands.
I thank you all for your readership, your support and your many hundreds of news tips that led to columns over the years. Thanks so much for allowing me to have an incredibly satisfying run.
BECAUSE BOXMEYER WOULD MAKE US CARE, WE DO
Don Boxmeyer never made himself the center of the story
LAURA BILLINGS - PIONEER PRESS COLUMNIST
Don Boxmeyer never made himself the center of the story, and if he were telling this one today, he'd likely continue to avoid the spotlight.
So instead of starting with the news about how Boxmeyer , the retired Pioneer Press columnist responsible for more than 3,500 stories in this paper's archives, is struggling to recuperate from a kidney and liver transplant performed three weeks ago at Fairview University Hospital, he would have homed in on some smaller story on the periphery that was no less heroic in nature.
"If he wrote about someone who was down on their luck, it was never in a 'poor me' sort of way," said his son Erik. "If a handicapped kid had his wheelchair stolen, he wouldn't write about the kid -- he'd write about the people raising money to buy the kid a new one."
Rather than writing about the series of health problems that has placed Boxmeyer , 63, on the national transplant list for the past year, he might have concentrated on the strange Catch-22 his family has faced while they waited for his name to rise to first place. "You didn't want him to get so sick that he was going to die," said Erik. "And you didn't want him to get so healthy that he'd be off the list."
When the day finally arrived on May 4 -- coincidentally, the first birthday of his granddaughter Olivia -- his focus might have shifted to the organ donor. From what the family has learned so far, he was a man in his 50s from southern Minnesota, one of the 25 percent of Americans who designate themselves as organ donors on their driver's licenses. "It was a hard day for us," said Erik. "But we also knew there was another family having a way worse day than we were."
If you read the column he wrote for 22 years, you know that Boxmeyer often documented how quickly news could travel in St. Paul -- especially if you announced it at Mancini's. But even he might be surprised by the calls that have come into the newsroom since he was hospitalized, or the almost 4,000 hits received from family and friends at an online diary (www.caringbridge.com/mn/ donboxmeyer) updated daily by his son Chris.
Among those who have signed his guestbook is Marisa McFate, a 27-year-old teacher's assistant for special-ed students from South St. Paul, whose own liver transplant at the age of 11 was the topic of one Boxmeyer column. McFate's advice to him now: "Just take it a day at a time."
If Boxmeyer were writing this, he might have mentioned the more than 200 small crosses his daughter Diana has made in the past few months that his wife, Kathy , gives away to nearly everyone she meets at the hospital -- doctors, nurses and other families waiting in the lounge of the intensive care unit. Kathy , who her children like to say "could make friends with a wall," has also knitted scarves for hospital staffers, crocheted lanyards for dialysis nurses and even taken notes when she spotted a good newspaper story.
"Oh, I tell you, I could write a book about this place," she said Wednesday while her husband slept.
Maybe he would have written about the woman who has never met him, who lives four hours away but liked his column so much she signed up to give blood in a drive to be held in his honor sometime in July or August.
More likely, he would have left that out, worried that it might appear self-serving. "That is something he has never wanted to be," Kathy said.
Boxmeyer suffered a setback this week and is being treated for pneumonia.
But a few days before his surgery he told his family he figured he had a few more bylines left in him. Said Erik, "He told us, 'I'll be able to write one a hell of a column when this is done, one way or another.' "
A STRANGER'S GIFT LETS LIFE CONTINUE
I am 63 years of age, going on 1
DON BOXMEYER - PIONEER PRESS STAFF WRITER
I am 63 years of age, going on 1. On May 4, a precious gift was given to me by a benefactor I may never know.
That's the day I received the gift of life, a "new" liver, and the next day I was implanted with a donated kidney, both from a deceased 50-something-year-old man from southern Minnesota. I may never know who was generous enough to share his body with me, but because of him, I have a new birthday and a fresh oppor-tunity to survive.
Some of you may remember that I was a reporter for the Pioneer Press for more than 36 years, and a columnist for the last 22 of those years. I knew when I retired in 2002 that I'd had a charmed, ideal life: good health, a great job and a magnificent wife and family.
Then, on Dec. 13, 1998, just after I wrote a column about the death of a friend, hockey coach Wes Barrette, I discovered I had kidney disease. The word "dialysis" was uttered for the first time, then the more jarring word, "transplant."
There was rarely any pain with my condition, not even after I was additionally diagnosed with liver disease in August 2002. But my body was no longer producing enough hemoglobin to keep me going.
I was soon getting transfusions of two or three units of blood at least once a week. I tried hard to hide my weariness, but my sons, Chris and Erik, and my good friend Jim Doyle could tell I was slowing down dramatically during our frequent hunting and fishing trips.
Fortunately, my physician, Tom Ophoven, pointed me toward the Transplant Center at the Fairview-University Medical Center in Minneapolis, where I came into the care of my first angels of mercy, liver transplant coordinator Ann Kalis and transplant chief Dr. Jack Lake.
During my first visit with doctors there, I asked one, "Why would you waste a perfectly good donated organ on me?" and the doctor said, "Because you deserve a chance at life the same as everyone else."
Although I had little pain, my chronically low hemoglobin kept me constantly short- winded, fatigued and cold. I could not walk a flight of steps without gasping for breath, and I bundled up in Polarfleece even in warm weather.
But the worst feature of this sometimes not-so-subtle disease is a cruel side effect known as hepatic encephalopathy, a brutal insult to the brain caused by the liver's inability to clear ammonialike products from the blood.
Encephalopathy will cause a person to do weird things but to be totally oblivious. I was suddenly plunged into this memory-less black hole, this ferocious but temporary Alzheimer's-like condition, at least seven times, each time ending up in the hospital, once in a three-day coma.
It's difficult to describe, but the first time my wife thought I was having a stroke. I tried to put my feet into two pairs of shoes, and I tried to leave home, announcing that I had to get home. On another occasion, I prepared a sandwich by emptying a whole jar of mustard on one slice of bread.
While the condition frightened me, it scared the daylights out of my family. The first thing they did was take my car keys away.
And I was by then a prime candidate for transplant. I went on the transplant list in April 2003. My liver and kidneys were deteriorating quickly. Just before my transplant, I was in kidney dialysis as often as four days a week. The encephalo-pathy, even when I was not in its clutches, was always in hiding, waiting like a big, silent, sinister predator to pounce.
They were dark days, but brightened by the generosity of friends and relatives, several of whom offered to be live kidney donors. (Our nephew, Bill, offered to be a live liver donor.) Even though it turned out that I did not need their organs, I am forever grateful to them. Our children were also into the game, with Chris and Erik posting daily updates about my condition on a special "CaringBridge" Web site, and Diana making hundreds of multi-colored ribbon crosses (green for transplant) that my wife, Kathy , gave to everyone she met.
'YOU CAN DO THIS'
I also learned that because of the relative scarcity of donated organs, there are not enough to go around. As of April, there were 83,888 U.S. candidates for organ donation, ranging from kidney, liver, heart and lung to pancreas and even intestine (116 intestine transplants were performed last year, including four from living donors).
But in 2003, even with the rapidly growing popularity of live-donor transplantation, only 25,448 transplants were performed.
Right now, more than 57,000 people in the United States are waiting for kidneys, for instance. But last year, only 15,000 kidneys were transplanted.
More than 6,000 people nationwide die each year while awaiting organs.
The rules of transplantation are now strictly governed by federal law. It no longer matters how long a candidate is on the list, or how important he or she is, but on how sick the patient is.
Here is the Catch-22: You have to be sick enough to need transplant but not too sick to receive a transplant. Infections knocked me off the top of the list at least twice, and to complicate things, I developed peritonitis and a life-threatening perforated colon, which resulted in two separate emergency operations.
I am told now that there were times when I was not expected to survive the ordeal, that my life expectancy, on a scale of 1 to 100, was described in a single digit. I feel, however, like the luckiest member of my family because I don 't remember much of what was happening to me, and what agony I was causing Kathy , Chris, Diana, Erik and all my friends and relatives.
"You appreciate the doctors and nurses when you see a team of five to 10 of them doing nothing but keeping your dad alive," Chris wrote recently. "Seeing the first spark of consciousness in Dad was like a major life event, even though it was simply a blink of the eye. That's all we had for a long time."
I do recall an extraordinary sensation, a sensation of being tightly cradled by a strong and reassuring presence, and even though I had tubes, needles and machines plugged into every part of me, I felt a wonderful quiet and peace come over me. I felt as though I had reached deep into myself and found an inner strength I had never known. In this deep, dark pool of unconsciousness, something said to me: "You can do this. Be calm. Be calm."
I've not had that feeling ever before, or since, but I do know that my experience has changed me. I find it difficult, and sometimes not necessary, to hide my emotions. I am more likely to tell my friends and relatives how much they mean to me. And I feel older. But wiser.
Kathy and I have tried to share our gratitude with the many physicians who saved my life, led by Drs. Abhi Humar, Ty Dunn and Raineer Gruessner, and with all my "angels of mercy," the nurses and nurse's aides at United Hospital, Fairview-University Medical Center, DaVita Dialysis Center and Fairview Rehabilitation Center. And I especially hope one day to get the chance to thank the family of my deceased donor for the most important present I have ever received.
NEW LIFE, NEW CAUSE
I also hope to get a chance to become an advocate for a widening and opening of the organ donor system. In Minnesota right now, you can become a donor by so signifying on your driver's license or state identification card.
Some would like to see a change, whereby permission would be granted by presumed consent; that the act of receiving a license is, in itself, permission to take organs. Anyone with an objection to that could opt out, according to Dr. Steve Miles, professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota, who supports presumed consent. This major change in organ donation procedure, recently endorsed by the American Medical Association, would preserve freedom of choice, Miles said, and would also greatly increase the donor pool.
I continue to get stronger and healthier each day. I've been out in our boat, fishing with Chris and Erik several times, and I relish seeing my many friends socially and especially not from a hospital bed. I look forward to both my 64th birthday, and my first birthday on May 4 next year, on the second birthday of our youngest grandchild, Olivia.
Kathy , her sister Linda, our son Chris and I recently attended this year's Liver Transplant Picnic, a gathering of 115 people, almost 50 of whom are now vibrant, very happy, healthy folks, all of whose lives have been saved by either living or deceased donors.
Many of us were strangers when we met that day, but no longer. It was an inspiring congregation of miracles who share a unique joy and profound gratitude. To imagine that someone was so generous, even in death, to share his body with me still overwhelms and humbles me, and I know that feeling is shared by all organ recipients everywhere.
I must add that I do not think I ever fully appreciated life until I almost lost it, and now I finally realize what my old friend, hockey coach Lou Cotroneo, means with his standard greeting. It has become mine as well.
"Each day is a gift."
TO LEARN MORE
The following resources are available for more information on organ donation and live donor transplantation:
LifeSource: 1-888-5-DONATE; www.life-source.org. LifeSource is a nonprofit organization designated by the federal government to manage all aspects of organ donation and transplantation in Minnesota, North and South Dakota and portions of western Wisconsin.
National Kidney Foundation: 30 E. 33rd St., New York, N.Y., 10016; www.transplantrecipents.org. Publishers of Transplant Chronicles, for transplant recipients of all organs.
Transplant News Digest: www.recipientvoices.org
Coalition on Donation: www.donatelife.net
United Network for Organ Sharing: www.unos.org; www.transplantliving.org
Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network: www.optn.og
IN SEARCH OF WINTER'S 'HOLY GRAIL'
Annual onset of medallion fever produces zany systoms in everyone from armchair sleuths to party animals to fanatical folks trudging the fields
DON BOXMEYER - PIONEER PRESS STAFF WRITER
I was walking through the park one day, in the merry, merry month of ... January?
Actually, I was out there in the middle of the night, and with no one around, I stealthily reached into my pocket, drew out a small, tightly wrapped package, casually threw $5,000 into a snow bank and disappeared like vapot into the evening.
The deed was done.
After almost a lifetime of admiring this clandestine operation from the safety of the sidelines, I suddenly found myself smack dab in the middle of all the cloak-and-dagger midnight shenanigans. Once in this elite outfit, though, there's no going back. I'd been recruited to hide the Pioneer Press treasure medallion.
Earlier, as a reporter and columnist for the Dispatch and the Pioneer Press, I'd been writing for years about the zany characters who hid the newspaper's Winter Carnival treasure and about those who wrote the clues to the hunt since it all started in 1952. And then in 1994, it was my turn.
For all but the first years of the hunt's half-century-plus, the treasure itself has been a mightily coveted coin of some kind, metal at first, but now in an age of metal detectors, it has become a benign $10,000 hunk of crystal-like plastic.
Over the years, the coin has been frozen in a sea of milk, disguised as an Oreo cookie, taped to a phonograph record, embedded in a flatiron, stuck in the bottom of an old galosh, stashed in a Coke can and hidden inside everything from a White Castle carton to a Bull Durham sack and attached to a tricycle wheel.
The coins have come back burned, bulldozed, smacked with hatchets, fought over, almost lost and, on more than one occasion, counterfeited (that never worked).
SOME PUT UP A FIGHT
The most famous hunt, perhaps, was in 1955, when traffic became hopelessly tied up in Como Park during the last days of the search when all clues pointed to the site of hte old Ramsey County Workhouse where the swimming pool is now.
But two women, following the clues in a different way, found the treasure attached to the underside of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox at Seventh and Robert in downtown St. Paul. Three bad guys even tried to wrest the treasure away from them, but one of the women was carrying a lug wrench, and they fought their way to the newspaper office on Fourth Street.
U.S. Postal Service officials got their shorts all up in a bundle on that one, complaining that this was a gross misuse of government property. The Pioneer Press treasure also has been kicked out of two towns -- West St. Paul and Maplewood -- both of which were monumentally mortified when treasure hunters invaded their borders. One of my predecessors, retired Pioneer Press promotion director Bill Schneider, even had to show up in Maplewood with his checkbook to pay for damage to a park.
Even though the clue writers are always careful to advise treasure seekers that they don 't have to dig, chop, dismantle or destroy, someone always manages to dig, chop, dismantle and destroy.
One year, some hunters flirted with death by breaking into a high-voltage box in Rice Park, and another year, when we hid the thing on Harriet Island, I saw a guy with a flashlight 20 feet up in a tree in the middle of the night despite our warnings that the treasure was not hidden higher than one could easily reach.
My co-conspirator for eight memorable treasure hunts was retired Pioneer Press architecture critic and author Larry Millett, who is a masterful clue writer. We began hiding the treasure and writing clues, and by 1995, our second year, we had become so full of our own talent that we decided to get cute and hide a clue within a clue.
The first letter of every clue would eventually spell out the name of the park in which the treasure was hidden, something we would all laugh about when the thing got found 12 clues later.
Five or six clues into the hunt, a pair of women found our treasure at Battle Creek. Impossible, we thought.
Not so, the women said later. One of them had been reading clues for years, just waiting for someone to pull that old trick.
ADVENTURE OF THE HUNT
One year, the clue writers "hid" the treasure on a part of Harriet Island that they didn't know would become a Winter Carnival bocce ball court. The narrowing of the hunt coincided with the finals of a huge bocce ball match and the island nearly sank under the weight of all those Italians and treasure seekers.
Mayhem in such a setting could not have been avoided for too long, and it erupted like a volcano when a non-Sicilian treasure-hunter picked up for inspection the just-lobbed bocce ball of the famously mercurial and bombastic Tony "Todo" Crea. Fortunately, the treasure was finally located without serious loss of life.
That wasn't the first or the last time that extra adventure attached itself to the hunt. One year, the treasure medallion was merely plopped into a snow bank along Shepard Road, and was nearly incinerated in a bonfire set by three hobos.
"We buried it in the snow one year on the Midway at the State Fairgrounds," recalls Bob Momsen, retired Pioneer Press advertsing executive who hid the medallion for many years. "We came back during the hunt and the carnival had an automobile race going on right over it. Somehow it got found anyhow."
The art of hiding the treasure is knowing just when to do the deed, but more than one hider nearly has been caught in the act. Momsen and his partner Marsh Genshow, and their wives had to feign a snowball fight in the middle of the night once to cover their nefarious activity when a cop showed up.
Millett and I were sure we'd been spotted one deep, dark night in Cherokee Park. We'd just made the drop when we spotted a lone skier gliding across the park in the night. Surely he'd seen us, but the hunt went the full 12 days -- all we could ask from a hunt.
"That was a special one for me," recalls Larry, who lives near Cherokee Park. "I knew when the evening clue became available at the newspaper, and toward the end of the hunt, I could almost predict when the cars would begin streaming over the High Bridge toward the park. That was fun."
I was lurking on the edges of Highland Park just as the medallion was found in 1994 near Montreal Avenue and Edgcumbe Road. I watched as the guy picked up the white package and then almost went goofy unwrapping the yards of hockey tape we added just as a final little torment to the finder (in subsequent years, my wife, Kathy , knitted a little baggie that we slipped the treasure into.)
When he finally got to the prize, the lucky guy jumped about two feet in the air and everyone who by then had gathered around threw down their rakes and shovels and moped away.
This treasure-hunting gig is serious business, complicated mightily because you have to stay a step ahead of such black-belt hunters as the Camo Crue and the Cooler Crew, highly organized groups who go at their work with almost frightening zeal.
"There are five categories of hunters, I've decided," says Momsen. "The armchair hunter reads the clues, swears he knows where it is but doesn't leave the house. Then there is the guy who has one site he looks at each year and then goes home if he doesn't find it. The party hunter turns it into a festive event with his buddies. The serious hunter goes at it with real purpose, and the fifth category is the desperate hunter.
"The desperate hunter is counting on finding that thing so that he can eat."
Many years before I became invovled in the hiding of the treasure, I reported the finding of it and came upon a huge snowfield full of the last two categories of hunters.
The searched zeroed in on the State Fairgrounds and I went there with a photographer, old Teddy Strasser. When we pulled in, our photo car -- clearly marked with the newspaper's name -- was mobbed by crowds demanding to know where we'd hidden the prize. So, we abandoned the car and melted into the throng.
I furiously took notes of the mayhem, and then hurried back to the newsroom to write, on deadline, the breaking story of my career, about the carnage of the hunt. I described how grown people were swearing at each other and pushing, shoving, shouting, spitting and gouging, swinging their shovels and throwing snow. Kids were crying, and dogs were barking, and it was awful, just terrible.
My executive editor, the late, the dear Fred Heaberlin, looked at my copy and said in a fatherly way, "Ehhhh, Don . That's OUR treasure. This is OUR hunt. You suppose you could tone this down a little bit?"
My story the next day began: "King Boreas's Winter Carnival treasure was finally found Saturday at the State Fairgrounds as thousands frolicked in the snow."
DON BOXMEYER 1941-2008 - A LIFE IN PRINT
Columnist for the little guy never left us - Boxmeyer spent nearly 36 years chronicling the voices of his hometown
DAVID HAWLEY - SPECIAL TO THE PIONEER PRESS
Pioneer Press columnist Don Boxmeyer could unfold a story so that it sounded as natural as a chat in a neighborhood coffee shop or tavern.
And his stories would always have that kicker that made you want to read more. Here, for example, is how he opened a column he wrote in June about the cabin his family owned when he was a boy
"Not much of a summer home as these monsters go today, our little place at the lake was a modest refuge for a young family, without Great Room, spa, gymnasium, racquetball room, media center or wine cellar. But I learned to hunt at our family's cabin, to boat there, to swim and water ski there, and fish there, to dive there, to build things with my father out of wood and stone, and quite accidentally, I learned a lot about the world from a girl named Bubbles."
He also knew how to write with wry restraint when the hilarity of a story or, more frequently, the outrageousness of a personality was enough to carry it. In a 1998 column, for example, he profiled "Bobo" Betts, a colorful St. Paul street brawler and gambler who once was working as an ambulance attendant on a long emergency run from Duluth to the Twin Cities and was passing the time playing cards. Here's how he opened it:
"No one remembers the name of the burn victim, but he was all wrapped up in gauze like a mummy. His eyes weren't covered, though, and the poor guy did have one free hand, so Bobo dealt him in."
Though he continued to write columns for the Pioneer Press, Boxmeyer retired from the paper in 2002 and almost immediately suffered health problems that ultimately necessitated organ transplants and heart surgeries. He wrote about them -- and his surgeons, his organ donor's family, his nurses. He also continued writing of scenes in his life and his city of beloved neighborhoods and interesting characters. Last June's column on cabin memories, for instance, was written between hospital stays.
On Sunday, Boxmeyer died of respiratory failure at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, surrounded by his wife and children, former colleagues and competitors, and the doctors and nurses who had joined his huge circle of friendships in recent years. He was 67.
With the exception of a stint in the Navy that took him to the Antarctic, Boxmeyer spent his entire working life with the St. Paul newspapers. That includes nearly 36 years as a full-time employee and the past six years as a regular contributor.
"The day I entered that front door (of the newspaper), I think I knew I'd never leave this place," he wrote in his last column as a full-time employee.
Starting as a general assignment reporter for the afternoon St. Paul Dispatch -- his first byline, he recalled, was a brief inside story about a science fair -- he moved up to covering City Hall in the era of flamboyant Mayor Charlie McCarty (1970-72) and powerhouse Mayor Larry Cohen (1972-76). In one of many famous newsroom stories, Boxmeyer managed to learn about a secret evening meeting at the old St. Paul Athletic Club by spying on Cohen's daily schedule. He later said the ability to read documents upside down on other people's desks is an important skill for a reporter.
Anxious that the St. Paul papers get the scoop, even if it had to go in the morning Pioneer Press, Boxmeyer passed the tip on to Pioneer Press reporter George Beran, who hid in a closet at the Athletic Club and overheard the discussion about plans to build a domed stadium at the State Fairgrounds. The stadium was never built -- at least not there -- but Beran got a scoop.
"Don was a really aggressive reporter, but he was always searching for the angle that nobody else had," said Beran, now retired. "When he was around, the City Hall beat was always fun."
Cohen, despite the eavesdropping, became one of Boxmeyer 's closest friends.
"He was the classiest, warmest human being you could ever know," Cohen said Sunday. "He was a hell of a lot of fun, one of the nicest people I've ever known -- decency personified."
Former Dispatch Managing Editor Bill Cento appointed Boxmeyer a columnist in the late 1970s -- the exact date is unclear -- and Boxmeyer found the place for his voice.
"I knew he wanted to be a columnist, and I knew he had the talent," Cento recalled Sunday. "It didn't take great observational skills to know that. He was a hell of a writer and knew the town better than anybody. There wasn't anybody better around."
Boxmeyer 's columns ranged across the city of his birth; its history and cherished foibles; its decent, generally unheralded heroes; and its roughish characters -- some with names like Ribs Gordon, Tone the Fone and Charlie the Belgian.
"He was the epitome of the philosophy of telling big stories in small ways," said Don Effenberger, who was Boxmeyer 's editor, off and on, for nearly 20 years.
"When other reporters turned to big shots and politicians for their sources, Don would turn to the little guys to tell their stories," Effenberger said.
Boxmeyer also reacquainted people with places like Swede Hollow, Little Italy, the West Side Flats and the Children's Preventorium for TB patients. Readers learned about cultural things like Norske Torske Klubben, where membership was open to male Norwegians fond of whiskey and boiled fish. In recent years, he often conducted bus tours for new reporters and editors at the paper, taking them to neighborhoods unknown to them and pointing out the landmarks of the city he treasured.
"More than anything, St. Paul has lost its premier storyteller," said Stan Turner, a radio and television broadcaster who became one of Boxmeyer 's closest friends after competing with him as a city hall reporter.
"Don represented the collected memory of the city," Turner said. "He taught us history, and we didn't know it because it was so fascinating in the way he told it."
Boxmeyer was a native of the West End but spent most of his adult life as a resident of the East Side. He dated his future wife, Kathy , when both were attending Monroe High School and married her in 1963, when he was in the Navy.
"He was a friend of my brother's," Kathy Boxmeyer recalled. "That's how we first met. I was 16, he was 17 -- remember that song? With us, it happened."
After his Navy hitch, Boxmeyer graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism and turned down several job offers to go to work for the St. Paul Dispatch for $105 a week, Kathy Boxmeyer recalled.
"Don loved writing about people," Kathy Boxmeyer added. "He loved his job so much that we often made fun of him by saying, 'Some people work for a living. You just play.' "
His son Erik said Boxmeyer 's other passions included fishing, hunting and woodworking -- and that he was very good at all three endeavors. Though his heart was in St. Paul, part of his soul was in Ashby, Minn., a town near Fergus Falls where he often fished and hunted.
"He once said he could write a whole book about Ashby," Erik Boxmeyer said.
He did, in fact, write many columns about Ashby and about other Minnesota communities. In 2003, the Minnesota Historical Society Press published a collection of his columns in a book titled "A Knack for Knowing Things: Stories About St. Paul Neighborhoods and Beyond."
Boxmeyer is survived by his wife and three children: sons Erik and Chris and a daughter, Diana Berg. He also is survived by a brother, Howard, of Bozeman, Mont., and by seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
His readers remember
After the news of Don Boxmeyer 's death broke at twincities.com, readers posted their condolences:
"I ... knew him as one of the 'good guys' who wrote evenly and humorously on whatever topic."
Madman, St. Paul
"Don was a good reporter for the SPPP and he will be missed by everyone who read what he had written."
Bonnie, United States
"What a sweet, sweet man. I've read his columns for years. I'm going to miss reading his work."
Steph, United States
"RIP Box. I loved your columns."
Happy, Paramus, N.J.
"Another friend gone. We'll miss you Don ."