'I stepped onto the porch...and saw him': Wife shares story of DL man who died in tree-cutting accident

Jose Muzquiz raised two children with his wife, Laura, welcomed six grandchildren and lived a life rich in love and dedicated to God, Laura said. He also mentored many people in the Detroit Lakes area in Tae Kwon Do and mixed martial arts.

Jose Muzquiz, a well known martial arts instructor in the Detroit Lakes area, died tragically at his rural Detroit Lakes home. He was found by his wife, Laura.
Jose Muzquiz, a well known martial arts instructor in the Detroit Lakes area, died tragically at his rural Detroit Lakes home. He was found by his wife, Laura.
Laura Muzquiz / Contributed
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DETROIT LAKES — When the morning light cracked the dawn on Saturday, May 14, Jose Muzquiz got out of bed and went for a run, just as he did most mornings.

Then, he grabbed a 10-foot extension ladder to tackle the removal of a branch that was dangling over their rural Detroit Lakes home.

And then, it wasn't like most mornings anymore.

When the 64-year-old's wife, Laura, awoke, she poured her morning coffee and was overwhelmed by an unsettled feeling. She walked to the entryway of her house and noticed that the door was unlocked.

“That was weird, because if he (Jose) went for a run he would have locked the door; he wouldn’t leave me sleeping inside with an unlocked door,” she said. “Then I stepped onto the porch that he built, and saw him.”


Muzquiz was lying on his back with a tree limb on his stomach. His head was bleeding.

Laura estimates that the thickest part of the branch was 6 inches in diameter. The cut was clean from where the branch had been removed from the tree.

“We don’t know what happened, but figure he stood on the top rung of the ladder — which is so unlike him, he never did that — but if he did, we figure he fell and the branch hit his head, and then spun around and landed on his stomach,” she said.

She rushed to her husband’s side, called 9-1-1 and checked for a pulse. Her wails brought neighbors from four houses down to see what had happened.

Life Flight was called in by the dispatcher, and when the sheriff arrived, there was a faint pulse. After being transported to the hospital, Muzquiz was given a CAT scan and put on a ventilator.

“I watched my mom live on a ventilator for six weeks,” Laura said, noting her heart grew heavy when she walked into her husband’s hospital room and heard the familiar sounds of the machine.

While preliminary tests showed Muzquiz's brain had stopped functioning, an ultrasound was ordered. It showed that blood was going to his neck and then back down, Laura said, never reaching the brain.

The decision was made to disconnect some life support machines, but to wait until the rest of his family arrived before removing them all.


In the grip of a painful loss, Laura said she's found comfort in the legacy her husband left with the many lives he impacted. She looks forward to hearing more stories about her husband, and continuing to share the story of the love of her life.

Muzquiz made the most of his opportunities

Up until the late 1970s, Muzquiz was a migrant worker who made his way in the world by cultivating the earth. When he was presented with the opportunity to enter a pilot program that allowed him to remain in the U.S. and attend a technical college, he gladly did the work to get accepted into the program, Laura recalled. He made the most of it by expanding his skill-set to include welding.

During those degree-chasing years at M State, Muzquiz and a few friends went out for pie and coffee at a local eatery. What he found at the restaurant was sweeter than any dessert he could’ve imagined.

“I was there with some friends and we all got to talking,” Laura recalled, noting she was a senior in high school at the time. After that night, a friendship bloomed, and soon after blossomed into a love story.

When spring came, Muzquiz was scheduled to head back south of the border, as he had completed his schooling. Before leaving, he presented Laura with his tool box and told her that if he didn’t return in a few months, she could sell it.

“Well, he called a month or so after he left and asked me to send him $350 so he could return,” Laura said, noting she didn’t have a lot of money at the time but sent him the cash anyway. “When he came back in August, he repaid me. He said that he didn’t even need the money, but wanted to see if I loved him enough to send it.”

When he returned to the States, he found work and a place to live. The couple's love grew, and one evening, he parked in her parent’s driveway and requested to speak with her.

“I got in the car, and he asked me to marry him,” Laura remembers. “I said that I needed time to think about it. He said he would only ask once and so I told him, 'No.'”


She left him in the car and returned to her parents' house as her mind battled with her heart. Muzquiz returned 20 minutes later and asked her to marry him, a second time. Her heart won the battle.

Right after that, the two drove to downtown Detroit Lakes, where they found a phone booth on the corner of Frazee Street and Roosevelt Avenue and called her parents with the news.

“My mom was screaming, asking me what I was thinking and telling me to come home,” Laura recalled. “I only had my pajamas on, so I had to go home. So I said, 'OK.'”

She did go home, but only for long enough to pack her clothes. After her mom fell asleep, she left with Muzquiz. The two wed in Watertown, South Dakota on Oct. 4, 1978.

“I had turned 18 on September 7, and he was 21,” she said. “There were some who said that we’d never make it a year. When we made it a year, he said, ‘Look babe, we made it a year — two years, five years…10 years...”

As the years went by, the couple raised two children, welcomed six grandchildren and lived a life rich in love and dedicated to God, Laura said. Muzquiz also mentored many in Tae Kwon Do and mixed martial arts.

“Look babe,” Laura continued, her voice breaking as she said their final number of years together on the earthly plane. "...43."

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