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Manly World War II vet, 90, tours European war sites

MANLY — A 90-year-old World War II veteran from North Iowa didn’t expect to be the center of attention during a recent international trip.

Marcus “Stub” Bartusek of Manly, who was deployed in western Europe from 1944 to 1946, said the gratitude he received from strangers during a visit there in June was overwhelming, with people approaching him for photos, autographs and hugs.

“After 72 years, they still appreciate it,” said Bartusek, who served in the Army. “It made tears come to your eyes and would choke you up.”

Joined by his son, daughter and son-in-law, Bartusek was one of five veterans on the World War II Battlefields 72nd D-Day Anniversary Tour June 2 to 14. They visited war-related sites in four countries: France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The expenses-paid excursion was a surprise from the Edward Tosel American Legion Post 110, to which Bartusek has belonged for 69 years.

Mark Tomlinson said fellow members wanted to honor Bartusek’s years of community service, and are in the process of continuing a program to honor those who go above and beyond.

Although Bartusek left high school early for the draft at age 18, he still had enough credits to graduate.

Part of the 106th Infantry Division, one of the last activated in the U.S., Bartusek in December 1944 was sent to the front lines of the German-Belgian sector, known as the Dragon’s Teeth. The area had reinforced concrete barriers — dragon’s teeth — aimed at impeding tanks.

“It was a very quiet sector, with only a few shells every now and then,” he recalled. Their division was green, averaging 26-years-old and with no combat experience.

The first combat he experienced was when he and a sergeant were sitting on a log one morning, sharing a chocolate D-bar. A sniper took out the sergeant, killing him instantly with a shot through the throat.

“He fell backwards and I was stunned, because I didn’t realize what had happened,” Bartusek said.

A few days later, a barrage began at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 16, the first day of the Battle of the Bulge. Bartusek remembers it as being so foggy he could hardly see his hand in front of his face.

The third day of the battle two regiments, the 422nd and 423rd, were captured. Bartusek’s unit, the 424th, was spread thin over 27 miles and unsure of what was happening.

They stayed until they couldn’t get any more supplies, which had been cut off by the Germans. At 11 p.m. his regiment was told they were on their own and needed to find their way back.

“We were scared, young kids who didn’t know what we were doing,” he said.

Spreading out in groups of three or four into the foggy, starless night, Bartusek followed telephone lines his group thought were Allied to a valley, where they heard conversation that wasn’t in English.

“We got out of there real quick,” he said.

Bartusek was able to reach his destination safely, later fighting in the Attack on Manhay on Christmas Day.

He was able to visit Manhay again on the trip, this time under better circumstances.

“They showed me the exact place I came out of the Ardennes on the attack,” Bartusek said.

Although the same forest and dragon’s teeth remain, much of the countryside looked as if nothing had ever happened there, he said.

On his trip, Bartusek participated in memorial services in Normandy, France, laying the wreath for the U.S. at Omaha Beach.

He also met local dignitaries, witnessed a parachute drop, visited where surrendering documents were signed and toured a number of historic sites: Dachau concentration camp, Nazi rally grounds, Adolf Hitler’s Kelsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) home and several museums, where he recognized equipment on display.

Algona man recalls drone rescue

ALGONA — “It is great to be alive.”

That’s the feeling of Thomas Fitzpatrick of Algona, the subject of a dramatic rescue on Wednesday, July 13, after he and his granddaughter went boating on the Upper Des Moines River.

After putting in at Plum Creek Dam the duo’s boat became hung up on a logjam and they were late meeting Fitzpatrick’s fiancée, Carol Behning, at Veterans Park.

Fitzpatrick then began suffering from a medical condition, and a drone was used to locate them and direct rescuers. The drone then filmed the rescue as Kossuth County Emergency Management Coordinator Dave Penton and Kossuth County Sheriff Deputy Jake Radmaker helped Fitzpatrick and his granddaughter across the river and began giving Fitzpatrick medical attention.

“It’s kind of a family tradition to take the boat down the river. My granddaughter was visiting for the week from Columbia, Missouri, and she really wanted to go,” said Fitzpatrick. “We have a 5-horsepower motor, but it was broken, so we were just going to float to Veterans Park.”

However, a very wet spring, with a few flash floods, had created several logjams in the river, and manhandling the boat over the logs was beginning to take its toll on Fitzpatrick.

“I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t know I was having a heart attack, but I didn’t feel well, and it was heavy work,” added Fitzpatrick.

Additionally, in pulling the boat over one jam, Fitzpatrick’s cell phone became wet.

“I slipped in the water, and we were running out of daylight. I put my cell phone on the bench,” said Fitzpatrick. “But my fiancée called me and the phone worked.”

A former sheriff deputy himself, Fitzpatrick had Behning contact the Kossuth County Sheriff’s Office. He and his granddaughter then pulled the boat onto the west bank of the little inlet they were at, and waited.

The call for the rescue came in at approximately 8:22 p.m., nearly three hours after first putting in at Plum Creek Dam, and searchers knew they were somewhere south of the River Road Golf Course.

The Algona Fire Department took its rescue boat to Veterans Park to begin the search north, and sent its all-terrain vehicle to Plum Creek Dam to start south. The Kossuth County Sheriff’s Office started in the middle.

“They didn’t know where they were, so I drove along River Road and would trigger my siren,” said Radmaker. “At about 2300 River Road, they said they could hear me.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Josh Missman was called in to use the TGI Phantom 4 drone, which had been purchased by the Kossuth County Sheriff’s Office at the end of May through a grant. Missman just recently finished training on flying the drone.

“We knew we only had about 40 minutes to find them before it became dark,” said Missman, who set up just across the road from where the party had said they could hear the siren. “It took just three-and-a-half minutes to find them once I put the drone in the air.”

At that point, Radmaker teamed up with Penton, who is also a paramedic, and they headed into the Hurlburt Wildlife area with another all-terrain vehicle and Radmaker’s pickup, getting as close as they could on the path.

“We were sitting on the river, and I heard that funny noise,” said Fitzpatrick. “I looked up and saw that drone and waved.”

The drone hovered over Fitzpatrick and his granddaughter to give Radmaker and Penton a target as they worked through the tall grass and marshy areas near the river. Fitzpatrick and his granddaughter then moved to where they could hear Penton and Radmaker calling for them.

“We moved about 200 yards, and could see them across the river,” said Fitzpatrick. “By that time, though I knew I was in bad shape. I was hurting like a dog.”

Fitzpatrick only remembers laying down on the bank and Penton coming to help him.

Penton had called for Algona EMS, and a paramedic and EMT from the service were taken to Fitzpatrick by Deputy Mike Sankey. Because of the terrain, the utility vehicle had become stuck, and none of the four-wheel-drive vehicles could get closer than a quarter mile to where they had crossed the river. It was now nearly an hour after the initial 911 call, and completely dark.

“Fitzpatrick’s condition was deteriorating, and we had Mercy Air Med start enroute,” said Penton. “We initially thought we would have to evacuate the patient from the scene, but the Algona Fire Department sent several firefighters to help carry the patient to where a truck could pick us up.”

“I’m so glad they recruit nice, strong young men,” said Fitzpatrick with a laugh. “They carried me through those weeds. It was a tough slog.”

By 10 p.m., Fitzpatrick was in an ambulance and on his way to Kossuth Regional Health Center, where Mercy Air Med was waiting. The ambulance pulled up to the helicopter and Fitzpatrick was transferred directly to the care of Mercy Air Med. Brian Bechtel, a nursing supervisor for Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, verified Fitzpatrick had suffered a heart attack.

His granddaughter was transported to Kossuth Regional Health Center by Penton to be checked out as a precaution, and was treated and released.

“I was absolutely amazed at how calm and cool this young lady was. She handled a scary situation like a champ,” said Penton.

Thirty minutes after being placed in the helicopter, Fitzpatrick was in the cath lab at Mercy North Iowa, getting one stent, a small mesh tube, placed to open an artery to his heart.

“Modern medicine is so incredible, and with the technology we have available, EMS has eliminated delays in intervention,” said Penton. “With heart issues, time is muscle. Having the drone locate Mr. Fitzpatrick quickly, and then being able to have Algona EMS start interventions in the field, and have a helicopter waiting for them, really made a difference.”

“I really needed that stent, it really got the blood moving again,” said Fitzpatrick, who was upgraded to ‘good’ condition by Friday and was released by Monday, July 18. “I know I’ve been through a lot, I don’t want to run a marathon, but I feel good.”

Iowa DNC delegates eager to make history in Philadelphia

CEDAR RAPIDS — Tammy Wawro is going to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia “to see history and make history.”

The Cedar Rapids fifth-grader teacher is part of the 60-member Iowa Democratic Party delegation that will join more than 4,500 other delegates Monday through Thursday to make Hillary Clinton the first female nominee of a major American political party.

It seems appropriate it should happen in Philadelphia, “the birthplace of our democracy,” said Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

“As someone who has fought my entire life against the discrimination against women and the glass ceilings and barriers I’ve hit, that will be a historic moment,” she said. “The fact that we’ve come this far, finally, will be very historic.”

One thing McGuire doesn’t anticipate being up for discussion is Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses. “I haven’t heard of any attempt to change it,” she said.

For Iowa delegates, Clinton’s nomination will be the culmination of a long journey. Even before she formally entered the race in June 2015, Clinton went on a listening tour of Iowa that included a stop in Dean Genth’s Mason City living room.

During the convention, Genth will build on that early meeting with Clinton to “put forth a message of unity and organized effort to win races from ‘our house to the White House.’”

Unity is the theme in delegates’ expectations.

On Caucus Night back on Feb. 1, Iowa Democrats were “extremely split” — 49.9 percent for Clinton and 49.6 percent for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Some people are still having trouble,” McGuire said, “but I think the differences between what we stand for as Democrats whether we were for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sander and what the Republicans say they stand for are so different that I think we will have unity.”

Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, a first-time delegate who was neutral in the Clinton-Sanders race, hopes to see the Vermont independent’s supporters, “like Sen. Sanders himself has done, rallying around Hillary Clinton.”

The hard-fought campaign may lead to some “roll-call drama” when state delegations cast their ballots, Hogg said. “That’s the way the process works.”

Not all of the excitement will be in the convention hall.

“I know my daughter was very excited when I told her Lady Gaga was going to be performing at a concert,” said Hogg, who will be taking his two college-age children with him.

In addition to the official business of the convention, delegates will engage in a variety of issue-related meetings and activities. For example, Wawro, president of the Iowa State Education Association, will be meeting with other educators to develop an education agenda.

“Having a quality educator and a great school for every kid is our bottom line,” she said.

Genth, who along with his husband, Gary Swenson, were among the first legally married same-sex couples in Iowa, hopes to serve “as a voice for, and an example of a gay same-sex married male who owes my current freedom and rights … to the values and successes of fair-minded Democratic candidates.”

Zach Wahls, 25, of Iowa City, the author of “My Two Moms,” plans to attend LGBT caucus meetings and participate in service projects. It will be his first DNC as a delegate. He spoke at 2012 DNC before flying to Minnesota where he was working on a same-sex marriage referendum.

Wahls also will be promoting The Woman Cards, a 54-card deck of playing card featuring hand-drawn portraits of American women “who changed the world even though the deck was stacked against them.”

He and his sister, Zebby, developed the cards. Sales of the 12,500 decks they’ve had printed will help cover his convention costs.

Harkin to tout disabilities bill at convention


DES MOINES — Tom Harkin’s speech at the Democratic National Convention will come on the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the signature legislation of Harkin’s career.

Harkin, who retired from the Senate in 2014, will speak Tuesday at the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia. Harkin said he was asked to speak that day to celebrate the legislation that created federal laws designed to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.

Harkin said he will speak Tuesday at roughly 3 p.m. Iowa time.

“They wanted to commemorate that and to have me speak about the inclusion of people with disabilities in our society, and I think it fits in with Hillary’s theme that we’re stronger together,” Harkin said.

He said he has been given four minutes to talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act and his support for Clinton, who he endorsed during the Iowa caucuses.

Also scheduled to speak at the convention is Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, on Monday.

Ashley Miller / Photos Courtesy of Kossuth County Sheriff’s Office  

David Penton, Kossuth County Emergency Management, and Kossuth County Sheriff Deputy Jake Radmaker, left, rescue Tom Fitzpatrick, center, and his 10-year-old granddaughter.


Ashley Miller / File photo