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Duluth architect found dead along Utah hiking trail

A missing Duluth man out hunting for fossils was found dead outside a small Utah town Friday, after authorities followed a trail of footprints and discarded water bottles along a local hiking route.

Robert Berquist, 66, was last seen Thursday morning leaving Red Cliffs Lodge located 14 miles north of Moab, Utah. The Grand County Sheriff’s Office became concerned about his well-being when Berquist’s vehicle was discovered unmoved later that day. Berquist was an architect known for his work designing area buildings such as Duluth’s Flame Restaurant and various Grandma's Restaurants projects.

Leading an overnight search, rescue and safety personnel followed footprints and water bottles to Berquist’s body, which was identified at 2 a.m. Friday, 15 hours after Berquist left the lodge on a fossil-finding expedition, authorities said.

Berquist’s body was flown to the Emergency Operations Center in Moab and was later transported to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office in Salt Lake City.

Daytime temperatures in Moab, a desert-like region of Utah, reached the mid-90s Thursday.

An autopsy is pending.

Berquist was a longtime architect in Duluth, spending time at LHB – formerly Larsen, Harvala and Berquist – in the 1970s and 80s, before starting his own firm, Robert A. Berquist-Architect, P.A.

He designed the Duluth Flame Restaurant and the Comfort Suites in Canal Park, but he spent a large portion of his time drawing up plans for Grandma’s Restaurants.

“He was tremendously bright, always thinking ahead,” said Andy Borg, owner of Grandma’s, and Berquist’s longtime neighbor on Park Point. “It’s hard to believe how many things he had his fingers on. He was pretty much our architect.”

Berquist designed two houses for Borg, and the pair became close over the years, Borg said. The two men enjoyed riding motorcycles together, and they fixed homemade sausages in their spare time.

A nature enthusiast, Berquist and his wife, Jody, loved to travel, Borg said. The couple had three daughters, all grown up.

According to Borg, Berquist was in good health. He had recently undergone knee surgery, but he lifted weights daily and hiked regularly.

He was vacationing with his wife when he was reported missing.

“I have a feeling he got off-path and got lost,” Borg said. “He didn’t just walk down sidewalks – where everyone else had been. I think he got lost, and the heat got to him.”

Borg said he has been in frequent contact with Jody Berquist for the last few days.

A phone call to Jody Berquist on Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.