MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A memorial service was held Sunday for a Minnehaha Academy Upper School employee killed during last week’s natural gas explosion.
John Carlson was deeply rooted in the school. He went there as a child, but was most recently known as the friendly custodian students and staff grew to love.
The 82-year-old was inside the building when it exploded and collapsed around him Wednesday. His body was found near the spot where another employee, Ruth Berg, also died. The service was held at Minnehaha Academy Middle and Lower School. Family, relatives, students, and staff attended the service. One of Carlson’s daughters, Beth Morgan, talked with WCCO about the deep gratitude she and her family feels towards all of the first responders who rushed to the scene after the explosion last Wednesday.
“We appreciate everything that everybody has done,” she said. “The fire department promised us that they would not stop searching for my dad until they were able to return him home to us and today we are here just to celebrate his life with family.”
Morgan said investigators gave her access to the explosion site and that police chaplains stayed in constant contact with her. “Throughout all of Wednesday and Thursday which were extremely difficult days,” Morgan said.
But even on the day meant for her father, she kept her father’s Minnehaha Academy family on her mind.
“I also want to express my condolences to Ruth Berg’s family and I hope that the individuals who remain in the hospital with their injuries know that they continue to be in our thoughts and prayers,” she said. Morgan also sent prayers to current students and staff who will be affected this school year.
Back at the blast site, a recurring crowd of people lined the fence along 46th Avenue watching crews pick apart the destroyed portion of the school.
The sounds rumble like a construction zone, but the fence filled with flowers and people standing by in tears tells the true and tragic story that drew Natalie Dixon and her sister to the school where they were once students.
“When you see it in person it’s just, it kind of hits you,” Dixon said. Her family was on their way to Carlson’s memorial service but stopped by the Upper School so her older sister could see the blast site for the first time. The school is where both of them came to know Carlson, who was the school’s custodian.
“We were talking to him in senior year in the hallway and he said, ‘Well my kids are all grown up and they’re far away and I don’t get to see them very often,’ and he’s like, ‘but you guys, you’re my kids and I come here every day and I see you and it’s just, it’s the best part of my life and I love being here with you guys,'” Dixon said.
So often people have described Minnehaha Academy as a family. A note under the flowers in the fence was labeled “grandfather.”
“[Carlson was] someone who left you feeling happier and more loved after every conversation, like there was one person who was in your corner,” said Dixon. “And he made somehow the whole student body and faculty and everyone who was involved with the school feel that way which is pretty unique.”