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'He'd give his time to help anyone': Man killed by train had deep roots in DL

Joe Mackner with his son, Kayne.1 / 2
Joe Mackner of Detroit Lakes.2 / 2

A man who was struck and killed by a train Sunday was born and raised in Detroit Lakes, loved spending time with his 8-year-old son, and had been looking forward to foraging for wild mushrooms with his brother.

Joseph Merten Mackner, 41, of Detroit Lakes was reportedly walking southbound on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks about a mile north of Detroit Lakes when he was struck by a southbound train just after 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Mackner was pronounced dead at the scene, and the incident remains under investigation.

St. Mary's EMS and the Minnesota State Patrol assisted the Becker County Sheriff's Office with the call.

"This is his favorite time of the year," said his brother, Scott Mackner of Detroit Lakes. The two were planning to go out hunting for wild lobster and chanterelle mushrooms in the Tamarac area on Sunday, where their grandfather has a small farm.

Joe Mackner was an avid cook who also worked as a chef for numerous area restaurants, including the Holiday Inn, the Main Street cafe, and the 59er. "He was a very, very good cook," Scott said.

He was walking from the 59er when the accident happened, Scott said. "I believe he was going to see a friend. He's walked those tracks a million times," he said. "He walks the tracks to the Brandy Lake crossing, then takes a right to his friend's house."

The engineer driving the locomotive told a deputy that he spotted Mackner walking on the tracks about 100 yards away, but he didn't appear to notice the train coming up behind him, Scott said.

"They honked, they laid on the brakes—they said it appeared he had Earbuds (in-ear headphones) on. He didn't acknowledge the train behind him. They don't believe he heard the train at all."

Scott said his brother was always willing to help friends or family. "He'd give his time to help anyone," he said. He was a skilled mechanic who helped friends and family with their cars, and he often helped his mom, Mary, and visited his grandfather, who lives alone, and helped him on his small farm. "He was really kind," Scott said.

Joe loved being outdoors, fishing, hunting, and looking for wild mushrooms, and was an avid bowler. But he really lived for his son, Kayne, who lives in Carrington, N.D., and just spent six weeks this summer in Detroit Lakes with his father, Scott said. He was also very close to his 9-year-old niece, Aryanna, whose nickname is Peanut, and the two kids love spending time together, he said.

When Joe was younger, he helped his family run Mary's Bait on Campbell Avenue. Eight years after they quit the bait business, fishermen were still knocking on their door, Scott said.

To help with funeral expenses, a GoFundMe page has been set up at

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11 at David Donehower Funeral Home in Detroit Lakes, with a time of gathering at 1 p.m.