Christmas miracle: missing Dickinson man found safe 70 miles from home
BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. – Wednesday morning North Dakotans woke to the sounds of cell phones going off.
The state had issued a silver alert for a missing Dickinson man. Larry Custer had been gone from his Dickinson home since 10:30 the night before.
He was located just hours after the silver alert was issued, more than 70 miles from his home in Dickinson. He was in far southeastern Bowman County, south of Scranton, just a mile from the South Dakota border.
John and Tessa Palczewski’s Wednesday started with a couple of early morning phone calls. The first was a silver alert; the second, from John’s parents.
“They called to wish Tessa a happy birthday at 6:30 a.m. and mentioned there was a vehicle in the yard,” recalled John.
John’s gut told him to check it out.
“I got down there and could see his vehicle was stuck right next to my feedlot,” he said.
The man inside the car was 80-year-old Larry Custer. He had been missing from his Dickinson home since the night before. Authorities had issued a silver alert hours earlier.
“He was coherent. He was comfortable,” said John.
Tessa sat with him for nearly two hours while they waited for authorities to arrive.
“I just wanted him to keep talking. I didn’t want him to get worked up, worried or stressed or also start to look at me and question who I was and why I was there,” she explained.
And so, they talked. They talked about cattle, about his dad who served in the Army and about his own service in the Air Force.
“I guess I thought of it as if it was my grandpa,” Tessa said. “I wanted to sit with him and make him feel like it was going to be okay and that I wanted to do everything that we could to make sure that he made it back to the people who loved him and were worried about him.”
Among those people: Larry’s granddaughter, Chantel Pokorny, who lives in Rapid City, S.D.
“It was it was pretty helpless feeling,” Pokorny said.
Pokorny had never met John and Tessa until this Zoom call. She calls the Palczewskis angels.
“We had feared the worst because of the weather. There are so many different things that happen just ever so perfectly that you can’t think that there wasn’t something else that led him to them,” she said.
“There’s all sorts of blessings,” added Tessa. “I think it’s a blessing that my in laws are awake early in the morning. I think it’s a blessing that John didn’t get the snowplow next to the feed line that he probably hoped to get done.”
“If I would have had all the snow moved, he probably wouldn’t have gotten stuck and who knows where he would have ended up,” said John.
So many blessings combined to create nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
John says he hopes everyone will take silver alerts a little more seriously after hearing this story. He says until Wednesday, he was often quick to disregard those alerts, thinking there’s no way anyone would end up in his remote part of the state. He now feels a lot differently.
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