Fire takes life of former GF prosecutorFred Arnason, a longtime Grand Forks attorney and prosecutor, died Wednesday from effects of a fire at his home at 4841 Lark Circle. He was 84.
By: Chuck Haga, Forum Communications , The Jamestown Sun
Fred Arnason, a longtime Grand Forks attorney and prosecutor, died Wednesday from effects of a fire at his home at 4841 Lark Circle. He was 84.
According to the state fire marshal, the fire started Tuesday night in Arnason’s kitchen. Family members discovered the fire and Arnason, who lived alone, was taken by ambulance to Altru Hospital, where he died about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The fire remains under investigation, according to the Grand Forks Fire Department.
“He was a great dad and has been a super grandfather, and he taught me to be a good attorney,” said his son Joel, who joined his father’s law practice in 1981 and took over when Fred Arnason retired.
“I am where I am today because of him,” Joel Arnason said.
Fred Arnason retired from the state’s attorney’s office after 25 years there on the last day of 1992. In one day in that final week, he handled 32 court appearances, most involving driving under the influence, driving under suspension or minor in possession of alcohol.
He was honored at a farewell party in the Memorial Clubrooms at the Grand Forks County Courthouse.
“He was a gentleman, thoroughly honest and upright,” said Kirk Smith, a former county and district court judge and onetime Arnason partner.
“My first practice here in Grand Forks was with him, in 1959,” Smith said. “He brought me to town and helped set me up, and I worked with him until I went on the bench in 1963.
“He knew the law and was a person you could depend on, a model partner and friend.”
Fred Arnason became an assistant state’s attorney in 1967, working part-time until the position was made fulltime in 1989. While he was part-time, he maintained a private law practice, in later years practicing with son Joel.
In a 1989 Herald story on sons following their fathers in work, Joel Arnason said, “At a very early age, I realized my dad was doing something that appealed to me. I like working with him. He’s so thorough. He never leaves a stone unturned. I like his analytical mind.”
On Thursday, Joel Arnason said he’d stand by those words. “I don’t know it can be said better than that,” he said.
Fred Arnason was acting state’s attorney and briefly state’s attorney in the early 1970s. He ran unsuccessfully for county judge in 1986, but at the time of his retirement he said he had no regrets about losing.
“I would just as soon be on this side of the bench,” he said.
Not that the prosecutor’s role in sending people to jail is often enjoyable, he said. “I have a duty to see that justice is done,” he said in 1992. “If I can’t convince a jury they’re guilty, then they’re not.”
Arnason was born on a farm near Langdon, N.D. His family moved to Grand Forks when he was 12. His nine siblings included triplet sisters born in 1931, the only set of triplets in the city at the time.
Arnason and his wife, Helene, raised seven children in Grand Forks and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2003. Helene Arnason died in 2004.
The North Dakota Bar Association recognized Arnason recently as a 60-year member of the lawyers’ group.
Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Amundson Funeral Home with a prayer service at 7. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Family Church.
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.