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Mother Marie

Thursday afternoon, Marie Paulson's one-bedroom apartment at the Ambassador Motel doesn't show a sign of the disturbing events from the night before, when an unknown man pushed his way into the place and took money from the 85-year-old woman.

Thursday afternoon, Marie Paulson's one-bedroom apartment at the Ambassador Motel doesn't show a sign of the disturbing events from the night before, when an unknown man pushed his way into the place and took money from the 85-year-old woman.

Stuffed animals line the green sofa in her cozy sitting room, photos of Paulson and her husband, who died about 13 years ago, hang from one wall, while photos of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are propped in neat frames on shelves.

A desk marks the threshold of Paulson's office, blocking the entrance to her sitting room. Her apartment is part home, part business.

It was here Wednesday night that a man pushed his way into her home, pushed her onto her bed and stole money from her, Paulson said.

Paulson has been managing the motel in south Grand Forks for the past seven years. Before Paulson started running the motel on her own, she and her husband, Carl, managed the place from 1984 to 1991.


And never once in the time that she's been at the motel has she ever feared for her personal safety - until Wednesday evening.

There are 20 rooms for let at the Ambassador. People can stay there on a month-by-month basis. Some tenants, like Jack Bundy, from Grand Forks, stay for years. But Bundy, who was at the motel Thursday to check on Paulson, moved out of the place because it was becoming "too bad," he said.

Paulson said she's used to dealing with people who have dependency issues, whether that involves alcohol or drugs.

"I can overlook anything and everything," she said. "But (Wednesday) night. That was totally unexpected."

Paulson said she did not recognize the man. He stopped by the motel about 4 p.m. Wednesday, she said, asking for a room. But all the rooms were occupied.

The man left at that time, according to Paulson.

She was talking on the telephone Wednesday night when there was a tap at the motel office's (her apartment) door. When she looked up, she saw the man she turned away earlier.

It was then she made a decision that she now regrets. She opened the door to tell the stranger once again there was no room for him there.


And that's when he pushed his way into her home, grasping her right arm and her neck and forcing her into her bedroom. Paulson's voice, which is already soft and whispy, breaks and weakens at this point in her story, and she covers her face with both hands, her head shaking in disbelief.

"It scares you," she said. "You live in fear."

The motel room, her home, was always a safe spot before.

And her tenants, though many have their issues, have never made her fear for her safety, she said.

"We communicate a lot," she said.

And usually, the 4-foot, 11-inch great-grandmother can bring tenants under control.

"I can yell," she said.

Her tenants agree.


"Looks are deceiving," said Stacey Charles, pointing at Paulson. Charles has lived in the motel for 11 months. Paulson will haul tenants to their room and tell them to stay there if they've gotten out of hand, she said. And they usually stay there.

"Usually, it's Marie baby-sitting us," said Liz Bare, another 11-month tenant.

"She's the surrogate mother," said another tenant, Chris Strebig, who stopped by to make sure Paulson was OK after Wednesday's ordeal.

Tenants surrounded her Thursday afternoon, asking what happened, and asking how she was.

"She's the most giving lady I've ever met," Bundy said. "Everybody here owes her big time."

He was living in his truck nearly six years ago when he went knocking at Paulson's door. Although all the rooms were full, she cleared out a storage unit so Bundy could have a place to sleep until a room emptied.

"She's done her time here," Bundy said, saying it was time for Paulson to leave the motel business.

But she said she loves the job.


"I always said when I quit work here, I'll be done working," she said. She added that she hadn't intended quitting until she was at least 91 years old. "I have six years to go," she said.

Paulson is staying with a daughter who lives near Grand Forks. She'll be running the motel during the day, and staying with her daughter at night.

"I would never be afraid to stay here if they could catch him," she said.

The incident remains under investigation and no suspect has been apprehended, according to Grand Forks Police Lt. Rahn Farder. Paulson described the robber as a "Hispanic" male about 30 years old, about 6 feet tall, and wearing a black hat, black jacket and dark colored jeans.

Anyone with information should call the Grand Forks Police Department at (701) 787-8000.

Nadeau can be reached at (701) 780-1118, or (800) 477-6572, ext. 118, or by e-mail snadeau@gfherald.com .

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