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McClusky family pools prayers, efforts to deliver blizzard baby

March ’66 blizzard – vivid memories, 50 years later
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Even 50 years later, Floyd and Donna Murray have enormous gratitude for good friends and the good Lord's answers to prayers at the time their "blizzard baby" Glenn was born. (PHOTO BY KENT BRICK)

These days, Donna and Floyd Murray, McClusky, and their lifetime friend, Jerome Lautenschlager, Stanley, look back together at early March 1966 and share good cheer.

Fifty years ago, with historic blizzard winds paralyzing the McClusky area and much of the Northern Plains, they shared deep concern, abiding friendship and more than a few prayers. The source of concern was the impending arrival of the Murrays' baby, and the raging storm.

In early March 1966, Donna Murray was due to deliver her fourth child. Floyd operated a cattle trucking business, and on Wednesday, March 2, was traveling between Mandan and McClusky. Late that afternoon, snow and wind intensified. It was snowing heavily by the time Floyd pulled into their farm, early in the evening. Then, as now, the Murrays were served by Capital Electric Cooperative, near McClusky.

As the Murrays awakened the morning of Thursday, March 3, Donna experienced the onset of labor pains, soon progressing to the point where she knew the baby was ready to arrive. Their original plan was to make the 25-mile trip to Turtle Lake for the delivery, but Floyd concluded that was going to be impossible.

 

“I went outside, came back in and said ‘We can’t go anyplace. This is it. We’re having this baby here!’” Floyd recalls.

Floyd then called Jerome Lautenschlager. Aware that Donna was expecting, Jerome told the Murrays previously to call him if they needed help with the baby’s arrival. At the time, Jerome worked as a lineworker for Capital Electric Cooperative, residing in McClusky. He had a long career in electric cooperative linework in North Dakota, retiring in 1996.

 

 

Jerome contacted his fellow lineworker, Lauren Murray (Floyd’s nephew), and then contacted Floyd’s sister, Joanne Rittenback, and a local minister’s wife, Carol Froiland, a nurse. Jerome braved the storm driving a bombardier track vehicle to pick up passengers, and the four of them switched to a co-op truck for the four-mile trip out to the Murray farm.

“It took us three hours to get to their place,” Jerome says. “Lauren had to get out of the truck quite a few times to find the shoulder of the road, so we could get the truck lined up again. Visibility was no more than about three feet in front of the vehicle.”

For Donna, the hard labor, the knowledge she would have to deliver the baby at home, and worries for the group traveling in impossible conditions to reach them, was taking an extraordinary toll.

“I was getting pretty shaky and scared,” Donna says. As she concentrated on her labor, Floyd was fielding phone calls from concerned friends and relatives, for them and for travelers bound to help them. Their telephone party line neighbors gave the Murrays exclusive use of the phone. Donna had Floyd pull out a childbirth booklet she had only recently collected, and recalls that the moments before childbirth consisted of her praying and Floyd reading the booklet!

At 10:13 a.m., Glenn Murray was born, while his three sisters sat quietly on a living room couch.

Phone calls continued, and, very concerned, Floyd contacted the sheriff about the yet-to-arrive party.

“Finally, we heard the stamping of feet and voices on the porch and in our entry. It was the most wonderful sounds I’ve ever heard,” Donna says.

“I remember Jerome coming into our house and his pockets were full of snow,” said Floyd.

“They did a miraculous job,” Jerome recalls.

The visiting ladies went to immediate work, taking care of newborn baby, and his mom – while preparing lunch for all.

“We begged Jerome and Lauren to stay with us, but they were determined to make their way back – they felt they needed to be in town to take calls in case there were power outages,” Donna says. It was slow going, in the continuing zero-visibility conditions, but they made it back to McClusky. The visiting ladies stayed two days and nights, returning to McClusky on Saturday, March 5.

“We have thanked these four brave, caring people over and over again,” Donna says. “We thank their families for letting them go to help us, and thanks to our loving God for his care for all of us.”

Today, the Murrays are retired, and enjoying the lives and families of their six children. “1966 Blizzard Baby” Glenn Murray – who turns 50 on March 3! – now resides at Washburn.