Christmas miracle: Missing 80-year-old man found more than 70 miles away from home

North Dakota authorities say a missing 80-year-old man was found safe over 70 miles away from home. (Source: KFYR)
Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 3:54 PM CST
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BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. (KFYR/Gray News) - A family in North Dakota says they are feeling grateful that an older family member was found after going missing for hours.

On Wednesday, authorities in North Dakota issued a Silver Alert for a missing 80-year-old man named Larry Custer.

KFYR reports Custer went missing from his Dickinson-area home at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Bowman County residents John and Tessa Palczewski said their Wednesday started pretty normal until they received a call about a car being in their yard.

John Palczewski said his gut had told him to check it out. And he ended up finding the missing 80-year-old man inside the vehicle.

Custer had traveled more than 70 miles away from his home.

“He [Custer] was coherent and appeared comfortable,” John Palczewski said.

Tessa Palczewski said she sat with the missing 80-year-old for nearly two hours while they waited for authorities to arrive.

“I just wanted him to keep talking. I didn’t want him to get worked up, worried, or stressed or also start to look at me and question who I was and why I was there,” Tessa Palczewski said.

She said they talked about cattle and about the man’s father who served in the Army and about his own service in the Air Force.

“I guess I thought of it as if it was my grandpa. I wanted to sit with him and make him feel like it was going to be OK,” Tessa Palczewski said. “I wanted to do everything that we could to make sure that he made it back to the people who loved him and were worried about him.”

Among those concerned was Custer’s granddaughter, Chantel Pokorny, who lives in Rapid City.

“It was a pretty helpless feeling,” Pokorny said.

Pokorny called the Palczewski couple “angels” for helping find her grandfather.

“We had feared the worst because of the weather. There were so many different things that happened so perfectly that you can’t think that there was something else that led him to them,” she said.

Those involved in finding Custer said the circumstances combined to create nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

“There are all sorts of blessings,” Tessa Palczewski said. “It was a blessing that John didn’t get the snowplow going next to the feed line that he probably hoped to get done.”

John Palczewski said if he had moved all the snow from the yard, Custer may have gotten stuck even worse out in the cold winter temperatures.