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Local residents find familiar faces across the globe

Susan McKinney (left) visits with former Cloquet residents Fred and Alana Friedman after McKinney and her husband and the Friedmans had a chance meeting in Mumbai, India. Photo Courtesty of Mike McKinney

It’s one of those things that normally only happens in the movies. In a city halfway around the world, a Cloquet couple was astounded by who they found there.

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Cloquet’s Mike McKinney and wife Susan were on the first day of a Signature Worldwide Tour of India in late January when they stopped by the Gateway of India en route to Elephanta Island and its legendary caves.

“The Gateway of India is sort of like India’s version of the Arc de Triomphe,” explained Mike. “It’s the spot where Ghandi returned to India and the king and queen of England arrived to visit the city when the country was still under English reign. Now it’s a major tourist attraction and the center for various boat outings.”

Mike said he was making arrangements for the next phase of their trip when he heard someone behind him visiting with his wife.

“There are still so few Americans in India that the native people came up to us wherever we went,” he explained, “and several times a day we were asked where we were from.”

That’s why he didn’t think much when he heard a male voice asking Susan what country she was from and what state.

“That’s usually about as far as it went,” said Mike. “But when she told him she lived in the Lake Superior area, the guy asked her just where, and how close to Duluth, so I started to wonder.”

That’s when Mike turned around and saw just who was talking to his wife.

“FRED?” he exclaimed in astonishment.

The man turned out to be none other than former Cloquet resident and soon-to-be-retired Sixth District Chief Public Defender Fred Friedman!

Friedman and wife Alana were on a four-week tour around the world in celebration of his upcoming retirement after 42 years as an attorney.

“Who would have thought, in a city of 14 million people like Mumbai, that we would run into someone we know?” said Friedman with a laugh.

“We’ve occasionally run into people from home in places like Chicago,” said Mike, “but we never expected to see someone from Cloquet in a place like India!”

Unfortunately the two couples were both on the fast track to departing for other destinations so they didn’t have long to chat, but they did grab a quick photo.

The Friedmans continued on their way, returning home to Minnesota last week. Fred said one of his personal favorites was their visit to the ancient ruins in Greece. He added that several of their other stops were eye-opening indeed.

“We discovered that places such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore have truly become first-world countries,” he said. “The people tend to have longer lives and fewer infant deaths than even in the United States, and the children go to school far longer than students here do.”

The McKinneys went on to complete their two-week highlight tour of India, arriving back in Minnesota Sunday night. While on vacation, they visited an ancient crematorium still in use, a game preserve in the coastal city of Udupi and, of course, the famous Taj Mahal.

“It’s more astounding than any picture you see of it,” commented Mike.

While India was an intriguing place to visit, Mike said by the time they departed they’d had enough of what Susan termed the “eeriness and spirituality.”

“We were ready to come home,” Mike said.