CRANE LAKE- If someone had asked who was responsible for the beautiful sunny day at Crane Lake last Saturday, chances are good the reply would have been longtime community resident Sandy …
CRANE LAKE- If someone had asked who was responsible for the beautiful sunny day at Crane Lake last Saturday, chances are good the reply would have been longtime community resident Sandy Bodkin.
Bodkin passed away in September 2019 at the age of 85, but her memory and joyful spirit were palpable as about 65 people gathered along Handberg Road on Saturday to dedicate a new emergency helicopter landing pad in her honor.
While some rural areas are close enough to a hospital that an ambulance can make the trip in the time it would take for a helicopter to arrive at the scene and transport a patient, that’s not the case in Crane Lake, which is 40 miles from the nearest hospital and 140 miles away from the nearest trauma center.
“Sandy passed away in 2019, but not before she needed to take an emergency flight for medical care,” said Kara Knutson at the dedication. “Her family knew that this helipad was an important project for the community, and it only became possible because of a donation made by Sandy’s family in her name, and we want to thank her and her family for making this helipad possible. This location will now be known as the Sandy Bodkin Memorial Helipad.”
Sandy was born in Colorado but grew up in Wayzata. She taught elementary school in the Hopkins district from 1956 to 1976.
Sandy and her husband, John, were annual summer campers at Crane Lake, eventually building a small cabin on Bear Island. After her retirement in 1976, the couple moved to Crane Lake permanently.
Sandy’s definition of retirement didn’t include slowing down. She taught piano lessons and played the piano at Crane Lake Chapel. A prolific quilter, she gave away her quilts to friends, family, neighbors, community fundraisers, and hospitalized children. If there was a need or an event in the community, Sandy was likely involved. And when the U.S. Postal Service needed a postmaster at Crane Lake, Sandy took that on for 12 years.
“Sandy was a long-time Crane Lake resident who was very active in virtually everything happening in Crane Lake,” Knutson said.
As part of the dedication, a North Memorial Health Air Care medevac helicopter flew in and landed on the new concrete pad, which was constructed by JH Contracting with site preparation and final grading done by Randy Daniels Construction of Buyck. On board the chopper was Flight Nurse Kristen Scott, a Crane Lake native. She said she got her first experience in emergency response working with Crane Lake responders.
“Sandy Bodkin is a big member of this community, so this is great,” Scott said. “And her great-niece actually works for North Air Care as a flight nurse.”
Navigating landings in the forested North Country can be tedious and dangerous, so the permanent pad is greatly welcomed, Scott said.
“The safety aspect of having a helipad and knowing we have a safe place to land and pick up people in the community is just huge,” she said.
While the vast majority of the cost was covered by the donation of $20,000 from Sandy’s family, numerous individuals also donated, and Crane Lake Fire and Rescue raised more money through the sale of calendars, Knutson said. The sign for the helipad was donated by Kaufman Signs of Minneapolis, and many community volunteers also gave their time and effort to the project.
As Knutson watched people crowding around the helicopter for a look inside, she expressed gratitude for the turnout of community members and emergency responders from other towns.
“At first I thought it was just going to be our fire department, but then other people started coming and it was great,” she said.