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Fargo's flood buyout holdouts happy to stay put

Today, Butler's house sits alone where once there were so many homes with children the same age the neighborhood formed a babysitting co-op.

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Mac Butler outside his home in north Fargo. The house was built in 1914 but has seen many add-ons over the years.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

FARGO — Mac Butler moved into his home at 73 South Terrace in north Fargo in 1981.

At the time, he and his wife, Jane, were renters, but they soon purchased the house and started a family with the arrival of their son, Nick.

When Jane died in 2010, Mac sprinkled her ashes around an oak tree in the front yard of their home, which was built in 1914 and which has seen many add-ons over the years.

Butler said he's glad he chose the oak tree in the front yard for his wife's ashes, because a large tree in the backyard that long served as a towering anchor for a tire swing was cut down last year to make room for an earthen dike.

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Mac Butler and Carol Pearson live in a home at 73 South Terrace N., in Fargo, that has seen many floods come and go. Today, their home is one of the few riverside properties in the neighborhood that has not accepted a buyout.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

He said the dike put to rest any thoughts he might have had about accepting a city buyout of his home, as so many other homeowners in the Oak Grove Lutheran School neighborhood ended up doing.

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Today, Butler's house sits alone where once there were so many homes with children the same age the neighborhood formed a babysitting co-op.

The dike that now fortifies Butler's back yard and the promise of a diversion project to come make it unlikely the home will ever again be threatened by high water, as it was in 1997 and 2009.

The downside, Butler said, is that his home now has a dike where it once had trees and a grand view of the river.

"It's a compromise," said Butler, who met and married a neighbor, Carol Pearson, after they lost their spouses.

Of all the jobs he's had in journalism, Amundson said it is the writing that means the most to him.
"He is a lifesaver for us in the winter months," Kate DeShaw said.

"We were both widowed in 2010 and didn't really know each other; met shortly after that and have been married 10 years now," Butler said.

The couple spend time between the South Terrace home and a nearby house that Pearson shared with her late husband.

When it comes to flooding, Pearson said every property in the area has stories to tell.

"One for me was a neighbor who lived in that house, there," she said, pointing to a home across the street.

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During the 2009 flood, Pearson said the man who lived in the house was caring for his wife, who was at the end of life with lung cancer.

"Dan just wanted to find a safe bed for his wife somewhere in town," Pearson said, referring to her neighbor.

"That really put the flood in perspective for us," she added. "My late husband and I were taking everything out of our basement and worried about that."

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The home of Mac Butler and Carol Pearson at 73 South Terrace N., in Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Butler said the only time he was ever really concerned flooding might seriously damage his home was in 1997, when a sandbag dike down the street failed and the Red River flooded Oak Grove Lutheran School, which is kitty-corner from his home.

Butler and his neighbors hopped to it and reinforced their own flood barriers before the water could reach their homes.

"We had five houses we were able to quickly ring," Butler said.

After decades of dealing with floods and saying thanks but no thanks to a buyout, how does Butler feel about his house today?

"Love it." he said. "They couldn't chase us off."

Related Topics: 1997 FLOODFARGO-MOORHEAD DIVERSION2009 FLOOD
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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