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Dr. Thomas Grams

Afghan shooting victim buried in Park Rapids Saturday

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A gentle soul who belonged to the world was laid to rest today in this small Minnesota town he grew up in.

Dr. Thomas L. Grams, 51, was assassinated Aug. 6 in a remote region of Afghanistan while he and nine medical relief workers were administering dental and eye care to impoverished Afghans.

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The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Grams, a 1977 graduate of Park Rapids Area High School, was a member of International Assistance Mission, a medical team operating in Afghanistan's Badakhshan Province.

The epitome of "Minnesota nice," Grams had sold his share of a flourishing dental practice in Durango, Colo, four years ago to spend his retirement per-forming charitable work in underprivileged countries.

The IAM group was ambushed and shot. The Taliban claimed members were trying to illegally convert Muslims to Christianity, a claim Grams' family and the mission sponsors deny. A representative of IAM broek down when she told Grams' congregation how sorry she was for the loss of life.

A traditional Lutheran service was held Saturday morning at Calvary Lutheran Church in Park Rapids, attended by former classmates, students and friends of the family.

He was remembered as an outdoorsman who loved rugged terrain and "could look at everybody and see a brother and a sister."

A DVD was played during the funeral service, narrated by Grams himself, showing his work in neighboring Nepal.

Footage showed Grams' gentle way with the children he treated, his bedside manner to calm their fears, and how receptive they were to him.

"This is a glimpse of how God used Tom in such a mighty way," said Pastor Stephen Norby.

Grams could be heard on the film repeatedly assuring the children what a "good job" they were doing. It seemed to be a universal language. They understood.

"Sometimes just to have enough food to eat is a real issue," Grams told the camera.

And poor dental hygiene resulted in tooth loss early in life.

"I appreciate better what I can do for somebody," he said quietly.

"To impact one persson's life, that's why I keep coming back." Grams has been on numerous medical relief trips to Third World Countries.

Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent Grams' parents, Paul and Irene Grams, a letter of condolence. They still live in Park Rapid, where Paul Grams was a beloved high school principal.

"His heroic and generous spirit" to "critically underserved populations" was moving, Clinton wrote.

"His contributions and sacrifices will not be forgot-ten."

In speaking with the Grams family, which also include Grams' identical twin Tim, and older brother Craig, Norby tried to convey what a loss Tom's death will be.

"It's a greater loss for Afghanistan," Paul Grams said.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Dr. Tom Grams Memorial Fund, c/o Katy Shaw, Global Dental Relief Project, 2230 Glencoe St., Denver, CO 80207, on-line http://globaldentalrelief.org/donate.html; Afghanistan Relief Organization, P.O. Box 866, Cypress, CA 90630, online www.afghanrelief .org; or the Dr. Tom Grams Memorial Fund, Kids 4 Afghan Kids, 9936 Hambleton, Livonia, MI 48167, on-line http://www.kids4afghankids.com/index.php.

Cards of sympathy can be sent to PO Box 322, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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