The last thing Keith Lane of Great Falls remembered before blacking out was him and his father swimming to get back to each other.
We were swimming as hard as we could and fighting, he said.
While he was pulled from the water by rescuers he doesnt know, his father Henry Albert Lane, Jr. drowned. He was 68.
Henry Lane lived in Great Falls most of his life and retired two years ago from what was the Chester Telephone Company, now known as Tru Vista. He worked there for 44 years. Before that, Lane served in the U.S. Army for four years.
Just moments before he died, Henry and Keith were swimming in the ocean near the Myrtle Beach Travel Park, where the Lane family camped together, a long-held family tradition.
Nothing gave me and my father any warning, Keith said, adding that his father was a great swimmer. He and I were about chest deep, we were having a great time, he said.
The tides were changing, he said. We got overwhelmed by a wave and I got sucked under.
Keith said he was being carried into the ocean and he started swimming toward his father.
He comes to reach for me, and all of a sudden he was swooped up. We fought for so long, and we both just gave out.
A hard worker
Chuck Crocker, who started at the telephone company at almost the same time as Henry, said Lane was well respected among the companys employees.
Having worked by Lanes side on the job, cleaning up after ice storms and hurricanes, Crocker said Lane was always one of the first to go to work.
One time a backhoe had dug up a cut cable, leaving a gaping hole in the ground, and then left to do another job. The hole needed to be filled, Crocker said, but Henry said we dont have time to wait for the backhoe.
Thats when Lane grabbed a shovel and started shoveling.
He couldnt wait to get on to the next job, Crocker said.
There were only a couple bucket trucks to go around then so telephone linemen climbed poles with hooks on their feet, Crocker said.
We would kid Henry that he would wear his hooks into the restaurant to eat.
Crocker said he was devastated to learn of Lanes death.
The two, along with several other friends, had a tradition of eating breakfast together on the second Tuesday of every month. Crocker last saw Lane in June, before his last trip to the beach.
Henry why dont you just move to the beach? Crocker recalls kidding him. It would easier for you just to live down there.
Lane replied he had grandchildren to see.
Loyal to friends, family
Keith Lane said his father was his best friend and a peacemaker in the family.
He never took nobodys side. He said whatever words were needed to make whatever peaceful for everybody, he said.
Spending time with his grandchildren, and doing whatever made everybody else happy is what Henry would do, Keith said.
The family had been going to Myrtle Beach for years around the Fourth of July holiday, said Jaime Lane, Henrys daughter-in-law.
That was what he loved to do, to be at the ocean, she said.
Chris Lane, Henrys other son, said that as far back as he can remember the family took the camping trips. His father loved to cook everyone breakfast bacon, sausage, eggs, and pancakes, he said.
He waited until everyone got up and he would ask us what we wanted, Jaime said. It was like his own little buffet.
Neighbors remembered Lane for his generosity.
Neighbor Bill Knopf recalls the last thing he asked Lane to do for him.
He was a telephone man, Knopf said. He climbed up and put me a yard light up, and he fished in my pond, another of Lanes favorite activities.
Id see Henry walking around and around the pond trying to catch him a fish, Knopf said.
When Knopf needed fertilizer for his pond, Lane offered to go to town for pick it up.
Well be lost here without that man, Knopf said. He was such a good neighbor.