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Once Upon a Time in Duluth: A snowball fight turned deadly

About 100 years ago: Two West End boys' hunting trip had a tragic ending.

A century ago, a snowball fight turned deadly in Duluth's West End neighborhood. Duluth News Tribune archive / News Bank

It’s been about 100 years since two teenage Duluth boys’ hunting trip devolved into a snowball fight and, ultimately, a case of manslaughter.

West Enders Joseph Luczak, 16, and Frank Dormal, 17, were in the woods above the boulevard at 33rd Avenue West in the early afternoon, the News Tribune reported. The latter had a high-powered rifle.

Dormal started the snowball fight, Luczak reported from his deathbed, and when he went to throw his own, his buddy stopped him.

“If you throw that at me,” he allegedly said, “I’ll shoot.”

“Before he was able to deliver the snowball from his hand, Luczak’s statement continued, Dormal fired,” according to the front-page story from the Nov. 30, 1921, edition.


Dormal carried Luczak to the boulevard and stopped an approaching car, whose driver took the victim to a West Duluth hospital. The bullet had gone through Luczak’s back and through his abdomen. At the time the account was written, he was given maybe 36 hours to live.

Luczak was lucid enough to tell Duluth Police Warren E. Pugh about the series of events: how he fell to the ground crying and said “I’ve been shot,” and how Dormal said he thought he had the safety on his Winchester.

On Dec. 2, 1921, it was reported that Joseph Luczak had died, leaving behind his parents, three brothers and a sister.

In March, Dormal was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to serve an indeterminate term at the state reformatory.

Christa Lawler is a features reporter for the News Tribune. She can be reached at .

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