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On first day of school, state trooper escorts kindergartener whose life he helped save five years earlier

Lt. Paul Stricker helped save the life of then-6-week-old Elise Lonsbury along a busy freeway.

WAYZATA, Minn. —
Elise Lonsbury had everything set for her first day of kindergarten.

Green jumpsuit: check.

Sparkly shoes: check.

Carrot backpack: check.

But Elise’s first-day-of-school list was likely the only one that included a state trooper.

Credit: Chad Nelson/KARE 11
Lt. Paul Stricker of the Minnesota State Patrol escorts 5-year-old Elise Lonsbury to her first day of kindergarten.

“Five years ago, I would have never guessed that we'd be doing this,” Lt. Paul Stricker of the Minnesota State Patrol said.

As Elise entered Deephaven Elementary for her first day of classes, Stricker walked side-by-side with the 5-year-old on her way to the kindergarten classroom.

It’s a moment that might never have happened if Stricker and a nurse hadn’t stopped their cars on a busy freeway to save Elise’s life.

“It's one of those things that I'll never forget about,” the veteran trooper said.

Elise was 6 weeks old at the time. 

She’d woken up listless. 

Her mother, Kristin Lonsbury, was driving her daughter to the hospital when she was startled by choking sounds coming from Elise's car seat.

Credit: MN State Patrol
Lt. Paul Stricker (left) and nurse Virginia Marsh (far right) pose for a photo with Kristin Lonsbury and her daughter Elise in November of 2017.

Lonsbury quickly steered the car to the side of busy Interstate 394, just west of downtown Minneapolis. She pulled her daughter out of the car seat.  

“We were on the side of the road in the weeds. She was unconscious; I could not get her to wake up,” Kristin Lonsbury said. “I had thought, in that moment, my child was dying.”

Lonsbury needed an angel. 

She got two. 

Virginia Marsh, a nurse on her way to work, and Stricker, who just happened to be driving by, worked together to keep Elise alive until an ambulance arrived.

“Something touched all of us that day that made our paths cross for the right reasons and it was a blessing,” Stricker said.

Credit: Chad Nelson/KARE 11
Miniature replica of Lt. Paul Stricker’s Minnesota State Patrol badge.

Elise spent the next five days in the hospital. Turns out her breathing problems initiated with a virus, from which she made a full recovery.

Kristin Lonsbury retrieves a letter, now in a frame, Elise received from Stricker one year after the rescue. 

“While you are too young to understand,” the trooper wrote to Elise, “I will always be here for you as your guardian.”

To emphasize the point, Stricker had made — and put on a gold chain — a miniature replica of his badge.

“It’s her most prized possession,” Kristin Lonsbury said.

Credit: Chad Nelson/KARE 11
Five-year-old Elise Lonsbury starts kindergarten with Lt. Paul Stricker by her side.

Like the jumpsuit and sparkly shoes, the badge also landed on Elise’s school list.

“Special badge,” she said. 

Elise’s mom first floated in jest the notion of Stricker escorting Elise to her first day of kindergarten.

But when Stricker offered to make himself available, jest became reality.

Kristin Lonsbury invited Marsh, too, who was unable to get away from her nursing job.  

So, on the first day of kindergarten, Elise greeted Stricker in the school parking lot with a hug.

Then, the uniformed officer took Elise’s hand and walked her into the school.

“To have Paul here is really special for her,” Elise’s mother said. “I hope she never forgets the moment.”

Credit: Chad Nelson/KARE 11
Five-year-old Elise Lonsbury handles the badge necklace given to her by Lt. Paul Stricker.

At the classroom, Elise high-fived her mom before hugging her dad and big sister. 

Then, one final hug for Stricker.    

“Have a fun time at school, OK,” Stricker told Elise.

How different things might have been if not for a quick-thinking nurse and state trooper.

“To see her as happy as she is today is pretty special,” Stricker said.

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