F R E D R I C K F U E R C H T E G O T T D U R T S C H I
Written and Copyright by Beldon Durtschi
A man's life history ought to be written by the man who experiences it. For anyone else to attempt such an important task is just short of absurd. Unfortunately, many men (and women and youth) don't ever get around to recording in writing the important events of their lives as they occur and at the time when these things are still vivid and detailed in ones mind. So the first preachment to be made in this story is that we should get our life stories down in print as they occur so our children and children's children can really get the maximum benefit from what we have to tell.
Dad was almost addicted to writing. His journals were numerous and recorded on a variety of materials ranging from bound hardcover volumes to brown paper bags. Most of his relatives and friends have received numerous letters written in ink (often green) in Dad's unique handwriting. Pencils were a tool to be used in drafting but never never in letters. Dad used the old-fashioned quill pens and bottled ink to do his writing. Indeed, since his writing was so special, an excerpt from one of his letters will be included in this manuscript. Since Dad did so much writing, it would be impossible to complile his life story simply by duplicating his journals. Hence we shall be drawing from those journals as well as letters and materials collected, mainly orally, from relatives and friends. Of course we, his children, are able to recall experiences we have shared with Dad, but our sojourn with him has been so terribly brief compared with the remarkable length of his stay on earth that our mutual experiences span only a tiny part of Dad's total earth life. And perhaps that is another lesson to be stressed, namely that we as parents must make optimum and effective use of the time we spend with our children, since it is such a short time in most cases. In our case the time we spent with Dad was even shorter than normal because of events to be mentioned shortly.
The remainder of this life story will consist primarily of specific events in Dad's life, human interest anecdotes, and observations about Dad from relatives and friends. It will not be a chronological report of all events in his life. Much that Dad said and did in his life has long ago been lost in peoples memories. Much was never recorded. We shall try to record in this paper some of the things which may be most valuable to the reader and which Dad would be pleased to have recorded for posterity.
First, the vital statistics of Dad's life should be mentioned just so the record will be here for those who desire to know about the dates and places. His earth life spanned over 83 years; from August 7, 1891 to December 24, 1974. Wimmis, Switzerland in the Canton of Bern was the place where Dad spent the first 14 years of his life. The family home still stands in a lovely setting amid the foothills of the Bernese Alps. In 1905 the family of ten children emmigrated to Midway, Utah after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A few years later several of the family moved to Teton Valley, Idaho where they purchased farms. Dad did not become a land owner, but spent much time helping his brothers and other friends and relatives work their farms and build their buildings. He served in the military service during the First World War. A mission call for the LDS church to the Eastern States Mission was accepted in the 1920's. Drafting and architecture were his great interests professionally, for which he prepared by attending Utah State University. Ruth Lougy became his bride in the Salt Lake LDS Temple on June 30, 1933. This union was blessed with four sons, three of whom are still surviving. The sons in order of birth are: Arnold, who resides in Los Angeles, Belden in Seattle, Cleon who died in a house fire in 1941 and David who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. At present (1978) there are a total of 13 grandchildren who have descended from Fred and Ruth. In 1946 this couple concluded that they could no longer resolve their differences, so they separated. Ruth and the boys moved to Provo, Utah, while Dad lived most of the time in Salt Lake City. During this time frequent letters were written to his family in Provo and fairly often Dad visited with his estranged ones. It was a time of sadness for him; a lonely time. The final year of his life he lived with David in Shreveport. Now, in one paregraph 83 years of a mans life have been summarized; a pitiful tribute to one who was so blessed with the virtues of honesty, integrity, and a willingness to work as long and hard as needed to get the job done and done right. Hopefully in the following paragraphs meaningfull details can be filled in to help make this man live again and again in our minds and hearts. And please keep in mind, dear reader, that some of the stories that follow may well have been altered somewhat in the telling and passing from one source to the next.
Back in Switzerland the Edward Durtschi family was respected as being a family that had attained some worldly wealth through the efforts and hard work of its members who consisted of ten children; five boys and five girls. Their family home was large, not to be pretentious but because of necessity. The lower level of the house was a shelter for the farm animals, a barn if you will. So the people and animals shared one common roof, a situation not unusual in Europe. Dad always felt that farm animals should be treated well, includeng the provision of a warm, dry shelter during times of bad weather. Surely this belief originated from his boyhood days in the old country where he had known a commonality of shelter for both beasts and beings.
Edward Durtschi and his family earned their livlihood, at least in part, by working in the forests. Jacob Stucki, a neighbor in Wimmis, tells of the winter log-hauling done by the Durtschi's. The road on which Edward hauled his loads of wood ran right by the Stucki place. During the winter there often developed a soft place in the road right near the Stucki home. the horse-drawn sled loaded with wood sometimes got bogged down in the soft snow, and the Stucki boys would delight in going out to help Mr. Durtschi get unstuck. Edward Durtschi was reputed to have great strength, and Jacob Stucki supports this claim by telling how GrandFather Durtschi would lift one side of the loaded sled and the Stucki boys would strain to lift the other side. Apparently the boys were not really needed, but they enjoyed helping, perhaps if only to see Edward Durtschi's tremendous demonstration of physical power. And this power has been transmitted to the following generations. Edward Jr. is reputed to have been the strongest hay pitcher in Teton Valley. Of course farming is a line of work that naturally develops strong people -- strong in many ways.
Other stories and experiences about the Durtschi family in Switzerland could be related, but it would be redundant since this period of time has been quite interestingly described in life histories. For example, see the history of Edward Durtschi Sr., Clara Durtschi Burgener and Emma Durtschi Lundin. Suffice it to sat that the Durtschi's all learned how to work long and hard in the fields and at home. They were God-fearing people who recognized the true Gospel when they heard it in 1905 as taught by several young Mormon Elders, and they had the courage and foresight to sell their posessions and leave their beloved homeland and emmigrate to Midway, Utah. In Midway they resumed the work they knew best, namely tilling the soil. Dad was 14 when his family moved to Utah.
Sometime around 1910 Dad attended Utah State University in Logan. Probably it was while he was there that his parents and several of his brothers and sisters moved to Driggs, Idaho where they again established themselves as farmers. After completing his studies at Utah State, Dad joined the Army Air Corps to serve his newly adopted country which was in the midst of the 1st great war. He served from December 15, 1917 until January 21, 1920. During this time his duty stations were in Salt Lake City, Waco and Ft. Worth, Texas, Ft. Sill, Okla,. and St. Paul Minn.
While serving at Ft. Sill as an airplane mechanic Dad narowly missed death. He reports that he was helping to start a training airplane by spinning the propeller. When the engine carght, the prop caught him in the leg and knocked him down, unhurt but badly shaken. Only about a week later he witnessed the death of another man by exactly the same kind of accident. A couple of days after that incident he wrote, "After 6:00 (pm) I had a chance to go on a joy ride again which proved to be a splendid one. The pilot, a good sport, sure made it interesting for me! He made the tight spirals, the tail glide, and looped the loop with me. The altitude was from 5,000 to 7,000."
Military experience was not much different in those days than in more recent times. Soldiers still appreciate the offer of a dinner and a chance to visit with good people in a civilian setting. He reports of going to Sunday School in St. Paul one day and being invited along with his friend to dine with one of the members in their home. It was good to be able to visit and be with people having the same ideals and beliefs, and to partake of good home-cooked grub.
The time from 1919 until about 1930 is a void, since no journals or other wrritings are available for that period in Dad's life. We do know, however, that he served his mission during that time. One event occurred during his mission which was to have a profound effect on his entire future life. It happened that one of his companions for some unknown reason (perhaps they were having an arguement) told Dad that he had bad breath. The effect of this simple, though thoughtless accusation was to plague Dad and have such a negative effect on him that he probably never forgot it for more than a few minutes from that day on.
There probably was no one who knew Dad who wasn't made painfully aware of his "affliction". The awareness came not from the actual presence of halitosis but rather from Dad's actions and even his confession and appologies about it. Probably the primary reason for Dad's shyness and avoidance of unnecessary social intercourse during his life, particularly after his mission, was because of his fear of offending someone by his "condition". Needless to say, this terrible worry of his brought embarassment to others as well as himself. I feel that he would have been a much happier and successful person had he believed those of us who assured him that his "condition" was more imagined than real. But he would not listen, as he was absolutely convinced that wherever he went he left a wake of offensive odor floating on the air like some evil black cloud of poisonous gas. Countless were the times he has avoided attending chruch or other meetings just because he feared the results of his affliction. Dad's worry about bad breath also affected his diet significantly. He avoided foods which he felt would make his problem worse. Oranges was one food which he felt helped him and so he must have eaten tens of thousands of oranges in his lifetime.
Perhaps a bit more could be said about the role played by food in Dad's life. If Dad had any vices at all, surely one was the worship of food. Many people have been accused of worshiping their bellies more than their god. Now this wasn't the case with Dad, but food probably came in a close second. As one reads his journals it is striking how often he mentions what he had to eat on a particular day. I think he really appreciated good food and was extremely grateful when he was permitted to partake of some special meal.
Dad liked to concoct some interesting dishes. As a child in Driggs I can remember his salads containing, among other things, clover flowers, dandilions, honey, whole wheat flour and other things. One thing we children always looked for, usually to his displeasure, was the inevitable insects. Wild flowers simply have insects in them and we children didn't like the thought of eating insects. So we picked around through his salads looking for bugs. And he fumed and fussed, telling us that a few little bugs wouldn't hurt us. Of course he was right, but we were not impressed.
Another famous concoction of Dad's was his mason-jar beverages. Just about anyone who ever visited Dad, particularly during his later years in Salt Lake, still remember how he always had to whip up a fruit jar full of drink for the guests. He'd usually begin by juicing some lemons and oranges, then pouring the entire juicings, seeds, pulp, and all into the jar or pitcher. Then would come the other ingredients such as a package of jello, some brown sugar, maybe some honey, perhaps something else, and finally a dab of water if there was room. Then would come the search for some glasses to serve the drink in. Usually the glasses would be of the enormous variety holding about 24 fluid ounces. The guests reaction to all of this was mixed. But most of us will agree that the end result was usually quite palatable and surely healthy.
Dad was a great proponent of whole wheat flour and olive oil. These two things he often mixed together with a few other ingredients to make a sort of salad. He often mentioned that he had a bad stomach, and perhaps he did. But I wonder if he invented dishes to help the condition of his stomach, or if his dishes were in fact the cause of some of his digestive problems. We'll probably never know.
Something else that one cannot help noticing when reading Dad's journals is the frequency of his fasts. He would fast at the slightest provocation, imagined or real. Most of his fasts were in someones behalf. If he knew of someone in need of a blessing, Dad would fast for them. Fasting was probably about a weekly ritual with him. He has fasted many many times for his children, in times of illness as well as health. Many of his fasts were prompted by his dreams. If he dreamed that someone had a problem he would fast for that person. It may be that fasting was an important factor in Dad's longevity. It almost certainly was a factor in his never becoming very heavy. He probably never weighed over 150 pounds. There were probably some people who chided Dad for his frequent fasts, telling him that he was unwise in doing it so often. But he fasted for personal reasons and was convinced of its value. It was a very real part of his religion.
Dreams were mentioned in the previous paragraph, and more should be said of that subject. Dreams, the visions of the night, had a greater effect on Dad's life than any other single factor. It was probably in his late twenties when he really began to take serious note of his dreams. In all of his journals after 1931 he records his dreams and interpretations thereof almost daily. I think Dad cultivated and developed his ability to recall his dreams the following morning so he could write them down. Indeed, he probably actually increased his frequency of dreams simply by thinking about it so much and giving them so much importance in his life. He honestly felt that his dreams were from God and as such were to be taken very seriously in directing his life. On many occasions he would act on his dreams by changing jobs of even cities of residence. As nearly as I can tell from his fournals, Dad moved back and forth between Salt Lake, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco many many times during the 1930's and 1940's. By the way, Driggs should certainly be added to the above list of regular residences, as he frequently came back to Driggs to work for or with his brothers and other relatives. This nomadic life style by no means stopped when he got married in 1933. Even with his wife and later with from one to four small children he continued to move about and seek new jobs as directed by his dreams. There probably was not a time in his life when he worked for one outfit or company for more than a few months on a steady basis. Such a life style places tremendous strains on family relationships, as we shall discuss later.
Another manifestation of Dad's response to dreams was his support of the "dream mine" undertaking near Salem, Utah. It seems that a certain Bishop Doyle was supposed to have seen a vision in which heavenly messengers told him where to excavate in order to find rich gold-bearing ore on the mountainside east of Salem. He proceeded to promote his mining and milling operation among members of the church and anyone else gullible enough to believe him. In about 1940 Dad mentions in a journal that he went down to Salem one Labor Day for a meeting with Bp. Koyle and his followers. I don't know how much money Dad invested in the "dream mine", but whatever it was, it was money he and his family could ill afford to spend on such a venture. Of course Dad was neither the first nor will he be the last person to be taken in by some get-rich-quick scheme concocted by a charlatan.
Whenever his residence was near a temple, such as in Salt Lake, Dad went to the House of the Lord often. In June of 1933 while in the Salt Lake Temple, he met a young lady named Ruth Lougy. They were impressed with each other from the beginning. The courtship lasted scarcely a week, during which time Dad wrote: "In the cool of the evening I walked up to pay my beautiful, sweet and loving young friend Sis. Ruth E. Lougy a visit. We had a lovely time together. Never in my life have I had the experience of seeing the power of love weld my heart to that of any lady I ever met, so readily; never have I come in contact with a young lady whose love seemed so serene, so pure as hers and so sweet as her disposition." On the following day he wrote: ..."we decided to set apart the day following to sincere and ernest fasting and prayer for divine guidance in our intended move." The "intended move" took place in that same holy building in which they had met just one week before.
In retrospect, many people might say that the marriage mentioned above should not have taken place, since it was plagued with troubles of many kinds. But we children quickly recognize that we wouldn't be here on earth if it had not been for just that marriage between Dad and Mother. Of course they had many a problems. But they had good times too. And Dad was always quick to point out that their union, no matter how stormy, was blessed with four "big, healthy, intelligent, highly favored boys, all of whom would someday become great and famous people". Well, there are different scales on which fame is measured, but the boys have surely been blessed and have tried to honor their father and mother, even though none of them have become really famous by the world's scale of fame.
Dad always had the greatest aspirations for us boys, and he often communicatered these to us. One of his fondest wishes was for us to become "highly-esteemed" military leaders, such as admirals or generals. But don't all parents wish to see their children attain greater heights and accomplishments than the parents? We all pray for the very best for our beloved children. And Dad prayed and fasted for us very long and often indeed.
As the children came (three in the 30's and one in 1945) Dad and Mother continued their nomadic ways. Aman (who later was called Arnold) was born in Los Angeles where they had moved later the same year they were married. Belden was born in Salt Lake early in 1938, and Cleon was likewise born in that city in 1940. David was born in Sugar City, Idaho in 1945. Between 1933 and 1945 the young family moved at least a couple of times between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles as well as San Francisco. Dad apparently had a great love for California, particularly San Francisco. At one time in the late 30's Dad left his family in Salt Lake and went to California seeking work. It was difficult to leave his loved ones and he sent for them as soon as he had a job and felt he could keep them from starving. The depression years were not easy for the family. Jobs were scarce and often only temporary. Pay was low. But so were living costs. From dad's journals we learn that the grocery bill was usually less than 50 cents a day and rent was about $3.00 per week.
In about 1939 or early 1940 a new and exciting project began to take shape in Dad's mind. It looked like stability would finally come to the Durtschi family in the form of a house which Dad had designed and was going to build. To be sure, it was no palatial mansion, but more like a chicken coop, as he called it. But it was to be home, with all the stability that a home can bring. Mom undoubtedly hoped and prayed that this home would put an end to the seemingly endless procession of moves and apartments and temporary jobs which she and her husband had experienced for the preceeding seven years. But how were they to finance a house?
It seems there was a Church-affiliated organization called the Co-operative Security Corporation which, among other things, made loans to members for worthy projects. Dad applied for such a loan to the tune of $750.00 for the house. He writes of talking to and corresponding with Harold B. Lee, the secretary-treasurer of the Corp., on several occasions. Finally, after several weeks or even months of delays, the loan was approved and work was begun on the house, which was located in east Mill Creek, southeast of Salt Lake City. I, Belden, was just approaching my third birthday at the time, but can still remember quite a few details about that little home. Perhaps the tragedy which was soon to come seared those memories forever in my mind.
The journal entries during the construction of that East Mill Cr. house remind me of the time three years ago when we were building our new home here in Seattle. Dad would take Aman and sometimes Belden also and go up to work on the home, not getting back to their dwelling until late at night. The new home was nearly completed by October, 1940, as Dad mentioned putting up the curtain rods on the 7th. Then, for some reason (a dream?) Dad quite suddenly headed for Los Angeles, leaving his family in Salt Lake. However, they joined him in California after a few weeks. It seems very odd that with a new home so very nearly completed, the first home they ever could really call their own, they would just take off on the whim of a dream. But that was Dad. There are no journal entries for most of 1941, but it is clear that the family returned to Salt Lake that year, because we were living in the new home in October when disaster struck.
For some reason, on that first day of October, both Mom and Dad had left the house. Only baby Cleon and Belden were home. Cleon was in his crib by the window. Belden was about 3 1/2 years old. Pardon the perpendicular pronoun usage, but I must tell this in the first person. I can still clearly recall some of the details of the fire, how it began in the woodbox behind the kitchen cook-stove. Then the heat began to break the windows. Cleon was crying in his crib. Somehow I got out of the house, but my infant brother and the house were lost.
It is easy to lay blame on someone or something for events which occur. I was told in later years, when I was old enough to understand, that I had started that fire by playing with matches. I have reflected on that many times with great heaviness of heart. How can anyone know? Or perhaps I admitted it after the fire. Why were the matches accessible to a child? Why had both Mother and father left a three-year-old at home alone with an infant brother? How long had we been left alone? Someday we may know the answers to these and other questions. I do believe that it will be a joyful and tearful reunion when Cleon greets us, those of us who can become worthy of that meeting, on the other side of the veil.
Cleon's death and the loss of the home undoubtedly had a profound effect of Dad and Mom. It is not known how this affected their relationship to one another, but it could have been either a unifing of a dividing effect. At any rate, the family moved to Driggs after the fire and stayed there on and off for several years, where Dad worked mainly for his brothers Alfred and John.
1944 saw raging storms pass over the Teton Valley; both storms of rain and foul weather as well as storms of passion and ill will. Mom and Dad were often "at logger heads" with each other. Dad felt that his brothers did not understand him. His dreams and other quirks were under more or less open attack. About his marriage he wrote: "And we were sealed together as husband and wife for time and all eternity...Together we have passed through many experiences; Thru sunshine and sorrow, but never have I been sorry I made the step. Without the guiding hand of the Almighty, I never would have dared to make that move. But knowing that Omnicient Power back of it I hope never to allow our union to be dissolved, what else may happen. Yes, Lucifer has been working hard and will probably continue to work hard to separate us. He does that every where with every soul that has entered that Union as we have entered it; and that is the only way to enter it. And if such a dark day ever enters into our lives, as to have our Union dissolved, it will be on account of our sins and wrong doings. May heaven help us". Even though dark clouds of despair often obscured the sun, there were occasional rays of hope. One such saving light was the prospect of another home which they could call their own, to be situated on an 80-acre parcel of land just to the west of Milo Dally's place.
With the help of relatives and friends, a small house had been moved into place on those 80 acres. Someone dubbed it "the wildernss" (referring to the house). Much time was spent during the summer of 1945 fixing the house and making it livable. I think we were living in Driggs at this time, just before moving into "the wilderness". David, the baby, was only three or four months old at this time. Without going into alot of detail, a couple of the more interesting features of this home should be mentioned. The water supply consisted of an irrigation canal running just a few feet north of the house. This same canal served as the refrigerator, although sometimes the sack of refrigerated goods would be washed downstream when someone turned a big head of water into the canal. For baths we used the old tried and true "spit bath" method. We were accustomed to bathing in a laundry tub. In fact, a bath in a real live bathtub was a seldom-enjoyed luxury. Now the toilet facilities were really unique. Someone had procured an old cane-bottom kitchen chair, minus the cane material. The result was a chair with a nice round hole of about the proper size for the designated function. The chair would simply be placed out in the sagebrush and used when needed. I can still recall the cat calls from some rowdies passing in a car on the nearby road as I was using the chair. I was seven years old at the time. How long we lived in "the wilderness" I don't know, but is probably wasn't more than a few months. During our stay there we worked the "80". One job which we seemed to do far too often was picking up rocks from the fields. We would load them on a hay rack, haul them to the pile, unload them and begin all over again. There were plenty of rocks availavble. Peas were planted that summer of 1945, and I can recall the time of harvest. Then the storm clouds of discord gathered so oppressively that escape must have seemed impossible.
Sometime in 1946 Dad and Mom obtained a civil divorce. Mother obtained custody of the children and moved to Provo, Utah where they lived until just a couple of years before her death in April of 1978 in Shreveport, Louisiana. After the divorce, Dad lived mostly in Driggs and Salt Lake City, with most of his time being spent in the latter city. Both Mom and Dad often expressed the hope that in the next life their differences could be worked out. They loved one another until their death, and surely thereafter. Mother spoke in her last years of the dream and hope she had that Dad would be waiting for her on the other side in a Swiss chalet of just the type that he had always desired to build for his bride.
It would be fruitless and pointless to attempt to lay blame on any one factor or person for the divorce. These were simply two people who had different opinions about many things. They were not able to reconcile these differences and so decided to live apart, particularly for the sake of the children. It is a devastating thing for a child to see his parents bitterly and even violently fighting each other. I still get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when I recall those fights in the log house near the Weston's place on the state line.
As we leave this part of Dad's life, it should be mentioned that his brothers, Alfred and John, as well as other relatives and friends deserve a great deal of gratitude for the many acts of kinkness toward Dad and his family. I'm sure that more selfless acts were performed for this family than we can hope to recall or even imagine. Dad was a nomad and often without work. His brothers, sisters, and friends often came to the rescue. And Mother's relatives and friends should not be left out. I know that John Young in Salt Lake often helped, including some help in building the East Mill Creek home. Where would we have been without the loving kindness of such good people who really cared about us and translated their concern into actons? Hard to say.
Fortunately life goes on, even after misfortune and tragedy, and so it was with dad. He continued to do the things he knew best: Drafting, building, farming, writing, and dreaming. In the early 50's he spent quite a bit of time helping his brother John build a new milk barn and loafing shed. Much of the work was done in the winter months in miserable weather. But anyone living in the Teton Valley is well-hardened to bad weather.
Nearly all men wish to leave some sort of monument behind to witness to future generations that their time on earth had not been in vain. Dad's monuments are many. His four boys were probably his proudest works, at least he was surely proud of them and grateful for them. He also created a great number of physical monuments in the form of a great variety of structures either completely or partially built by his hand. One of his earlier projects, for example, was a concrete headgate on an irrigation ditch in Midway, Utah. I just happened to stumble onto this a few years ago and recognized it as Dad's workmanship because of the quality and by his initials inscribed in the concrete.
In the early 40's he designed and built a home for Mary Weston, his sister Clara's daughter. Aunt Clara helped with the project. I think he also designed and built a home for Aunt Elizabeth. Then there were the barns. He built barns for John and for the Kaufman's. His barns were just as well-built as his houses. In fact, everything that Dad built was either well-built, or left to someone else to complete. He would not allow himself to be pushed into hasty -- and consequently shoddy -- workmanship. Al Kaufman relates that when Dad was working on their barn he had all of the framework pre-cut and laid out on the ground. But he was not quite finished with all of the little preparations which he felt were essential for a proper job. Someone apparently became impatient and began to erect things before Dad was ready. So he just up and said, in effect; "If you can't wait until tomarrow when things are ready to assemble, I don't want anything more to do with it. To heck with it." He simply didn't wish to be associated with anything less than high quality. In that sense Dad was a true anachronism; someone out of the past, out of a time when craftsmanship was the controllong factor and time was unimportant. If it took two hours to make a simple wooden door latch for a barn, and do it right, then so be it, even if a sub-standard but functional one could be thrown together in one-fourth the time. Yes, he was first, last and always the perfectionist. There aren't many such left in the modern world.
So Dad's monuments still stand as a witness to one who would not compromise his principles just to please man. He gained the greatest satisfaction from doing a job well.
Like any man, Dad had many hopes and aspirations. Of course his fondest related to his family. But one great dream of his was to design a temple or other great and important building for the Church. After the divorce Dad spent alot of time drawing and designing buildings. One of his favorite projects, on which he must have spent hundreds of hours, was his "timber temple", a beautiful building which was to be constructed mainly of huge logs, many of which were oriented virtically. I have often wondered what Dad did during all of those lonely years following the divorce. He lived for nearly 30 years after that event. Much of that time, particularly during the last twenty or so, was spent in Salt Lake City within a few blocks of the temple, the great temple he loved so dearly and which held so many priceless memories for him. He wrote alot, usually writing to his children and estranged wife every week or so.
About once a month Dad would come to Provo to visit his family. During these visits he would always find time to spend with his boys giving them council. Now young boys don't usually appreciate lengthy talks about all sorts of subjects ranging from how to do well in school to why it is important to keep physically and spirituall clean. But we listened, although much of his advice doubtless went in one ear and out the other. But there was no doubt about his love and concern for us. Then he would give us his famous kiss. I guess we weren't much for kissing, not due to a lack of love but rather due to the presence of Dad's prickly mustache. It was, or so it seemed, an ordeal to receive a kiss from Dad. Now I think any of us would dearly appreciate experiencing another of his loving kisses.
Physical fitness was very important to Dad, and although he was often plagued with less than perfect health, he did alot for his body. For example, he was a great proponent of sun baths. More than one person, including many readers of this history, have surprisd Dad in the midst of one of his sun baths, usually to the embarassment and/or delight of both parties. Running and chin-ups were perhaps Dad's two most famous forms of physical conditioning. He must have run most of his life. A few years before his death he was observed in his evening running/chinning ritual by a news-man in Salt Lake. The result was an interview and a subsequent article in the Salt Lake newspaper, which pleased Dad greatly and delighted all who read it and knew him.
Dad was in good physical condition until that Christmas Eve in 1974 when he was taking his second walk of the day. He was on the way to the store to buy some Christmas gifts for his grandchildren. The coroner said that Dad probably died virtually instantly. It is a great blessing that after all of the hard times and disapointments of Dads life, he was spared the final agony of a long period of declining health and confinement to bed.
His grandchildren were very dear to him and a source of great pride. Thankfully, he was able to spend his last year living with David and Mary in Shreveport. So he had a fine opportunity to spend some time with at least some of his little descendants. Grant was Dad's favorite, perhaps because both grandfather and Grant came to the David Durtschi family at about the same time. Even though Dad was quite hard of hearing, he would awaken immediately when Grant would make just a peep. Then Dad would change Grant's diaper for him. They both slept in the same room so in the morning Grant would carry on a one-sided conversation with Dad when he awoke.
Hopefully these few pages are sufficient to give the reader a little insight into the life and character of this man who was probably not very well understood by many who knew him, including even his own children. Reading Dad's journals in preparation of this history has been an emotional and educational experience. Yes, Dad had his share of faults and weaknesses; but don't we all? Fredrick Durtschi was a man who was always willing to share what little he had with others.
If we gain no more from Dad than a deeper appreciation and gratitude for the sacrifices that our forefathers have made so we can enjoy the bounties of modern days, then his life would not have been in vain. But we can learn much more than that if we will. May God grant that we may honor this noble spirit by dedicating our lives to the highest principles which governed his best moments.
By Belden B. Durtschi, July 1978
Below is a part of Dad's 1966 Newyears greeting letter. It illustrates the care he took with his penmanship. It also contains some important historical notes that were not included in the preceding pages of this life story.
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