For some reason, fate brought Joe Boever and Jason Ravnsborg together

OPINION — Fate.

That word came to me as we talked about the life and death of Joe Boever on Thursday, Sept. 17. I was in a ditch along Highway 14 on the west edge of Highmore, the exact spot where Boever died five days earlier, talking with his cousins, Nick and Victor Nemec.

Boever, 55, was apparently walking from his home in Highmore, a small town in Hyde County in central South Dakota, to his disabled pickup, which he had put into a ditch earlier that night.

As he strolled along the road at about 10:30 p.m., a red 2011 Ford Taurus driven by South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg came down the highway. Ravnsborg was headed home to Pierre after a Lincoln Day Dinner at a Redfield bar and grill.

Two lives came together at that exact moment. Two very different people, one a troubled man recently separated his wife, struggling with depression and a diagnosis of being bipolar.

Boever was in a “sullen” mood, his cousin Victor Nemec told me that day as we sat in the grass, inches from where his body was discovered. Boever was normally an upbeat, friendly guy, smart and good with people.

But he had his low moments, and the last time Nemec saw him, he was in a foul humor. Is that why he was walking in the dark, headed to a pickup that wasn’t capable of moving?

Or was it just a cruel fate?

The other man was at the peak of his career. Ravnsborg was elected attorney general in 2018, winning one of the highest offices in the state. He ran for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in 2014, finishing last in a five-way race as former Gov. Mike Rounds was nominated and later elected to the Senate.

Ravnsborg was undaunted. He was ambitious and it showed, as he took on former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler in the 2018 attorney general’s race.

While Seiler had a much more impressive resume as a lawyer, he also carried a major handicap in South Dakota — he was a Democrat. Ravnsborg was elected and his political career was launched.

That’s likely why he attended the GOP event in Redfield. It was a personal appearance, not an official one, so he was driving his own car. He has a history of speeding — six tickets in recent years — so he was not exactly crawling along.

No, his vehicle was moving at highway speed as it entered the 65-mph zone just west of Highmore. It caused tremendous damage to Boever when it slammed into his body, killing him almost immediately.

It was a horrific fatal crash. Was that the fate of these two men?

What brought them together at that exact moment? A few seconds either way and Boever is still in town, not yet at the highway. His life would have continued, and hopefully improved.

If Ravnsborg had left Redfield a minute or so earlier, he would have already been past.

Fate.

What caused the accident to happen? Was the attorney general distracted? On his phone? Drunk or at least affected by alcohol?

He says not, as does the public relations specialist speaking on his behalf.

Why was Boever there? Why was he walking along the edge of a two-laned road in the dark?

Was he suicidal? His cousins Victor and Nick Nemec say no. They said he had rejected the idea of suicide no matter how difficult his life was at times.

Fate. Is that all that brought the two men to the same spot at the same time?

It reminded me a fatal crash I covered almost 25 years ago. An employee of a Brookings glass company had the day off and was working on the roof of the rural home that he and his new wife planned to move into soon.

A client called the office and asked for a rush job. He was willing to pay extra. The wife, who worked as the company’s receptionist, called her husband — his cell phone didn’t always answer out in the country, but it did that morning.

Fate.

She asked if he wanted the work — with extra pay, remember. He did, coming off the roof and changing into his work clothes.

He drove south down Highway 77 and was almost to the client’s home when a young man from Clear Lake, driving a large truck, raced through a stop sign just as the glass truck drove past.

I had covered a feature story on the misuse of rock from the Pipestone, Minn., quarry that morning — people were making pipes for recreational purposes, an abuse of the sacred stone. The interview and photos were done and I was headed home to write it for the Argus Leader.

My then-wife Jill was with me; she had lived next door to the glass guy and he had been very kind to her and her daughter. As we drove up to the accident scene, we saw the demolished truck, with shattered glass scattered all around.

Jill thought she recognized the truck. It was her former neighbor’s, she said. What are the odds, I said. That company has several identical trucks.

But I checked on it when I got home, and she was right. It was his truck.

He had been killed instantly. Sadly, when authorities called the company to inform them of the fatal crash, they had no idea the woman who answered the phone was the wife of the dead man.

Cruel fate.

What if his phone hadn’t worked? What if he had been a few seconds faster or slower in the shower? What if the kid had stopped for the sign, or at least slowed down?

Fate.

I don’t know if our lives are altered by random chance. Are we predestined for events? Is there any rhyme or reason behind major occurrences that shape our life?

Sitting in the grass where a life ended suddenly, violently, senselessly, it doesn’t seem like it. It just seemed like a horrible twist of fate.

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