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50 years later, man recalls losing friend to 1972 flood

Pflegers resized.jpg
From the book 'Surviving the '72 Flood'
Johnny Sundby Photography
Beulah and Wayne Pfleger formerly owned a restaurant at this location near Rapid Creek in Rapid City. A 1972 flood destroyed the business and took the life of their friend, Bernie Zieglmeier.

The attached audio above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment.

The 50th commemoration of the Black Hills Flood is on June 9th. It’s a time to honor the 238 people who died, and it also brings a flood of memories for those who survived. Each week between now and June 9th, SDPB is sharing stories from those survivors, in their own words.

This week, we hear from Wayne Pfleger. The flood destroyed his restaurant in Rapid City’s Baken Park shopping complex. It also took the life of one of his closest friends.

"I happened to turn on the news and we heard that the Baken Park was flooding. I thought, wow, we thought maybe we better go see, and so we all loaded up and we're going to go down to Baken Park and we got coming down, I think it must have been Eighth Street, and got stopped there and they said, "You can't go there." So we went up on Skyline Drive and, I don't know, we just watched there.

"By that time, it was flooded bad by then. So we watched there for quite a while during the night. And then two friends of mine, Bernie Zieglmeier and his wife, Eileen, and Jim Larson and his wife had been downtown, and they ended up on Skyline Drive. And Bernie's two kids, they were old enough to be at home, but he was worried about it. He went down over the bank of Skyline and he ended up down there, I think, probably in a boat, helping people, and apparently was there for quite a while.

"And towards morning, I think it was, he must have got out of the boat over where the restaurant was and was looking to check and see what was going on there, or at least I think that's what he did. And then he decided that the water had gone down enough to where he could wade across the bridge. His kids were in a home over on West Chicago, and he started to cross that bridge and there was apparently a live highline wire laying in the water, and he ended up — he was electrocuted right there on the bridge."

The Journey Museum & Learning Center in Rapid City will screen a new SDPB documentary, “Surviving the ’72 Flood,” at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time on June 8th. The film will air on SDPB-1 the next evening, June 9th, at 9 Central/8 Mountain.

SDPB will also release an episodic podcast about the flood later this month.

Click here for all of SDPB's flood-related content.

Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.