Family of Fargo man murdered near Red River spreads ashes at Clay County historical site

The family of 32-year-old Phillip Bergquist spread his ashes and planted a tree at the Bergquist Cabin in Moorhead. The cabin is named after his great-great-grandfather.

John Berquist (left) spreads the ashes of his brother Phillip around a blue-spruce tree with the help of their father Paul (right) at the Berquist Cabin in Moorhead.
Matt Henson / WDAY News

MOORHEAD — A six-month nightmare is over for a family after spreading the ashes of 32-year-old Phillip Bergquist, a Wisconsin man murdered near the Red River in Fargo last fall.

"Here are Phillip's ashes," said his father Paul Bergquist. "This is an end of an era, we are saying goodbye to Phillip Dewey Bergquist."

His son wanted his ashes spread at the Bergquist Cabin in north Moorhead, an historical site in Clay County named after his great-great-grandfather John Bergquist.

"I do have a picture (...) of him as a kid crawling up the corner. He made it up all the way to the roof," Paul Bergquist said.

It was a place of many great memories for Phillip Bergquist, known as "PB'" to his family.


Paul Bergquist has a name tag his son wore when he was 4 and that he now holds as a keepsake.

There's some bad memories later in life, like when Phillip Bergquist was arrested in 2022 trying to break into the Bergquist Cabin soon after moving to the area from Ashland, Wisconsin.

"He didn't have a place to live, and so he just thought that it would be appropriate that he could just go ahead and stay here," Paul Bergquist said.

Phillip Bergquist was killed Halloween weekend in 2022, right across the Red River from the cabin.

The killer, 39-year-old George Anthony Ortiz, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced 55 years in prison on May 2.

Ortiz claimed in court that someone sent Bergquist after him and his family. He said people wanted him out of Fargo for several years.

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said in court there was no evidence to support Ortiz's claims that Bergquist was sent after him and his family. Cass County Judge Susan Bailey also determined Bergquist didn't provoke the attack.

Phillip Bergquist, meanwhile, leaves behind a young son.


"We've seen justice done in the courts for his death, at least in a small way," Paul Bergquist said. "It doesn't bring him back, but at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that the guy that did this is put away, pretty much for the rest of his life."

After spreading most of the ashes in a hole, they then placed a blue spruce sapling on top.

It's the exact same way Phillip's grandparents were honored at the site, including his grandfather; longtime WDAY weatherman Dewey Bergquist.

"He's got a nice view of the old log cabin, we got the Red River right next to us here," Paul Bergquist said.

His father and brother John Bergquist said this is finally the closure they needed.

"He made his mistakes in life, but deep down he was a good-hearted person and he did care about others," John Bergquist said.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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