Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bernadine Ruth Thoreson Turner

Bernadine Ruth Thoreson was born January 20, 1921. She was the six child of seven children born to Sena and Peter Thoreson (one child died in infancy) on the Thoreson farm one mile southeast of Voltaire, North Dakota. Her father died from cancer when Burgundy was five years old. The whole family was grief stricken. He was the heart of the home. Everyone said, "Sena was never the same after Peter died." The responsibility was overwhelming. This plucky little woman managed to keep the farm going when all around the depression era caused many to lose their farms. The Thoreson farm was one of the largest with no hired help. The workload fell on all members of the family -- raising crops of wheat, corn and oats -- besides the vegetable garden, hay for the horses and cows. Also turkeys and chickens to care for. The household was up at five every morning milking cows by hand. The milk was separated from the cream in a separator. Most of the skim milk was used as food for the pigs. After Bernadine was older her job was cleaning the separator daily by hand.

The church was a quarter-mile from the barn. The land was donated by the Thoreson family. The church always seemed like it was part of the farm. Pete Thoreson, a Norwegian immigrant, was an accomplished carpenter. He helped build the church, the family house and farm buildings which are still standing thanks to good maintenance. The Thomas Thoreson third-generation still lives there and raises buffalo.

Bernadine and brother Vernon were sort of left on their own a lot. She was told to take care of her little brother. He called her “beenabean” when he first started to talk. They were very close and did everything together. Vernon really cried when she started school, he thought he should be able to go also.

Peter Thoreson bred horses for the military and workhorses. The Thoreson children always had horses to ride especially one pony named Tupsy Bernadine and Vern remembered very well. Pete’s horses were very special; it's been said that he traded one for 80 acres of land.

The children's school bus was a covered wagon with a pot bellied stove in the middle which burned coal. Bernadine lived just one mile from school so she could walk except in the winter when the horse-drawn wagon was equipped with runners to get through the ice and snow. Many children lived far from the school and the bus (wagon) driver started early to pick them up. Even after the automobile and better roads appeared it took a while to get a bus large enough to hold them all. Horses were still very much in use.

The railroad tracks joined the Thoreson pasture land and the steam from the train engines kept the grass green during the years of the drought. Bernadine herded cattle during the summer months. The cattle didn't venture much onto the tracks because there was no food for them there. At noon she herded them to the watering trough which were kept full by a windmill. A dog named Jack was trained to herd the cattle and her horse named Dusty helped Bernadine in this endeavor. One winter night a coyote fought with Jack and killed him. The family all grieved over the loss of their good friend.

Everyone went to church on Sunday, their social life was centered around the many church activities. On special holidays the lutefisk and lefse dinners were served. Lefse was a thin black potato cake made like a tortilla rolled up like a napkin with butter. They were baked on a clean top of the coal and wood burning stove.

Bernadine loved going to school. It was exciting. They played games, sang songs and most of all there were many books to read. She never tired of reading and learning from them.

There was no electricity on the farm until Bernadine was in high school. Everyone studied by kerosene lamp.

Bernadine was an honor student at the Voltaire high school where she graduated in 1939. She played the violin in high school band. In the band she played the trumpet. She was a member of the marching band and participated in vocal music and later soloing in church, weddings and country music festivals. She was also the editor of the monthly newspaper.

Bernadine graduated from Minot State Teachers College in 1941 with a two-year teaching credential. While there she was a member of the college band and concert choir that produced light opera like Gilbert and Sullivan.

A former high school teacher of Bernadine owned part of a resort on Lummi Island, Washington (Puget Sound). She offered a summer job to her and a friend in 1942. The environment and climate was beautiful and she wanted to go back again.

Bernadine taught school at Crary, Michigan City and Harvey, North Dakota. One summer vacation time in 1943 she visited Seattle, Washington, and accepted job during World War II at the Boeing Aircraft Corporation making parts for the B-52 bomber. She had a difficult time leaving his job in the fall but finally persuaded them that she was under a teaching contract. They were a little annoyed.

In 1949 Bernadine accepted a teaching position in Pe Ell Washington a small logging town. On New Year's Eve most of the teaching staff could not travel to their hometowns for the holidays because of the returning servicemen using up all the travel space. They decided to go to a New Year's Eve dance party. She was standing watching that when a handsome young man came across the dance floor and asked her to dance. His name was Maurice Turner who had just returned from Navy duty in the South Pacific.

On July 14, 1946, Maury came to North Dakota and they were married in the little Hjerdal Lutheran Church where Bernadine was raised.

The Maurice and Bernadine Turner family settled in Olympia, Washington. Maury worked for and was trained in a government-sponsored program in data processing and attended Harvard Business College there. Bernadine took a position teaching school in Boston Harbor, a suburb of Olympia, Washington. During this time Maury rebuilt a bungalow on the Boston Harbor Road. They sold the house and move to Tumwater, Washington, another suburb of Olympia, Washington, where Bernadine taught third grade at Tumwater school. All three children were born in Olympia.

(Mr. & Mrs. Turner later retired and lived in Anderson Valley from 1980 to 2003.)


  1. Mimi Fleige February 16, 2017

    Thank you so much for this wonderful essay. I know Mom is reading it in heaven and will be pleased.
    Our whole family misses her and remembers her for the fabulous person she was.

    Mimi Fleige,
    Bernadine’s daughter

  2. alicia davis February 16, 2017

    Mrs Turner was a wonderful, intelligent and heart-felt woman. She welcomed everyone in to her life with open arms.

    I will always remember these qualities about her.
    My sympathies to the whole family.

    With love,
    Alicia Davis

  3. Linda Turner February 16, 2017

    She was the best mother in law a wife could ask for. I married her “baby” boy Timothy and I think for a long time she found it hard to let him go. She taught me much! How to crochet, herbalism, plant lore, antiques, some cooking, . She loved and cherished her grandchildren, Adam and Sarah. And she got to meet and hold her first great grandson Nolan when he was 6 months old.

    We will always miss her so very much, but know that she is with the Lord and all of siblings and parents again.

    In the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, may she Rest In Peace.

    • Mimi Fleige February 16, 2017

      Thank you so much for your wonderful words Linda. Yes, we all learned a lot from Mom as she was very accomplished.
      As she is looking down from heaven she will love what you said.
      Our whole family will appreciate your comments.

  4. Dave Kooyers February 17, 2017

    Judith and I are very glad to have counted her as a friend, and fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Her warm smile and the kind words will be missed.
    Rejoice in the Lord, and sing His praises Bernie.

  5. Marolyn Peterman February 17, 2017

    It was a delight to know the Turners the many years
    we lived in Philo! Then in our last years there we
    shared Sunday morning Worship at Valley Bible Fellowship in Boonville, CA. We were blessed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *