My Story by Theresa


My Story

By Theresa

My family moved to Oregon because of my health problems.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve been healthier than the rest of the family.  (This could be, in part, because Theresa was the only member of the family that never smoked.)

I can’t remember when I started babysitting my younger siblings but by the time I was 11 I was babysitting others children.  By 12 I was picking strawberries, beans and fruit with my sisters and when I was 14 I got a job cleaning a beauty shop to get my hair set once a week.  When I was 15 I was working summers at the cannery in Eugene and when I was 16 and a Junior in High School, I went to school in the morning and caught the bus to Eugene at lunch-time.  I ate my lunch on the bus and at the railroad yards I changed my clothes in a friend’s car then worked a half-day on the railroad’s first crew of women to work for them.  That was when they tore up the railroad tracks between Eugene and Springfield on Franklin Boulevard.  The railroad work gave me money for clothing and other things until I graduated. 

Right after graduation my dad took Edythe, me, Ginnie and Millie to work at the shipyards at Swan Island.  Millie was too young and had to return home.  Ginnie worked with a ship fitter, knocking the butterfly welds loose.  Edythe and I went to welder’s school and earned our Commercial Welders certificates. I thought I was in tall clover.  At the railroad yards I was earning $1.32/hr, at the shipyards I was making $3.20/hr.  I saved all I could the summer of ’43 so I could start college at UofO in October. 

I majored in art and minored in music.  At spring break I married my High School sweetheart, Aloyisus Koepl, on March 4, 1944.   I finished that year of college and that summer I spent two months with my husband who was working with the Forest Service at Mount Hood, building the ski lift above the lodge.  When they finished the ski lift he worked on making Forest Service maps.  I went home the first of August and went to work for Pacific Northwest Bell in Eugene as a toll operator.  I worked for five years there.  By the time Aloyisus was discharged from service I had saved $3,500, enough to lay the foundation for our home.  My folks deeded the property on the corner of Mill Street and J Street to us to build our home. 

Aloyisus and his brothers had their own sawmill on Big Fall Creek so Aloyisus was able to hand-pick the best lumber for our home.  It took almost five years to build it and by then I was pregnant with Robin.  I got real sick every time into the house because of the smell of paint, plaster and floor varnish so I had to stay with my folks next door until that cleared up.  Robin was born on July 25th, 1949.

Soon after Robin was born, Aloyisus left the mill with his brothers and went to work as a millwright for Weyerhaeuser’s.   Three years later Aloyisus started having trouble with confusion spells.  I tried to get him to go to a doctor but he kept putting it off and his spells got a lot worse.  Our marriage became unbearable and I left him in January 1955 and filed for divorce. 

He married a woman with five kids.  It wasn’t a good marriage.  One day he collapsed in his driveway and was in a coma for two weeks.  When he woke up he was paralyzed from the neck down.  They did exploratory surgery and found a large brain tumor.  He got surgical pneumonia and died in May of 1963.

After my divorce I married Don Redfield in Stevenson Washington on January 14, 1956.  Don was a sportsman for sure.  He loved fishing and hunting, especially in Central Oregon.  He was born in Nyack New York on July 10, 1914.  His family moved to Silverlake Oregon about 1920.  He
finished Grammar and Junior High and then had to go to High School in Lakeview.  He worked for room & board on a ranch and at a mill. 

He had a very close friend, Charlie, that helped him entertain at special celebrations.  He played harmonica and guitar and sang and Charlie sang with him.  He was the life of any party.  He loved to have a big garden so he could give half of it away.  I would can three or four hundred quarts a year.  He kept fish and venison in the freezer and we usually bought half a beef a year.  So we were set except for a few perishables like milk and eggs.  I baked our bread and pastries. 

Charlie and Mern Hill 1980

Charlie & Mern Hill

 

Don worked on the log pond for Booth Kelly Lumber Co. in Springfield.  He worked long hours and went on fire watch during fire season when the mill was shut down.  Several years later, Booth Kelly sold out to Georgia Pacific.  Don had a very social personality and got along well with everyone at Georgia Pacific and was promoted steadily until he was Log and Quality Control Supervisor and also Pond Supervisor.  He was also a timber cruiser for Columbia River Scalers.  He retired with 32 years seniority in 1978.  The next two years after retirement every day was planned out with where to go and what to do. 

On New Years Day in 1980 I was with my stepdaughter, Cindy, in Roseburg helping with her twin boys.  Cindy had Multiple Sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair and sometimes needed help.  Don called me and told me something was wrong and he was very sick so I came home immediately. 

(This is where Theresa’s narrative ends, I don’t know if the rest was misplaced or it just became too hard for her to complete.  However, I’m fairly familiar with subsequent events so I’ll do my best to complete her story)

I remember when Don retired and had every day planned out for the year ahead.  Patty and I were lucky to be in those plans and Theresa and Don visited us while I was stationed at Travis AFB.  We took them to San Francisco and scared the bejesus out of them in the back seat of our Toyota SR5 on the hills of the city.  Then we took them to Reno for the glitter and gambling, this was before there were any Indian Casinos and they really had a good time there.  It helped that they won a little. 

We had always kept in pretty close contact and whenever we were home for a visit we usually stayed with Theresa and Don as our home base.  So after Don retired we called back and forth quite a bit.  I soon became aware of a change in Don.  He was a stoic in an Indian sort of way and when I would call and ask how he was doing he started telling me about these health issues he was having.  That wasn’t like Don.  At first his doctor told him he was suffering from gastroenteritis.  This was the same doctor that was the mill doctor that he had been seeing for years.  Then he said it was colitis.  By the time Don finally saw a specialist the specialist said he had classic symptoms of cancer.  They operated and found that he had an enormous tumor on his pancreas and it had metastasized and spread everywhere.  They just sewed him back up and he died shortly after that. 

Theresa had buried her second husband and was living in the house on Loop Lane in Goshen that she had lived in for over twenty years.  Millie’s good friend Lorraine knew Theresa and introduced her to her widowed brother Jim Johnson.  Jim was a railroad conductor living in Ventura California and was visiting Lorraine.  One thing led to another and one day Theresa and Jim stopped by our vineyard in Fowler, California on their way to Ventura.  They stayed with us for a few days and then, on August 10, 1981, we met them in Reno where they were getting married.  I don’t remember specifically everyone that was there but I do remember short-sheeting their bed.

Theresa and Jim became very active in the Moose Lodge and Jim held an office with them.  They had a pretty active social life and they also owned a couple of homes on the coast where they would sometimes go in the summer to escape the valley heat.    Jim died on May 16, 2004 and Theresa has been alone since then.  She is currently living at the Tierra Rose Senior Living Community at 4254 Weathers St. N.E. in Salem, OR 97301.  Her telephone number is 503-851-4844.  Robin visits her every day and takes her out or home for dinner frequently and for holidays.   When she was living at Loop Lane by herself, Rob made a weekly trek down to take care of things and more often if she needed to be taken to the doctor or something.

Robin asked me to mention “that my mother enjoyed camping, fishing, hunting, cake making, and Japanese embroidery or Bunka. She once caught a 25″ 7 1/2 lb German Brown at Wickiup Reservoir and she has a lot of antlers including a big 4 point that she got at Chemult. She made a lot of wedding cakes including mine. I could not have found one that good anywhere else. She also embroidered dozens of Bunka pictures and has a shoebox full of ribbons from State Fairs and other competitions for her work.”

I’d like to add that I have one of her Bunka pictures and I’ve proudly had it on display for about 30 years now.  I remember Theresa playing the clarinet and the Steel and Electric guitar and she did some painting that she learned from dad too.  She always had a lot of talent in anything she tried.  Her cakes were really awesome and sometimes she had more to do than she had time for. 

For many years Theresa was the rock that I tethered to in the family.  She’d lived in the same house since I was in Junior High and had the same telephone number which I knew better than I knew my own.  Once Dolly called me from Perth Australia asking for Theresa’s phone number and I couldn’t believe she didn’t know it.  It was 503-747-9678 and before that it was Riverside 79678.  It never changed. 

Theresa, or Tippy as dad called her, never seemed to get in the petty squabbles that my other sisters engaged in.  She always seemed even-tempered and pleasant to me.  I don’t remember her having any serious disagreements with anyone and she is a good mother and sister.  She’s now the matriarch of the family which is ironic since she was the one that was sick and now she’s outlived everyone else.  Shows the benefits of a good and healthy lifestyle, doesn’t it.

Note: 

This is an addendum to Theresa’s story.  It was in her notes and I misplaced it when I did the original post so I’m adding it here This should have been inserted where Theresa was telling about being with Cindy in Roseburg and getting a call from Don telling her he was sick…

Don went from bad to worse and from doctor to doctor but none could find the problem.  I asked for the head surgeon.  He took x-rays and made tests and said Don needed immediate surgery.  He found cancer in the pancreas and it had spread throughout his abdomen.  They started chemotherapy but it was too advanced.  He died July 18, 1980. 

Don and mom were very close and enjoyed each other.  Their bond was their Indian blood, they were very proud of it.  (They both looked very Indian and could probably have started their own casino just on their looks.)

Last but not least we have a cat, Dirty Harry.  He’s an 8 year old Himalayan with Siamese like coloring, big black bushy tail, dark tiger striped head, black ears, thick hair like a Persian and light cream colored body.  At his shoulder he has a big brown (mink colored) saddle.  He got his name because he has so much hair and plays real rough.

 

 

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5 Comments on “My Story by Theresa”


  1. […] My Story by Theresa […]

  2. limberjack Says:

    Johnny pointed out that she hasn’t outlived me (yet).


  3. […] 2.  https://chronospots.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/my-story-by-theresa/  […]

  4. Patti K. Says:

    I was Theresa’s “daughter”, the girl next door on Loop Lane. She always wanted a daughter and I loved learning all the crafty things she knew. I went to visit her almost every day and she taught me Bunka, etc. I have one of her Bunka pictures also. She made my wedding cake. The night before the wedding she was in her living room and heard a noise. She went to the kitchen just as the cake was falling (she had put the layers on cardboard and it was getting soaked through!!) She grabbed the cake and was able to save it, but did have to do a few touch-ups!

    • Robin Says:

      Thank you for posting. I remember one time when she was stapling lace around the cake to the cardboard under the cake. When she was done, she couldn’t move the cake. She had stapled the lace through the cardboard to the counter top.


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