Recent generations

My great-grandfather, Marion Clifford Terpening (1856-1934) was known as the Potato King of North Dakota for the many acres of potatoes he planted in New Rockford.

My grandparents, John Charles and Olga May Terpening lived on a sixty-acre farm in Ferndale, Washington, and owned a construction company called Terpening and Sons. John Charles, better known as Fritz, and his three sons, Harold, Earl, and Myron, worked on Grand Coulee Dam and built many other bridges in the state of Washington after a series of floods in the 1940s. John Charles died on January 12, 1953, when he was hauling a pile driver on Interstate 5 from Portland, Oregon, to Ferndale, Washington. The truck he was driving veered off the side of the Nisqually River bridge, which he had earlier built himself. His wife, Olga, following behind in the family Studebaker, watched her husband (who might have had a heart-attack) burn to death at the bottom of the ravine.

Olga eventually left the farm and moved into Ferndale, where she lived in this house, located across the street from the 1st Baptist Church, where her husband's funeral rites took place.

To commemorate our grandfather, every time my siblings and I saw a junction sign, abbreviated JCT, we shouted out: "There's the sign for John Charles Terpening!"

1st Baptist Church, Ferndale

My father, Harold (born in Port Hudson, Michigan, in 1918), started out in the Terpening & Sons construction business. On Grand Coulee Dam, a crane operator carelessly swinging a cement bucket once knocked him off the top of the dam. He saved his life by grabbing the bottom edge of the bucket and hanging on until he could drop into wet concrete on the return swing. Maybe that's why I have a careless crane operator in chapter one of my thriller Storm Track. Another time, following a fellow worker down a ladder on the outside of the dam, carpenters' tool boxes over their shoulders, Harold watched his companion fall to his death when a rung broke, saved from the same fate by chance.

hills near Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam (all photos this page by Ron)

Perhaps affected by these and similar events, including the death of his father, Harold, in a moment of madness that was to last a lifetime, became a born-again Christian, left the construction business (although he was to return to it often in order to make a living), and, along with his wife, Darlene (née Swartz, of Spokane, Washington), became an itinerant preacher who started several small churches throughout the state of Washington, including in Pateros, Wenatchee, Moses Lake, Warden, and Seattle.

<-- Previous page Next page -->

Contact Information at