Not Eudora
By Harry Welty
June 20, 2008

No One Died Stupidly 
None of our senior graduates in the Duluth area died stupidly this spring. At 
least, none that I know of. Praise the Lord! 
Every year I read about such tragedies in the newspaper. I might read about them 
happening in the Twin Cities or in Northern, Wisconsin. If several graduates die 
simultaneously anywhere in the U.S. its likely be reported here in Duluth. The 
tragedies often take place at poorly marked railroad crossings. Alcohol or 
inattention or both are usually to blame. They often happen after a senior prom. 
I was on the Duluth School Board when one such tragedy happened in Duluth. 
One May 1st I visited Denfeld High School. Among various other holidays that 
happens to be Law Day.  According to the American Bar Association’s website, 
“Fifty years ago President Eisenhower proclaimed the first Law Day a "day of 
national dedication to the principle of government under law." 2008 has been the 
holiday’s 50th anniversary. I vaguely remember Law Day from my years in high 

On this particular Law Day I sat in Denfeld’s magical auditorium to listen to 
Duluth’s top public defender, Fred Friedman, address the students. Fred told a 
compelling story about the foolishness of drinking and driving. He implored the 
students to be careful. They were a polite audience and Fred gave them a good 
speech.  Sometimes a good speech is not enough. 
Two of the young people in that audience would miss their graduation. One was 
the daughter of an acquaintance. 
A short time later, perhaps on the night of the prom, a party was planned. 
Alcohol would be served.  It would be at someone else’s home or cabin. It would 
be an all-nighter. I’m not sure whether adults would be at the home that evening 
hovering out of sight. The daughter begged for permission to attend. One stern 
provision was applied before it was granted. Under no circumstances was she to 
leave the party once the drinking began. She was not to get into a car. She 
would stay until morning. She promised. She went. She was seventeen. 
I’m hazy on the details, which were none of my business, but there was something 
about a date paying too much attention too another young woman at the party. 
There were hurt feelings. It was unbearable to remain at the party. Another 
gallant young man offered to drive her home in violation of the promise she had 
made to her parents. 
Alcohol had been consumed - too much. She was woozy. On the drive home she had 
to vomit. She stuck her head out the window. Her gallant driver, perhaps 
intoxicated himself, was distracted from his driving. He swerved off the road at 
the worst possible moment. He survived. She did not. Afterwards he spent months 
in the courts. A sentence which I no longer can recall was handed down and he 
was punished.  I have no doubt that it was much lighter punishment than the 
guilty conscience he would have to go on living with. 
As a school board member I handed out diplomas that year at the Denfeld 
graduation. It is always an honor to pass out diplomas and shake the hands of 
the graduates. Once again I sat under the School’s golden chandeliers. There 
were two fewer hands to shake than planned that evening. 
After the ceremony I went to a western Duluth tavern with the superintendent and 
several fellow school board members several of whom were Denfeld Alums. 
As I hoisted a beer I saw the father of the young woman who had died in the car 
crash. I don’t know if he saw me but in an act of cowardice I made sure that we 
never made eye contact. I had the audacity to think to myself that it was a 
helluva night, so shortly after his daughter’s death, for him to be drinking in 
a bar – and on what should have been his daughter’s graduation night! 
Time has given me some perspective. What the hell else should he have been doing 
on his daughter’s graduation night?  I know he was suffering. I should have 
walked over to him and put my arms around his shoulder and told him how very 
sorry I was. 
This year the Duluth area was lucky. None of our senior high school graduates 
died stupidly. At least, none that I know of. Praise the Lord! 
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: