‘A miracle come full circle…’: Former Helena teen reunites with man who saved him from drowning 50 years ago

Loren Oelkers never got to thank the two men who saved his life that day.

In the summer of 1973, he was a 17-year-old high school kid who’d come within seconds of drowning in the murky waters of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. The men who saved him were complete strangers, two unfamiliar guys who just happened to be there that Fourth of July morning. Two men whom he’d never met before and didn’t see again.

Loren learned their names only through the newspaper report that appeared in the Helena Independent Record later that week, but neither Rick Goff nor Jim Funk lived in his hometown. Nor had they reached out to contact him in the days that followed.

Life moved on for all of them, first in weeks and months, then in years and decades. The knowledge of the debt he owed these two strangers was never far from Loren’s thoughts, but the responsibilities of a career and raising a growing family were his first priorities.

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This past Friday, for the first time in half a century, Loren Oelkers got the chance to shake the hand of one of the men

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