My dad’s first cousin, Ralph Plaisted, passed away in Minnesota at the age of 80. Back in the ‘60s, he was drinking in a bar with some friends and they all decided they would try to get to the North Pole by snowmobile. CBS newsman Charles Kuralt went along on their first try with a film crew, resulting in a prime time special and Kuralt’s first book: To the Top Of the World: The Adventures and Misadventures of the Plaisted Polar Expedition, March 28 - May 4, 1967. They failed that year, but made it the next, in 1968; becoming the first explorers to indisputably make it to the Pole (Robert Perry said he did it, but no one outside of his party was entirely sure). So, he got an obit in papers all over the country. Cool.
Ralph came to visit us in New Holstein once after he made it – as I recall he had some speaking engagement in Fond du Lac. He stayed overnight and, actually, I was kicked out to the couch so he could use my bedroom. I don’t think Dad knew him very well; I think he lived a little further north in Minnesota from where Dad grew up in Mora. But he was a nice enough guy, just salt of the earth with a little hard-earned celebrity under his belt.
That’s my family’s little brush with history and fame – a guy, a few beers and some snowmobiles.