Genetic heart disorder took life of Pelican student at age 12

“Undetectable, untreatable and irreversible.” 

That’s how Curt Markgraf described the genetic disorder that took the life of his son, Tanner. His heart failed on August 27–only two days before his first day of school at Pelican Rapids junior high.

The genetic deficiency is in effect an “electrical interruption between the brain and the heart,” said Curt.  

The tragic loss of a 12-year-old boy who was an avid reader, fine young musician and great student prompted an outpouring of support from the Pelican Rapids community.  

A benefit will be hosted this Saturday, Dec. 1. A meal and silent auction event is at Trinity Lutheran Church from 4-7 p.m.; followed by a game night at the Pelican VFW club, from 7-10 p.m. 

Monetary donations can be dropped off at Bell Bank, Wells Fargo, or the VFW. 

“I’m completely humbled; blown away by the support and the kindness in this community,” said father Curt, who operates a home-based taxidermy business, serves on the Pelican city council and is an officer at the VFW. 

In depth genetic studies are ongoing, said Curt, following an autopsy at the Ramsey County coroners office. Histories of the extended Curt and Staci  Markgraf family have been gathered in attempt to research the uncommon genetic condition. 

“The coroner actually called me personally,” said Markgraf. “This probably happens more than goes on the record, because they usually don’t find it or even look for it…it is usually written off as a heart attack.” 

Tanner Markgraf

Often, it is categorized as an unexplained death for somebody in their 30s or 40s. But since it happened to a 12-year-old, it has drawn attention.  “That’s why we keep on digging,” said Curt. 

“The way the coroner described it, imagine if you’re in the dining room, and you shut off the light switch…That is as fast as you go from life to death,” said Curt. 

As a family, the Markgrafs tried to keep his death “low key,” but the community rallied over the past several months.  

“I’m uncomfortable…I’d prefer to be on the side helping out; rather than on the receiving end,” said Curt.  

But the community couldn’t be contained.  Dozens of people have been working on the benefit event.  In fact, there are special merchandise items being sold at the VFW; stocking caps and baseball hats, honoring Tanner.  

While Tanner joined his dad in fishing and hunting–including his first deer last season–Tanner was not a natural outdoors sportsman. 

The Markgraf family, from left, the late Tanner, Keirsten, Staci and Curt.

“He was such an animal lover, he didn’t really care for what I did,” commented Curt, about his taxidermy work. “He liked to look at animals more than kill them. His whole life, he always wanted to be a veterinarian.”

And–the young fellow was well on his way to an advanced degree, even in the sixth grade. He was among the top students. 

“Tanner was scholastically gifted; and I don’t say that as a partial dad–it’s just the truth,” said Curt.  “Reading and music were his passion. He read way beyond his years.” 

Tanner was proud of playing first chair in the clarinet section of the sixth grade band. As an avid chess player, he won the sixth grade tournament–and even defeated the chess instructor, noted Curt. 

Tanner was also captain of the school patrol, and attended the Legionville Safety Patrol Training Camp.