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Car-semi crash claims DL man

Retired Minnesota State University Moorhead professor G. Theodore "Ted" Schaum, 72, of Rochert, was killed Monday evening following a car-semi collision on Highway 34, seven miles east of Detroit Lakes.

Schaum's westbound Mercedes ML320 hit a semi tractor-trailer rig that was attempting to do a U-turn on Highway 34 near Charlie's Tubing, according to the State Patrol.

Schaum, who lived on Island Lake, was critically injured when his car hit the passenger side of the semi trailer, which was blocking both lanes of the highway. The pavement was dry at the time of the crash, which was reported at 6:40 p.m., according to the State Patrol.

He was taken by Life Flight helicopter to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, where he later died of his injuries.

The driver of the Freightliner semi, Ahmed H. Ridhwani, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, suffered no apparent injuries.

He was jailed and faces a serious felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide -- leaving the scene of an accident.

A witness allegedly saw Ridhwani attempt to make the U-turn, saw headlights approaching from the east, and then saw the crash. The witness, whose name was not disclosed, said the semi begin to move westbound away from the scene of the accident, and said the driver looked right at him but did not stop, despite the witnesses' attempt to keep him there, according to court records.

Another witness told officers the semi left the accident scene, driving past other vehicles that had stopped there.

The semi was eventually located parked on an eastbound shoulder, with its exterior lights turned off, just east of northeast Pickerel Lake Road, about 10 miles north (by road) of the scene.

Ridhwani allegedly admitted he had attempted to do a U-turn on Highway 34, and gave several conflicting reports to officers as to the events surrounding the accident.

Schaum was well-known in the Detroit Lakes community, and was active in a number of fraternal and civic groups.

"We'll miss him," said Arlen Kangas, president of the Mid-Minnesota Community Development Corporation, who first became acquainted with Schaum when the MMCDC became the fiscal agent for grant funds allocated to the Greater Minds Appreciation Discussion Circle (GMADC).

The GMADC was started in the 1990s, as a means of discussing some of the day's great philosophical questions, such as "Is there a God?" and "Who Are The Real Americans?"

"He liked words, although he was very particular about how he used words when he spoke," noted Ruth Solie, former director of the Detroit Lakes Public Library, where the GMADC would hold its discussions. "He put things together in interesting ways.

"I think one of the most absolutely fascinating discussions we had was about the question, 'Who are the real Americans?'"

From the basic questions such as 'How long do you have to live here (in the U.S.) to be considered an American,' the discussion branched out "into much broader considerations," Solie added.

"He knew the most interesting people," said former Becker County commissioner Carolyn Engebretson, who lives near his cabin on Island Lake. "It was fun to go to one of his parties, because you never knew who you were going to see."

Engebretson said Schaum was "one of those people who come into your life and... they just enrich it."

Kangas said his initial business acquaintance with Schaum gradually evolved into friendship.

"I think Ted was somebody who had tremendous energy and creativity," Kangas continued. "He was always willing to work very hard, often doing things no one else wanted to do -- and he would do them for nothing. Ted contributed a lot to this community without asking for anything in return.

"You don't often find folks like that," Kangas added -- especially not people who weren't born and raised in the area. (Schaum was born in Goslar, Germany). "He fit in well with this community, and he made an impact with the things he did.

"He stretched people's thinking, and he hosted discussions that talked about controversial and delicate issues. I think everyone (who attended) was made better off as a result."

"He had such a zest for life," said Patty Heath, who met Schaum through his involvement with the local chapter of Toastmasters International. "He just had so much energy and passion for everything he did."

In fact, Heath noted, it was that very enthusiasm that may have caused him to be misunderstood by some.

"His heart was so big," she said. "He wanted to do so much, for so many."

Funeral services for Schaum are scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Friday in the Congregational Church of Detroit Lakes, with the Rev. Mark Kuether officiating.

The David-Donehower Funeral Home, Detroit Lakes, is providing arrangements. A full obituary will be published in Sunday's Detroit Lakes Tribune.

(Staff writer Nathan Bowe contributed to this story)

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454