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Friends pitch in to save N.D. house after owner dies

Friends and neighbors of R.D. Knutson join together Wednesday to sandbag his home in Briarwood. The 65-year-old died Friday in San Diego as he waited for a train to take him to Fargo.

BRIARWOOD, N.D. - In 2009, Dick Knutson arrived too late to save his house here.

He won't make it this time around, either. The 65-year-old died Friday in San Diego as he waited for a train to take him to Fargo.

But his house is in good shape, as a crew two dozen strong worked there Wednesday to build a 2-foot sandbag wall to protect it.

"This is what people are about in the valley. This is normal," said Dave Jondahl, one of the many volunteers from Atonement Lutheran Church in Fargo, where Knutson worshiped.

The volunteer effort was organized by three friends of Knutson, including Ed Samuelson Jr.

"Whether he was dead or not, I'd be here," said Samuelson, who helped clear out the waterlogged mess in Knutson's basement last year.

Don Rudnick and Gordon Cannon were the other two buddies who marshaled the forces to make sure their friend's house was secure.

Cannon said Knutson's daughter, Ashley, hopes to live in the house one day. The 19-year-old plans to be back in Fargo by Saturday, coming from San Diego.

"I do it for his daughter," Cannon said from behind the wheel of a four-wheeler loaded with sandbags.

Knutson had scores of memorabilia from his days as a concert promoter that date back to the mid-1960s, Samuelson said. They tried to save as much as possible after the 2009 flood, which Knutson estimated caused $400,000 in damage.

"Don't use that one," he said to a worker who had been wielding a half-size shovel. "It's got a signature on it. I think it was signed by Frankie Valli."

Dale Wolf, an Atonement pastor, said a group at the church helping out members who are fighting the flood knew they'd need to make Knutson's house a priority due to the timing of his death. By late in the morning Wednesday, the work was on track to be done by early afternoon.

"Obviously, Dick had some good friends," Wolf said.