Fortunately it is rare that game wardens die in the line of duty, but so many of these law enforcement officers in Minnesota met this fate that the state’s game wardens honor their fallen every year. Fourteen Minnesota game wardens had died while on duty since 1922. Their colleagues place wreaths on their graves every year during National Law Enforcement Memorial Week in May.
Much to their surprise, the state’s conservation officers discovered that a 15th game warden had died in the line of duty in 1941. This chance discovery came out as a result of a conversation at the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Riley. The executive director of the museum—a retired game warden—was talking to one of the board members who happened to mention that her father was a deceased game warden.
Retired game warden Jeff Thielen thought that Betty Masoner, 88, was mistaken, since he had never heard of the man. To uncover the truth, he put a retired police officer on the case who also happened to be a volunteer at the museum. Retired police officer and museum volunteer, Becky Putzke, uncovered newspaper articles about the death of Charles Masoner.
Masoner had a heart attack while he was helping to feed deer at Itasca State Park in 1941. This World War I veteran was only 50 years old at the time of his tragic death, and even his own daughter doesn’t remember much about him.
Now that the truth has been uncovered, Masoner’s service is honored along with the other 14 Minnesota game wardens who died in the line of duty.