Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Didrik Thompson, the son

Didrik “Dick” Thompson, born 1885

Dick has appeared briefly in a couple posts, once as an immigrant, and once when he was a guard at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909. Since I just recently became acquainted with a new cousin who connects to this family, the granddaughter of Dick’s half-brother, Gjert Didriksen, this seemed like a good opportunity to do a slightly more in depth feature of Dick with pictures. Some of this will have appeared in those earlier posts. The surname Thompson is found also spelled Thomsen and Tomsen on the records.

Didrik or Dick Thompson was the son of Didrik Andreas Thomsen and Sigrid Berentine Serene Andersdatter Dahle and was born 3 October 1885 in Bergen, Norway. He just might be the reason I keep so many family pictures and papers since he was a prodigious scrapbook keeper. I did know him and remember him fondly. Among the many things he kept to put in his books were school papers with the grades so I know he did very well in school. All his grades are high marks.

Dick’s family consisted of his mother, father and two sisters, one older, Anna,

Anna Thomsen, born 1875

and one younger, Alfhild. Another sister, Alfhild Dorothea born in 1889, died as an infant or small child.

(Harriet) Alfhild Thompson, born 1894

He loved his mother and his sisters but didn’t like his father, Didrik Andreas Thomsen, or perhaps more accurately did not respect him much as a man. As we uncover more information about his father I can understand better where that came from. His father was an artist and it looks like it was a feast or famine existence for the most part with famine being the norm. The family lived in an apartment in Bergen near Mariakirken. Dick’s mother took in laundry and washed windows to earn extra money to help support the family while his father dressed well and engaged in several liaisons with various other women. To date I have identified four additional children: Gjert Didriksen, born 1889, Andrea Judithe, born 1902, Dora born 1907, and Ragnhild born 1910 with oral history suggesting that there was at least one more illegitimate son. It does make me wonder how many more children he had that we do not know about yet.

Dick’s mother, Sigrid, fell to her death in 1901 while washing windows in an upper story window of the apartment building where they lived. There was enough suspicion of foul play to require a police inquiry. The final determination was that it was an accident. His father’s sister, Gjertine Elisabeth Strandrud, had married and left Norway for America. She was living in Seattle about that time. Although she had a large family of her own she thought it might be better if Dick came to live with her than stay in Bergen after his mother died. Dick waited until he was 18 years old and then he left Norway in 1903 to come to America and live with his aunt and uncle until he could get established and on his own. It was only a few years later than his aunt suggested that he send for his younger sister, which he did. Both Alfhild and Dick attended Pacific Lutheran University for a period of time. As is evident from the photograph of Dick as a young man he was very handsome. When he would try to get his aunt to compliment him on his looks she would laugh and say, “Anyone can be good looking, it’s the character of the person that is most important.”

Dick was working on the railway between Seattle and Portland when he met Clara Lorig through her uncle, Trygve Landaas. Both Tryg and Dick were members of the Bergen Club and that is how they became good friends. Dick was 11 years older than Clara and that may be why he persisted his courtship of her as Clara’s father, Edd Lorig, had been driving all the other younger men off. Edd did not think anyone was good enough for his daughter. They did not exactly elope but Dick and Clara waited until Edd was in Alaska and then married in 1917.

Wedding photo of Clara Lorig & Didrik “Dick” Thompson, 1917

Dick and Clara had two daughters, my mother and her sister. Mom passed away last November at 92 but her sister is still living and will be celebrating her 94th birthday this month. Unfortunately, Clara was just recovering from the Spanish influenza when she went into labor with her second child, the doctor came to the house to deliver the baby but he had delivered another child that same day and did not use sterile instruments as a result of her already weakened condition and an infection Clara died within a week of giving birth to my mother in 1919. It was not possible for Dick to take care of two children, one an infant the other not quite one year old therefore after Clara’s death her grandmother’s sister, Petra Lee, adopted my mom and my aunt went to live with her grandmother, Maggie Lorig. Dick always kept in contact with his daughters, however, and both mom and her sister were told about their mother who had died.

Dick never truly got over the death of his beloved young wife who was only 22 years old at the time. He went to the cemetery every week for the rest of his life to place flowers on her grave. He did eventually remarry in 1936 and seemed content in his second marriage but he always kept Clara close to his heart. His second wife was Celia Skage who was the widowed sister-in-law of his own sister, Alfhild. She was a pastry chef at the Meany Hotel near the University of Washington. Celia had a son from her first marriage. Maggie Lorig became serious ill when my aunt was about five years of age and could no longer care for her. Celia’s son was already in a foster home in Stanwood so my aunt ended up in the same foster home. Dick and Celia did not have any children together. Celia died in 1951.

Dick was a Seattle policeman working in downtown directing traffic. He was immensely popular. People visiting the city would seek him out. He appeared on the cover of magazines and was endlessly written up in the newspapers. His scrapbooks are overflowing with clippings. At Christmas people would drop off gifts for him in a barrel at his intersection. He sang with the Norwegian Male Chorus and played the piano some. He liked to cook and was famous within the family for his raspeballer—potato balls with salt pork in the center. They were delicious hot or sliced and fried the next day.

Dick Thompson directing traffic in the 1920s

After Celia passed away he took a vacation trip to Norway and that trip was written up in the papers too.

Dick Thompson, 1952 on the way to Norway for a visit

Dick with his two daughters.

I think he strove to be an honorable man of integrity and that his choice of a career also demonstrated that desire. Dick died in 1968. Alfhild married Olaf Pedersen Skage. They had one daughter, Helen. Alfhild died in 1974 in California. Anna remained in Norway and married Harold Andersen. They had one son.

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