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Alum Larry Buendorf saved President Ford's life in 1975
Thwarted would-be assassin
Minnesota State Mankato alumnus Larry Buendorf talked with former President Gerald Ford nearly every Sept. 5th for the last 31 years. That is the anniversary of the day that Buendorf saved Ford's life.
By Mickey Tibbits, The Free Press [published by The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 1/2/2007]
Nearly every Sept. 5th for the past 31 years former President Gerald Ford and Larry Buendorf, a native of southern Minnesota, chatted on the phone.
"The anniversary date was like a birthday," said Buendorf, who was Ford's Secret Service agent for several years. "I almost always talked to him on Sept. 5th," he said. "It became a thing."
Surprisingly, during these conversations on the anniversary of the attempted assassination, neither man discussed the event that made history when Buendorf grabbed the gun from Squeaky Fromme's hand.
Instead over the years they talked about their families, skiing plans and the other things old friends have in common.
"He lived a good life," said Buendorf, who not only served in the Secret Service when Ford was president, but also was assigned to protect him after he was out of office.
Buendorf, who attended Ford's private memorial services for family and friends in Palm Springs over the weekend, had visited the former president and gone skiing with him over the years.
"He was a great leader," said Buendorf. He described Ford as "a man who loved his country and his family ... every day of his life."
During a telephone interview, Buendorf, who is now the head of security for the Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, described the events of Sept. 5, 1975.
"I was in a right place at the right time," said Buendorf. "If I had been looking someplace else, who knows how history would have changed."
Ford had just given a speech in Sacramento and decided to walk, rather than ride, to the State Capitol. According to Buendorf, the president was shaking hands with people when suddenly a woman dressed in red pointed a .45-caliber handgun at him.
Buendorf, then 37, said he quickly stepped in front of Ford, grabbed the gun from Fromme's hand, wrestled her to the ground and held her while the president was rushed away by other agents.
Fromme, a disciple of mass murderer Charles Manson, had cocked the hammer but luckily there wasn't a bullet in the firing chamber. Buendorf later learned there were four bullets in the gun.
"When you're looking down the barrel of a gun, you do what you need to do," said Buendorf. He admitted, however, that after things had calmed down he thought about what might have happened.
Buendorf graduated from Wells High School in 1955 and received a degree in business from Mankato State University in 1959.
"I have a brother in Hopkins, nephews in Minneapolis, aunts and uncles in Wells and friends in Mankato," he said. "I can get into my Minnesota accent in no time at all," he joked.
After a stint as a Navy pilot, Buendorf said he applied to both the FBI and Secret Service. He started his 22-year career with the Secret Service in Chicago, investigating counterfeiting.
Buendorf also guarded Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter during part of their terms. But he spent the most time with Ford, a man he came to admire for the way he treated people, including the Secret Service agents.
"He was kind and considerate," noted Buendorf.