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Grand Forks man who died on Minnesota lake remembered as warm family man

Peter and Anna Akinboro (Courtesy Anna Akinboro)

Anna Akinboro, the wife of the Grand Forks man who died on a Minnesota lake last week, said she was watching him ride a Jet-Ski—until she wasn't.

Peter Akinboro, 40, was far enough across the lake that at times, Anna could only see the waves the watercraft had thrown. When she couldn't see them anymore, Anna asked her sister-in-law to go look on another Jet-Ski to find him. But on a blustery day, all Anna's relative found was the Jet-Ski and a life jacket.

"We think maybe he thought that (the lake) was shallow on that end, and that there was a swimming area over there," she said. "He probably took off his jacket, put it on the Jet-Ski, not realizing how quickly the Jet-Ski can (drift).

"They think he may have went out, and then realized that he was losing the Jet-Ski, and went to swim after it, and then he went into deep water," she said. Her voice began to break. "And then wasn't able to catch it."

Peter Akinboro's disappearance occurred on Aug. 26 on West Battle Lake in Otter Tail County, about 25 miles east of Fergus Falls. It set off a days-long search, relying on dogs, sonar and even a plane overhead until his body was recovered on Aug. 30. Now, Akinboro said she's busy all the time, dealing with the difficult task of notifying her husband's network of friends and family around the country and beyond. He was "the guy who glued everyone together," she said, and the list is extensive.

"Our relationship has been centered around our faith and our religion," she said. "We were very much a spiritual couple, and I think that my faith is kind of what's keeping me going."

The incident brings a marriage not even one year old to a jarring end after it had barely begun, with a man Anna Akinboro said seemed perfectly suited to her. The pair met at the library in Woodbury, Minn., where she was seated next to a quiet area. Suddenly, a man emerged, talking loudly and obnoxiously on his cellphone.

"Then Peter came out to take a call next to me. He was very quiet, very polite. He was tiptoeing," she said. "Then he looks over at me, and he says, 'Oh, I'm so sorry.'"

Anna, laughing at the contrast, chatted with Peter and exchanged phone numbers. He was interested in attending church, just like she'd hoped he'd be. They were married last year, and Anna Akinboro said he had grown close with her young son.

Peter had already published a novel, she said, and worked odd information technology jobs as he pursued his next writing project. She added that, in the wake of Peter's disappearance, some reports have indicated that he was a poor swimmer. She disagrees.

"We always went swimming. That was one of our first dates, we went out to St..Croix, the river, and we swam in it," she said. "Sometimes if we had even just a couple hours to ourselves, nothing going on, we would go out to Turtle River, or we would go tubing. We actually loved the water a lot.

"But he wasn't a professional swimmer," she added. "And I think the wind conditions that day, you maybe needed to be a professional swimmer."

Madonna Hajicek, Anna's mother, said Peter was a joy to welcome to the family—he was cheering on Anna's son at his baseball games, staying level-headed when tempers flared and growing closer with his new set of extended relatives.

"He was really humorous," Hajicek said. "I thought I was the funniest person in the world, the way Peter laughed at everything"

Peter was Nigerian, and came to the U.S. when he was young as his father pursued a college degree. His middle name is Oluwamayowa, Anna said, which means "God brings us joy." Given their happy time together—though shorter than it might have been—Anna said that's just how she feels.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108
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