Follow-up To “A Sad Excursion”

July 13

Those of us who work in sports media, at KNBR and other outlets, know that the Internet can be a very dark place. There are lots of people who’d like to do bad things to us — or at least claim they do — and that’s only because we disagree over the Giants, Warriors, 49ers, etc. Imagine if it was something important.

Once in a while, however, I’m reminded that the online world can be a good and useful place. It can be used to connect people whose paths would not have otherwise crossed. I found this out over the past day as I blogged about witnessing a fellow passenger die on a snorkeling trip off the coast of Maui Friday.

As I wrote yesterday, the man was a City Councilman and software engineer from Hayfield, Minnesota named Joel Fritze. He died of a heart attack despite attempts by the tour boat crew and the Coast Guard to revive him. He was 53 and left behind his wife and two grown children. I also learned that he left behind a ton of caring friends and loved ones.

I learned all this from people who responded to the blog. I was truly amazed at that response — how could anyone from Hayfield know about me ? That’s what Google is for.

Friends and co-workers trying to find out what happened to Joel Googled his name and this blog came up. You can read some of their responses in yesterday’s entry, but I was moved by them all. I learned more about what a good guy Joel was, and what a pillar of his community he had been.

In a selfish way, I was glad to know more about Joel because it added some depth to my experience. I was also glad to know he had so many people who cared about him, and in fact he was a big sports fan — mainly the Vikings, Twins and local school teams. I’m just sad I only encountered him in the final moments of his life.

The words of a friend, Julie Mosser, affected me the most : “Somehow your beautiful article is being passed around to all that know them ( Joel and his wife Lamae ) and it is touching many lives. They were a very close family and very strong in their faith, and as time passes I believe they will see the beauty through your words and know that you were there with Joel and praying with their daughter; it will be a comfort to know she was not alone, either.”

I hope that the town of Hayfield can do something nice so that Joel will be remembered down the road. I’m sure it will. I can tell just by the responses I’ve received that it’s a pretty special place.

18 Responses to “Follow-up To “A Sad Excursion””

  1. Doug Winslow Says:

    As I was a classmate of Joel’s wife, this is a shock. My prayers go out to a family which suffered a great loss. Sorry to hear the news from Washington State.

    • raywood Says:


      Even though I didn’t know Joel I am sharing in your loss, too, through the many heartfelt replies like yours.

  2. A co-worker of Joel's Says:

    Mr. Woodson,
    According to your bio, your favorite quote comes from Jackie Robinson — “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Your blog has had a profound impact on me. I have read if over and over trying to make sense of Joel’s passing, but I cannot. Your words have given him a voice in his final moments and given us some peace in accepting those final moments. Your blog has given his friends a place to ponder his impact. Joel’s life was important – he impacted each of us in his own special way. And you, kind stranger, have also had an impact on each of us – taking the time to read and respond to each and every post and bring us comfort in our time of profound loss. Thank you for your eloquent words and your heartfelt sympathy. You hit a home run with this one.

    • raywood Says:

      Thank you so much. I can’t think of any higher compliment. I now realize there was a purpose for my being on that boat that day, as sad as it was for Joel’s family and friends.

      Ray Woodson, KNBR

  3. Daniel Kasner Says:

    I was on the boat as well so searching I found your article. So very sad to hear my heart goes out to his family. Thank you very much for sharing what you learned. He sounded like a truely wonderful man and a pillar in his community. Very sad my thoughts and prayers are with the family.

    • raywood Says:


      Thank you for your reply. It’s clear to me that not only Joel’s family, but his community, are in pain this week. I hope in sharing their thoughts everyone can ease their grief a little bit.

      Ray Woodson, KNBR

  4. Mrs. Ray Woodson Says:

    Dear Ray,

    I’ve received many comments from our family members regarding your blog describing Joel’s untimely death. There have been many tears from our family members who witnessed this precious loss of life. Thank you for your compassion and caring nature. We all love you. Mrs. Ray Woodson.

  5. Suzette Says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I read all of your comments and I am so moved by all of the friends and families who have loved Joel throughout his life. I was on the Frogman II boat during this horrific incident and it has haunted me ever since I have left Maui. I am not sure what to say or write, yet I would kick myself if I didn’t say anything.

    The memory is so vivid. I remember entering the boat and seeing Joel lying on the deck. I remember his twin brother. He was in shock and asking Joel to pull through. I remember his daughter saying, “Daddy, we are here.” There was another girl with her, perhaps her friend. A young man on the boat was administering CPR, yet it didn’t look good based on Joel’s coloring amongst other things. My sister-in-law and I wanted to do something, but weren’t sure what to do, so we just hugged each other. Several people were crying on the boat. We prayed and prayed for Joel, yet, my prayers began to change from asking the Lord to save him to asking the Lord to be with Joel’s family and friends, to ease their hearts should he pass. This prayer struck me as odd as I have always been an optimist. The situation was surreal. I knew in my heart that Joel did not make it. I am sorry Joel that you didn’t make it.

    The Coast Guard came to take Joel to shore and I watched the boat until it was too tiny to see. I remember the captain of the Frogman II apologizing for the incident, “sorry about that.” I could only think, “That.” “What do you mean that?” “You mean that man who was on the brink of death on this boat?” “Turn this damn boat around before I scream.” We didn’t. The boat resumed to its next destination, Turtle Island. I jumped in the ocean briefly, just to clear my mind. I blamed the choppy water for his death and found it hard to enjoy myself.
    As the day passed, many of us tried to convince ourselves that Joel was Ok. This was, of course, just a coping mechanism. We had sandwiches for lunch, cocktails were offered and chocolate chip cookies were passed around.

    When we got back to shore, we were greeted by police officers who wanted to speak to anyone who saw the incident first hand. I was told that a man found Joel face down in the water and pushed him onto Frogman II. My husband and I attempted to find information about the incident. But, it was my brother-in-law, Ray Woodson, who found the article about Joel’s death and posted this wonderful blog.

    Our family was there for Joel and there were 8 of us. We were all praying for him and continue to pray for his family. I would love to hug his daughter and brother as their devastated faces will be forever imprinted in my memory. Bless his Father too who has survived the deaths of his loved ones. Finally, the man who performed CPR did a fantastic job. I think his name was Scott. At one point, one of his mates asked if he was getting tired and he said, “No,” and continued to administer CPR. I could see Joel’s belly and chest undulating up and down. Everyone was fighting for him, but it was his time.

    • raywood Says:

      Thank you Suzette. I know you and many other members of our family couldn’t believe what was happening, but there was some purpose for all of us being there.

  6. Co-worker Says:

    I worked quite closely with Joel over the last 4 years and got to know him very well. He was the epitome of a good man. He was kind, caring and selfless. Always willing to help others and do more than he needed to. He was always in a good mood and took the time to ask about your family and children. Joel really looked forward to spending time with his family. He just had spent a week in Northern Minnesota a few weeks ago and was excited about spending another week with family in Hawaii. We are all sad that Joel’s life ended so abruptly and anyone who knew him would’ve wanted to have spent more time with him. I can’t imagine how painful this is for his family. But anyone who knew him, knows exactly where he is now – with his mom and brother and waiting for us. God bless you Joel – rest in peace.

    • raywood Says:

      Thanks so much for your reply. I continue to be amazed at all the people who have read the blog and responded to me, and even though I didn’t know him it’s clear to me the world is a sadder place without Joel.

      Ray Woodson, KNBR

  7. Kris Fritze Says:

    Joel was my brother-in-law and my husband, Mike, our daughter, Joel’s wife and daughter had come to Maui for a week’s vacation. We had planned this for over two years. We had so much fun, parasailing, swimming, biking down the volcanic crater, playing cards, sunning, laughing at our daughters, eating Hawaiian food,and the last event of the week, snorkeling. His wife and I were in Wailea when we got the news. I have read your blogs and are touched by your accounts. Yes, he was an amazing man. I am married to Joel’s twin, who valliantly tried to get help for his brother. Mike was holding him when we believe his heart stopped. It has been a very rough week for all of us as we try and make sense of a dream vacation that turned so tragic. Joel had no known heart disease.
    We are so thankful for everyone for their prayers and support.
    On Saturday, we will celebrate a life well lived. Please pray for the family. There is no bond like twins….and a part of us died that day at Molokini.
    Thank you to the crew of Frogman II who sent us a last rememberance, a picture of smiling faces that morning. Our thanks to Dr. Haddad, the chaplain, and the officer who helped us at Maui Medical. We also thank Westin Kaa’napali North for giving us a room to get some needed rest before our plane departed. Joel will never be forgotten.

    • raywood Says:


      I know it’s been a very tough week for you and your family and friends but I think it’s wonderful how so many people have responded to this blog — all saying the same great things about Joel. I know you guys will carry those memories with you through the years. I’m honored you took time to read the blog and were touched by the account.

      Ray Woodson, KNBR

  8. Alana Evjen Says:

    Mr. Woodson,
    -My family and the Fritze family are a family-in-one. Joel’s son is my brother’s best friend and Joel himself was my dad’s best friend. Our two families took family vacations together and Joel and his wife and my mom and dad go on a vacation every summer together. This news is not only horrible, but heart breaking. Joel was a servant to the Lord, a great friend, a wonderful father and husband and a great all-around person. Although I know he is looking down upon us all and listening to our many prayers, I often find myself wondering “why Joel” and the infamous saying of “Life is just not fair” rings true in my mind.
    -Tomorrow I am attending Joel’s funeral (along with many, many others) where my dad will give a rememberance speech in honor of him. Tear will be shed, prayers will be said and hugs will be given. I am still not able to understand why this happened as I watch his family and my family grieve over his death.
    -Mr. Woodson, I would like to thank you for writing this blog. The day I found it was the day I went to go see the Fritze family and express my sympathy. I showed Joel’s daughter, Melissa the blog and as she read it, smiles and tears came about her face. She then had her Uncles, Aunts and cousins read it as well and through all the tears they all thanked me for sharing it with them as “seeing it through someone elses’s eyes adds a sense of beauty”. So, I thank you for that moment. For the moment when Melissa hugged me and said, “Thank you. I know he’s in this room with us”, thank you Mr. Woodson. You may not understand the depth of your words or kindness but I can tell you with all my heart, you moved mountains. God bless you and thank you.
    Alana Evjen

  9. Debbie Fritze Says:

    All the words here beautifully describe Joel, but most importantly, he was part of a magical love story with his wonderful wife LaMae. They both attended Hayfield High School, dated shortly after graduation and have now been married for 34 years; she was his queen and he her king. Their love story was one of everyday kindess, where just a smile to each other said it all. They drove to work together for 25 years, had a passion for Hayfield sports together, loved to be with their friends in Hayfield, and just simply wanted to be together whenever possible. Their family includes two remarkable children, who are wonderful young adults demostrating the same characteristics of their dad and mom; loving, caring and giving. We are all better people for knowing Joel and LaMae Fritze.

  10. Stomach Gas Bloating Says:

    family vacations in a nice tropical country would be very very nice :.;

  11. Michael Murche Says:

    Hello Mr. Woodson,
    I would like to say thank you in name of LaMae, Melissa and Luke Fritze for your blog. I am the boyfriend of Melissa and your blog helped her and his family a lot to found a good farewell from Joel

    Thank you so much that you found amazing words for a great guy.


    • raywood Says:

      Your reply, and the replies of many others, tell me how much Joel was loved and will be missed. It makes me feel good that I was able to provide some small comfort to his family and friends.

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