Near death experience links Sturgis strangers for life - KOTA Territory News

Near death experience links Sturgis strangers for life


Six weeks ago, 68-year-old Ken Lueck was at the Sturgis Burger King, a regular stop for his regular meal before heading to a construction job east of town.

"I usually have coffee and an apple pie," Ken said. 

That same morning, 72-year-old John Gary and his wife decided to make a pit stop for breakfast before closing on his new home in Sturgis.

"I said Elaine, let's stop down to Burger King and have quick bite, and go from there," Gary said. 

The two men had never met.

But that changed in an instant when another customer noticed Ken was slumped over in a corner booth. He had no pulse.

"At that time, he hollered, does anyone know CPR? And apparently nobody did," John said. 

A former volunteer firefighter, John hurried to help.

"Thankfully, Ken was wearing bib overalls, and I reached over and I grabbed him by the straps on his bibs.  I pulled him through between the tables and laid him down on the floor," John said. 

John began chest compressions, something he hadn't done in 25 years. "And the only thing I could say was help me Lord." He kept it up for about ten minutes until paramedics arrived.

"I don't remember a thing until I woke up in the hospital," Ken said. 

Five weeks later, still hazy on what had happened, Ken tracked down John's phone number.  "I called him up and said, 'hi, is this John Gary?"

"And I said yes," John said. 

Ken introduced himself and said, "Well, you're the guy that saved my life."

And John said, "What a high, just to think that this man's alive."

Today, the two have a bond few share.

"I think we both agreed that we're going to be friends for the rest of our lives," Ken said. 

It's a friendship that wouldn't be possible without the courage...

"I did what I would hope somebody would do for me," John said.

And life-saving skills of a stranger.

Ken said, "I want to thank God for John Gary. Thank you John."

John Gary and the other customer who aided in saving Ken Lueck's life (Barry Bisbee of Rapid City) will be presented with a life-saving award from the Sturgis Police Department and City of Sturgis Friday night at six.

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