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Volunteers help family after farmer dies sandbagging

Karl Goehring, whose father died trying to save the family farm, watches volunteers prepare sandbags Thursday in Oakport Township, Minnesota.Jim Mone / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Quentin Goehring died trying to save his farm from the rising Red River. Dozens of volunteers weren't about to let his work go for nothing.

Although many never knew the 73-year-old Minnesota farmer, they trudged through calf-deep mud on Thursday, shoveling sand as skid-steer loaders zipped around the property placing sandbags to finish the protective wall Goehring was working on when he collapsed.

"We wanted to help out where they really needed help," said Zane Miller, a 16-year-old high school student who filled sandbags with his father, Mike. "And we heard they needed help here."

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Goehring collapsed Wednesday night of an apparent heart attack. Goehring was taken to a Fargo, N.D., hospital where he was pronounced dead, the sheriff said.

"He had worked all day sandbagging," said his son, Karl Goehring, 52. "It was real sudden."

Goehring said he and his father raised cattle and hay on the farm at Oakport Township, a city of about 1,700 people a few miles north of Moorhead.

"He was real healthy, he walked every day and he worked every day," Goehring said of his father. "He could outwork me and he could outwork his grandkids."

Karl Goehring said the flooding at the farm was among the worst he and his father had to fight in the past decade.

About 50 volunteers, many of them students, showed up to sandbag on Thursday, Goehring said. Most did not know his father, he said.

"This is just the Midwest attitude," he said. "It's all about helping people out."

Water had swamped a cornfield across from the Goehring farm on Thursday and lapped against gravel road, dangerously close to a house and barns. But Goehring said the farm would likely be spared from the river thanks to the volunteer flood-fighters. Cattle and horses at the farm were moved to higher ground, as were stockpiles of hay, he said.

In this Thursday, April 7, 2011 photo, high school sophomore Zane Miller of Oakport Township, Minn., takes an excused absence from school to help prepare sandbags as he joins dozens of volunteers to protect the farm of 73-year-old Quentin Goehring who died after suffering a heart attack while placing sandbags Wednesday in preparation for the rising floodwaters of the Red River in Oakport Township, Minnesota. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)Jim Mone / AP

Miller, the high school sophomore, was among the muddiest of the volunteers. He was excused from classes in neighboring Fargo to help out with the flood-fighting effort.

Miller said throwing 30-pound sandbags likely would help him at his track and field events, the discus and the javelin.

"This is a good workout," he said.

Phil Sondreal, a Fargo physician, lives across the Red River from the Goehring farm but didn't know his neighbors. The 48-year-old family practice doctor proved handy with a shovel, filling sandbags at an urgent pace.

"I heard they needed help over here so I came over to help," Sondreal said, never stopping shoveling. "It's a pretty sad story."

Delene Goehring, Quentin Goehring's daughter-in-law, called it a community effort.

"Everybody helps out," she said. "Some of these people here don't even know somebody passed away."