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Elizabeth VonBank (Family photo)

Missing Nevis woman, 87, found alive; now back in Park Rapids

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

A three-hour search Tuesday for a missing 87-year-old Nevis woman ended when students on the athletic field spotted her in a baseball dugout.

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Elizabeth VonBank, 87, was reported missing about 10 a.m. after her daughter, Pat Edwards, attempted to contact her via phone at her residence on Pleasant Street. When she received no answer, she called a neighbor, Marge Wagenaar.

Wagenaar found the inside door open and her cane outside, but no sign of VonBank.

Law enforcement was contacted and the sheriff's department sent an alert via telephone to city residents. Citizens and students set off on a citywide search for the petite woman.

Family members were doubtful that VonBank, who reportedly suffers from dementia, would leave the yard as her mobility is limited.

But a camera at Northwind Grocery spotted what authorities believed to be VonBank walking at 3:30 a.m.

Temperatures were 17 degrees at 4 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Family members initially feared she may be clad in just pajamas, but she was seen via camera wearing pants, a sweater and shoes.

Meanwhile, law enforcement contacted Deb Plumley who arrived with her German shepherd, Scout, a trained trailing dog.

Scout tracked VonBank west on Main Street to her former residence and was an estimated minute-plus away from her location at the school when students found VonBank, who was suffering from hypothermia.

The 3-year-old dog is trained to track in a "high contamination," urban area and was not distracted by the sirens and ATVs, Plumley said.

"I am very, very proud of his work ethic," she said of the dog that trains specifically to find missing persons.

VonBank was found at approximately 12:45 p.m. and was bound for a Fargo hospital via helicopter less than an hour later.

Nevis School was on "lockdown" after VonBank was found and until the helicopter departed.

Son Mark VonBank reported Friday that Elizabeth VonBank is "doing much better." She is eating and will likely be released from the hospital in a couple of days, he said.

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Jean Ruzicka
(218) 732-3364
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