Story originally published Dec. 25, 2021By Kirsten Mitchell

ST. MICHAEL, Minn. (WCCO) — The small Minnesota city of St. Michael is mourning the loss of a beloved community member.

Harold Welter, 84, was hit by a Wright County Sheriff’s deputy vehicle in his driveway Thursday night as the deputy was responding to a medical emergency. The Minnesota State Patrol says road conditions were snowy and icy at the time of the crash.

The sheriff’s office says the deputy didn’t see Welter in the unlit driveway on the 400 block of Main Street North. Paramedics arrived at the scene in minutes and brought Welter to North Memorial Medical Center in Maple Grove, where he died shortly after.

“If you grew up in St. Michael as I did, everybody would have known Harry Welter,” said St. Michael Historical Society Board Member Bob Zahler.

Zahler says Welter was a long-time active board member of the St. Michael Historical Society and a St. Michael Lion for nearly 50 years. He was also a city council member for 10 years, and served as mayor for four years.

Welter’s service to the community extends even further. He was a firefighter at the St. Michael Volunteer Fire Department for 23 years, from 1969 to 1992.

Harold Welter (credit: St. Michael Historical Society)

“Harry was a person very committed to his community, very committed to his family, and certainly and a gentleman in every sense of the word,” Zahler said. “I’m certain that people will remember Harry as that friendly gentleman who had the interest of St. Michael always in mind.”

The state patrol identified the deputy as 37-year-old Dustin Hatzenbeller of Otsego. In a statement, Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer says his office and “Deputy Hatzenbeller have cooperated fully with the State Patrol in their investigation.” Hatzenbeller has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The state patrol will be leading the investigation on the request of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

The City of St. Michael released this statement late Sunday afternoon:

Lifelong resident and former Mayor and St. Michael Council Member, Harold (Harry) Welter, passed away late last week. He serve on the St. Michael Fire Department for 23 years, was part of the St. Michael Lions Club for close to 50 years, where he served four terms as president. Welter also served on the St. Michael City Council for 10 years from 1977- 1987, then four years as Mayor, from 1987 – 1991. He also volunteered to clean the Great River Regional Library at the Colonial Mall for free in the early 2000s. He was a true public servant and will be greatly missed by the St. Michael community.

Kirsten Mitchell