Life-saving act: Restaurant owners honored for quick action to save customer from choking

WILLMAR -- Mary and Ron Guetter, owners of McMillan's Restaurant, knew their customer was in trouble when he came up to the cash register during Sunday morning brunch last month, wheezing and unable to speak.

Life-saving act
Ron and Mary Guetter, owners of McMillan’s Restaurant in Willmar, discuss the ceremony moments prior when they were presented with a certificate from the Willmar Ambulance Service for saving a customer’s life. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR - Mary and Ron  Guetter, owners of McMillan’s Restaurant, knew their customer was in trouble when he came up to the cash register during Sunday morning brunch last month, wheezing and unable to speak.

The couple’s quick action to perform the Heimlich maneuver likely saved the man from choking to death and earned them a lifesaving certificate of merit Monday night from the Willmar Ambulance Service.

“Their interventions are really the reason why he’s alive today,” said Brad Hanson, manager of the Willmar Ambulance Service at Rice Memorial Hospital.

Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish praised the couple’s actions, calling them “a good example of what can be done when we get involved.”

“Mary and Ron, we’re very proud of you,” he said.


The Guetters were both working at the restaurant on the snowy morning of Feb. 10 when the man walked up to the till, looking for help. Alerted by one of the waitstaff, Mary saw that the man was wheezing and having difficulty breathing.

She promptly tried the Heimlich maneuver on him a couple of times.

But she was unable to completely wrap her arms around the man, so her husband, Ron, stepped in and together they successfully dislodged the piece of bacon stuck in the man’s throat.

A Willmar Ambulance crew that arrived a few minutes later found everything under control.

“This individual was already back to eating his breakfast and was doing just fine,” Hanson said.

The Guetters’ response was lifesaving, he said, noting that the ambulance service was short-staffed that day and was busy with several other calls during the morning.

“It takes people like Ron and Mary to act,” he said. “In this particular case, a quick phone call to 911 and quick action saved a life.”

The Guetters, who received a framed certificate for their actions, said this is the first time they’ve had a customer who was choking.


“You just jump in,” Ron said.

Mary is a licensed child care provider who has had first aid and CPR training, so she knew what to do. “I just highly recommend for everyone to have the CPR training,” she said.

As for the customer, “he’s been in three or four times since this happened,” she said. “He always has this big smile.”

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