Woman dies in fall at Palisade HeadA former Silver Bay resident whose body was found last Thursday morning at the base of Palisade Head cliff apparently was enjoying a hike before starting a new job, the Lake County sheriff said Friday.
By: News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
A former Silver Bay resident whose body was found last Thursday morning at the base of Palisade Head cliff apparently was enjoying a hike before starting a new job, the Lake County sheriff said Friday.
The body of Margaret A. O’Leary, 48, of Hermantown, was recovered about 5:50 a.m. by the Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Squad. Sheriff Carey Johnson said it appeared to be an accidental death.
“She was just going to go back to work, and she was excited about that,” her family told Johnson.
O’Leary, a union construction worker who was an avid hiker, had taken pre-employment training Wednesday and apparently was enjoying one last weekday hike before the busy construction season, Johnson said.
About 15 members of the county search and rescue team responded. Members are familiar with the area that sees many rescue calls as it is popular with rock climbers and hikers.
Johnson said O’Leary was an active hiker. He said O’Leary’s husband last saw her about 6 a.m. Wednesday. He returned home in the late afternoon and became concerned when she wasn’t there. That evening he called the Hermantown Police Department and an “attempt to locate” call was put out to regional law enforcement.
A Lake County sheriff’s deputy found O’Leary’s 2005 Pontiac in the parking area just off Highway 61 at Palisade Head at 1:12 a.m. Thursday. The deputy had noticed the same vehicle parked there at 6 p.m. Wed-nesday.
Deputies using a bloodhound, along with the Silver Bay Police Department and Lake County’s volunteer rescue squad, found O’Leary and a rope rescue ensued.
Dan Olson, business manager for Local 1091, Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council, had known O’Leary for about four years. “She was a wonderful person, full of life,” he said.
O’Leary, who belonged to the Local, had worked on the DECC parking lot expansion and later the new DECC arena. More recently, she had worked as a general laborer at New Page Duluth paper mill, where the Local has a maintenance contract.
“She was liked by everybody,” Olson said. “I wish I had a dozen of her in the Local. … She was always ready, always available.”
O’Leary once lived in Silver Bay and worked for Northshore Mining for nine years “at a job she really loved in spite of the hard work,” her obituary read. In 1999 she married Brian O’Leary and they moved to Wisconsin.
They returned to Hermantown for jobs in construction. She was hired by Ulland Brothers of Carlton last summer.
Palisade Head, just northeast of Silver Bay, is part of Tettegouche State Park. It’s a popular destination for hikers and rock climbers, as well as tourists who enjoy its unobstructed views from 300 feet above Lake Superior.
Although it’s beautiful, it’s also dangerous, Johnson said.
“Anytime you hike along a cliff edge and/or rock climb, it’s dangerous, especially if you’re by yourself,” Johnson said. “You can’t call for help because no one’s going to hear you.”
It’s not unusual for the rescue team to be sent there, Johnson said. “Every so often we have somebody hurt,” he said. “We’ve had suicides there; accidents like this. It just happens.”
Among her surviving family is Nichole O’Leary of Finland. There will be a funeral service beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hovland, north of Grand Marais, where O’Leary was raised.