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Death of Hines pilot felt by many

Friends and family joined this week in mourning the passing of an Air National Guard pilot killed July 28 in the crash of a C-17 aircraft in Alaska.

Major Michael Freyholtz, 34, of Hines was one of the four airmen aboard the craft when it went down shortly after take-off for a training flight in advance of an air show at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The four were honored at a memorial service at the base Aug. 2.

Freyholtz' father, Harvey was among those attending, as were his sisters Susan and Theresa and their brother, Shawn Schroeder, his former wife and their two children. His mother, Mary, remained at their home in Hines to care for Susan's children. She said arrangements will be made for a memorial service here later this month with the help of the local American Legion post.

Freyholtz was remembered fondly by two of his former teachers.

Donna Collison called his death devastating. She says in kindergarten the boy was already very mature, "very grown up and capable, someone you knew would grow up to be a responsible person."

Pat Kovar went further, saying Freyholtz was "everything you could ask for in a citizen, in a serviceman and in a person."

Kovar had chosen Freyholtz as a speaker in a high school Memorial Day observance. He described him as a person who was never in the forefront but someone "everybody knows will be a success."

In the Air Force and later in the Alaska Air National Guard, Freyholtz accumulated more than 3,500 military flying hours. He flew 600 combat hours in support of operations in the Middle East including Iraqi Freedom, for which he received the Air Medal.

He had left the Air Force and moved to Alaska three years ago and was the Air Guard's first air show demonstration pilot.

His mother described her son as a youngster who was always trying things to do. He'd ski and ride bikes and once he and friends rebuilt a car for the demolition derby at the Beltrami county fair.

She paid his first year's tuition at the University of North Dakota, but after that, the Air Force covered it. Freyholtz worked at the Air Base there, doing office work. During slack times, he went back to another boyhood activity, drawing pictures of aircraft on the ground and in flight. The pictures became an important part of the award ceremonies when they were presented to retiring or transferred officers.

Leafing through one of several folders, Mary looked at an "Academic All Star" sticker, a kindergarten report card, faded clippings from old copies of the American, and handsful of photographs "the kind of stuff mothers always seem to keep," she smiled.

Before her own retirement a few years ago, Mary had been postmaster in Hines for more than 20 years. Prior to that, she had been office manager at the Bemidji Pioneer for seven years.

Two daughters from her first marriage, Susan, Mrs. Rod Rock of Bemidji, and Theresa, Mrs. Max Mason of Nampa, ID, were adopted and raised by Harvey after he and Mary were married, and their brother, Shawn Schroeder, lives in Blackduck. Freyholtz was born while Mary worked for the Pioneer.

A year ago, Freyholtz was divorced from his wife, Kim, but they continued to happily share custody of their two children, Trevor and Fiona, 8. Freyholtz coached Trevor's Little League team.

A short time ago, there was a fire in the four-plex where Kim now lives. She was driving the two children to Freyholtz's apartment when Trevor saw the smoke from the plane crash. Turning to his mother he said, "I hope that's not your house burning. We've had enough bad luck."

He's nine years old.