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.
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
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
Coulee Dam (all photos this page by Ron)
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
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.