Beloved custodian dies in Minnehaha Academy explosion

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The Minneapolis fire department reported Wednesday night that Minnehaha Academy custodian John Carlson died in the explosion.

Carlson, 81, was unaccounted for after the explosion until responders found him around 8 p.m. Earlier in the day, the school confirmed Ruth Berg, a receptionist for the past 17 years, was found dead in the rubble.

According to a “Humans of Haha” story in the school newspaper last year, Carlson is known for “handing out Dilly bars to students waiting for rides or doing their homework.”

According to the story, Carlson attended high school at Minnehaha Academy, and his children graduated from the school too. In 2003, Carlson joined the Minnehaha staff as a custodian after his wife saw a job posting in the church bulletin.

“I’ve spent half my life there I might as well work there too,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful job for me because I still have a lot of energy.”

Wednesday night, students passed around those ice cream sandwiches to keep hope alive.

“He’d always talk to you in between classes and he would always offer you dilly bars. He was super sweet and super friendly to everyone. He loved being here,” said student Roddy Macdonald.

Witnesses say Carlson stayed behind when the explosion happened, making sure as many people as possible got out safely.

"He would always put everyone before himself no matter what; he would save everyone," Macdonald said.

Statement from Minnehaha Academy

Minnehaha Academy is deeply saddened by today's events. Tonight we report that we have lost alum and staff member John Carlson. John Carlson was Minnehaha's biggest cheerleader, and a long-time presence in the school. He graduated from Minnehaha in 1953, sent his children here, and after retiring from his first career he came back to work at the school. John will be deeply missed. Please keep John's family, Ruth's family, those who were injured, and our school community, in your prayers. Thank you to all of the emergency responders in their efforts, and thank you to the community that has shown such support throughout this tragic day.