Sunday, May 04, 2008


Funeral services for John Everett Pinkerton, 78, are scheduled for 1PM Wednesday in the Long and Orr Mortuary chapel with the Rev. John Adams of the Roseburg Presbyterian Church officiating.

Concluding services and interment will follow in the Roseburg Memorial Gardens. Pinkerton resided on Roberts Creek until 1942 and since that time made his home in Roseburg. He was married to Ethel Grace Cochran in November of 1907 at Payette, Idaho, and she died in February of 1948. He was again married Jan. 11, 1949, at Albany to Bertha Lois Sherer. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church.

John Pinkerton, my maternal grandfather, was a fiery man who confronted life head-on, often to the pain of those around him. This tiny two paragraph notice merely mentions his two marriages, the first one to my grandmother and the second to her cousin, less than a year later.

Here are Lois and John, come to Portland to assert that they are married. My mother, his oldest daughter, had always been his “best foreman” and though he had bitterly opposed HER marriage, he expected her to recognize HIS.

As it turned out, he had made a fairly major mistake. Lois was divorced, opinionated, had her own world, and put her son first. She saw this marriage pretty much as a business arrangement. This was quite a shock to John. He complained to my Aunt Vera, the next oldest daughter, who tartly remarked, “Well, I guess you’ve made your bed and now you can lie in it.

His reply has been useful to me: “There’s no law says I can’t get up and shake it out now and then!” In the end Lois secretly got into their joint safety deposit box where they had stored “pre-nup” mutual wills combining their money to be divided among all four children. She took hers out and made her son her sole surviving heir. (She always had income of her own.) John later got into the box, unsuspecting, saw the change and secretly rewrote HIS will, cutting her and her son entirely out.

John’s obit was brief because there were a LOT of deaths that week. From the News-Review:

Roseburg Blast - 1959

The county's largest city was altered forever in the early morning of Aug. 7, 1959.

What started as a small fire behind a Roseburg building supply store turned into an incident that has come to be known simply as the Blast. It killed 14 people, injured 125 others and caused $10 million in damage.

A 2.5-ton 1959 red Ford van, adorned with foot-high stenciled letters advertising "Pacific Powder Company" and hinged signs reading "Explosives," was parked on Pine Street during the sweltering evening of Aug. 6. Inside the vehicle, roughly 10,000 pounds of 40 percent gelatin-filled dynamite was awaiting delivery to Pacific Drilling Blasting, located on the North Umpqua River near Roseburg. Another 3,000 pounds of a blasting agent called "Car-Prill," a mixture of ammonium nitrate, ground walnut shells and peanut oil, was going to Gerretsen's Building Supply.

While the truck's driver, George Rutherford of Chehalis, Wash., was sleeping at the Umpqua Hotel around 12:30 a.m., 17-year-old Nordic Veneer plant employee Dennis Tandy got off work and picked up his wife, Marilyn, who was 7 months pregnant.

Passing Gerretsen's, Tandy noticed flames rising from a row of trash cans next to the building. He jumped out of his car and attempted to control the blaze and told his wife to report the fire. She sped to a nearby gas station and asked the attendant to call for help.

Firefighters didn't notice the truck filled with explosives until around 1 a.m. Someone reportedly yelled, "Get out of here -- that truck's going to blow."

Nine minutes later, it did.

The explosion left a crater 52 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep. Tandy was one of the 14 killed during the incident. A commemorative plaque currently sits in front of Horizon Honda-Mazda.


John was sleeping on his sofa under a big picture window. It was the Cold War and he was convinced that the Russians had just dropped an Atomic Bomb on the little timber town of Roseburg. He was not hurt by the explosion, which littered he and the room with broken glass, but had a heart attack and died a few days later in the hospital, a collateral victim. You could say he went out with a bang.

He had been winding down, saying goodbye. At one point he needed medical work (probably prostate) and was sent on the bus to Portland with a suitcase containing a hairbrush and a set of long underwear. My mother, never a fan of Lois anyway, was irked.

This was Christmas, 1958, my sophomore year at Northwestern, and these are the grandchildren of John P. Some of these people are now great-grandparents, some are dead, and some never had children. The girl to the left of him is the cousin he calls “Caroline” though her name was “Carolyn.” I’m on his other side.

It’s no wonder he suffered from arthritis since he made his living by slinging a hammer, an impact tool. He always wants us to “come up,” though to my mind he is “down south” of Portland. I must grant that he was “upstream” at the headwaters of the Willamette. The August 1958 letter was about her diagnosis with breast cancer, followed immediately by a radical mastectomy.

“Beck & Pud” are Vera, the second oldest daughter, and Walden, another son of Roy Hatfield. Aliene married the oldest son. The cousin of the girls married the cousin of the Hatfields. These Hatfields are related to Mark Hatfield, governor and senator, to whom they constantly complained about lack of coyote control since they raised sheep. My mother is the only Pinkerton who didn’t marry a Hatfield. R.V. is the only Hatfield of that set who didn’t marry a Pinkerton. He had red hair.

When John says they will “get into Fort Knox,” I think he means that Roy will finally help them build a house they badly need. Roy, Walden and Howard ranched together at that point. Christmas, 1956, is celebrated in “Beck’s mansion.”

Here John is bracketed by Aliene, his youngest, and Lucy, his oldest. This is July 1, 1959, about a month before he died. That's "Turbo" in the background.

“Aline” is spelled differently every time -- she herself was a little uncertain until she saw her birth certificate. “Freddie” is John’s first wife’s brother. “Turbo” is the name of John’s car, because it had “turbo drive.” When he died, my mother inherited it and the name stuck. The secret matter that "Roseburg" is not to know in the short November, 1956, letter between he and my mother was money he loaned her for college. He was completing a pledge he made to her just before the Depression hit. She was determined to make and keep that pledge for me in turn and she did.

Born in 1881 in Sparta, IL, John was buried alone in a double plot because the original plot he had bought for his first wife and himself was where they had buried the daughter killed in the car accident. Maybe he thought Lois would be buried with him but she had no such plan. At the reading of his will, she was SHOCKED to discover she’d been cut out. “It’s not fair!” she shrieked. (My mother enjoyed imitating the cry!) She sued and settled for “housekeeper’s wages” for the period of the marriage. That grave is still empty. When my mother was dying, I asked if she’d like to be buried there. She was aghast! Absolutely NOT!

In the end it will probably be occupied by Tom, the grandson in the photo with big ears. (John -- ever tactful -- called him Dumbo, after the Disney flying elephant.) Actually, it’s a pretty nice country cemetery, or was the last time I saw it, but Roseburg is more changed by invading Californians than it was by the explosion.

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