A local man, who lost his life in the water, is credited with helping save Fremonters millions of dollars in flood damages.
Area residents are mourning the loss of 90-year-old Charles Folsom, whose body was found in the Elkhorn River on Friday evening after a four-day search. Those who knew the veteran, who’d earned many medals during his career as a U.S. Marine, told how they will miss a man known for his directness, strength and honesty.
One friend, John Miyoshi, also believes Folsom’s work with the Rawhide Diversion Project has helped Fremont on more than one occasion.
Miyoshi, a retired general manager of the Lower Platte Natural Resources District, said it looked like the Rawhide Creek Project, which began in the 1970s, might not happen.
Folsom joined the board to see that the flood damage reduction project was completed.
And it was in 1993.
The project intercepts the Rawhide Creek, north and west of Fremont, letting only a small amount of water come through the town.
“Anytime there’s high flows, two-thirds of the flows are diverted into a ditch that we moved into the Elkhorn River, northeast of Fremont, so the floodwaters never enter the city.
“We’ve had three storms (since 1993) that were in excess of a 25-year storm event and it hasn’t flooded in Fremont,” Miyoshi said. “In each of those three events, there would have been millions of dollars of damage in the city of Fremont without that project.”
The project helped the city in other ways.
“Areas that were within the city limits that were in the flood plain were taken out and so some areas either paid flood insurance or could not be developed and so those were opened up for development and no requirement of flood insurance,” Miyoshi said.
The closest project to Folsom was a stream bank restoration project. Folsom had a large amount of erosion on a farm of his near the Elkhorn River, Miyoshi said.
Folsom constructed a massive project using broken concrete rubble to protect that land. The project was very successful and continues to work well.
Miyoshi spoke highly of Folsom, who also served on the Fremont Planning Commission and two terms on the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission.
“Chuck was a good friend and mentor to many of us,” Miyoshi said. “He had a lot of wisdom, a lot of experience and was always willing to share that with others.”
Other area residents paid tribute to Folsom.
“I remember him as a strong, honest, patriotic gentleman,” said Mayor Scott Getzschman. “When he was involved with a project, he was passionate about it and it made him a good person to work with over the years.”
“He was a good friend,” Fremont Police Sgt. Ron Giesselmann said. “He was a great person and mentor to sit and have a cup of coffee with and talk about the topic of the day.”
Attorney Rick Myers, 71, of Fremont was a child when his dad introduced him to Folsom.
Folsom’s grandfather, Charles Edwin Abbott, was a noted lawyer in Fremont.
“Chuck used to introduce me to people in a way that was endearing to me. He would introduce me as ‘That rarest of all rares — like my grandfather — an honest lawyer,’” Myers said.
Folsom’s family was a staunch Fremont fixture from the 1900s and thereafter, Myers said. They became farmers as well as a law family. The house Folsom lived in at 10th Street and Nye Avenue has been in his family for years.
A prepared statement from the Masonic Scottish Rite Lodge of Sorrow states that Folsom was born May 10, 1928, in Lincoln. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1945. After college from 1948 to 1952, he returned to active duty as a 2nd Lieutenant and would retire as a Major in 1976.
Folsom served for 30 months in Vietnam, from January 1966 to November 1968, and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, two Purple Hearts, Presidential Unit Commendation, Navy Unit Commendation, Distinguished Rifleman, U.S.M.C, Rifle Champion (1954), National Individual Rifle Champion (1955), and more than 20 other U.S. and foreign awards.
“He was a true Marine,” Myers said. “He carried himself ramrod straight. He shaved off the little amount of hair he had and he insisted whenever he wore his uniform that the medals would be perfectly in place. He was a Marine’s Marine.”
Myers noted Folsom’s other attributes.
“He was a very charitable guy, but he didn’t want anybody to know it, so his charitable activities were mostly anonymous,” Myers said.
Benefactors included youngsters in the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children in Fremont.
“He’d do little things like he’d find out the kids needed something for Christmas, so one year he went out and purchased Visa gift cards for each of the kids, but he didn’t want anybody to know who did it,” Myers said.
Folsom had been part of the Masonic organization since the early 1960s and served in many different capacities throughout the years.
He was national president of the National Sojourners in 1985-86, as well as National Commander of the Heroes of ‘76 in 1975-76. To be Sojourners member, a person must be a Mason who was honorably discharged or who’s actively serving in the armed forces. Folsom was a Sojourner for decades.
Folsom and his wife, Emiko, met when he was stationed overseas. Myers said in the 1960s, Folsom paid for Emiko’s sister to come to the United States and live with them. She married one of Myers’ classmates, Bruce Spilker of London, where they live now.
“He (Folsom) did lots of little generous things like that—that never got very well publicized and he didn’t want people to know about,” Myers said, adding, “he was a lot like my great aunt Hazel Keene, who did the same thing.”
Myers said he believes Folsom collected some 1,400 Browning .45 caliber pistols. Folsom later donated those weapons, valued at an estimated $1.8 million, to the Browning Museum in Utah. Folsom wanted those pistols — some of which were one-of-a-kind — to be preserved. He wanted them to be displayed where others could see them.
“That tells me he was charitable to a fault, that a tough, old, grizzled, ramrod straight Marine, nonetheless, wanted to do something good for other people,” Myers said.
Myers appreciated Folsom’s other characteristics.
“I liked his brutal honesty,” he said. “He was absolutely candid and honest as the day is long. Sometimes, it took over any sense of tact. He would tell you what he thought. He was brutally honest and frank and he wanted everybody to be that way with him.”
Myers describes Folsom’s death as tragic but notes one good thing.
“Chuck would not have wanted to be in a hospital dying … and this way he got to fight for his life,” Myers said, adding something else about his longtime friend: “He was like a pistachio. He had a very tough, hardened exterior and if all you looked at was the outside, you’d say ‘What a stiff guy,’ but if you opened him up, you’d find a very tasty interior.”