Katie Ternes will Celebrate a Century of Life at Saturday Party at Baptist Home, Bismarck

Burke, Allan. "Katie Ternes will Celebrate a Century of Life at Saturday Party at Baptist Home, Bismarck." Emmons County Record, 19 August 2010, 1 & 3 & 11.

Former Strasburg resident Kathryn “Katie” Ternes will celebrate her first 100 years of life at a birthday party that will be held Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Activity Room of the Baptist Home in Bismarck.

Katie’s birthday is August 18.

Helping her celebrate will be her two children, 13 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. The event is billed as “The Party of the Century, and her friends and relatives from around the country will be there.

Born at St. Anthony

Katie was born August 18, 1910, to Tom and Regina (Heisler) Ehli at St. Anthony.

Tom was born in Sulz, Russia, and Regina in Kleinliebental, which was close to the Black Sea. They were married in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1909, settling at St. Anthony where Tom’s uncle lived.

Katie recalls that, when they wanted to say something private, her parents would speak in Russian. While their families preserved their German heritage, Tom and Regina grew up speaking both languages and were about 23 when they immigrated. Tom did not want to be drafted into the Russian Army.

It was his command of the German language that won Tom a job as an assistant agent for the Northern Pacific Railway at Flasher in 1911. There were a lot of Germans around Raleigh and Flasher who did not speak or understand English well.

Tom was transferred several times, so Katie grew up in Flasher, Golden Valley, Killdeer and Mandan, which she remembers best. She started school in Fallon and completed her studies in Mandan.

Katie’s world changed in 1918 when her father died at age 33 in the World War I flu epidemic. She was eight years old but remembers it clearly.

All of the family were ill with the flu, so neighbor Mary Kopperud, an African American woman, took care of the Ehlis and their four children.

“Everybody else was afraid to come into our house,” Katie said. “Had it not been for Mary, we would all have probably died.”

Katie’s siblings were John, Mary and Lizzie.

Tom was sick eight days before he died. When the undertaker came to the house on Main Street in Mandan (where Hardee’s is now), he removed the body through a window so that he did not have to take the remains through the living room where the family were in beds suffering from the flu.

Regina and her children could not attend the funeral even though the body was held eight days in hopes that the illness would pass. They were too sick to leave the house, so Tom was buried without a traditional family funeral.

Mrs. Kopperud also handled the funeral arrangements and attended the funeral. She was like a grandmother to the Ehli children, and Katie kept in touch with her until her death.

Regina married Adam Friesz in January of 1919. He had lost his wife and, like Regina, had four children. Having a step-father was not a pleasant experience for Katie, and she felt medical care was not sought soon enough to save the life of her sister, Lizzie, 11, who died of appendicitis.

The family moved to a farm at Fallon, and Katie, who had always lived in town, did not like life on the farm.

Meeting John Ternes

A spark of joy came into Katie’s life when she met John N. Ternes of Strasburg, who had traveled to Raleigh to be the Best Man at a cousin’s wedding. She was 15 at the time and wrote to each other off and on for two years.

“John wrote and said he was coming over to see me,” Katie recalls. “That was in 1926. Then, on October 25, 1927, we got married in Fallon. I was 17 and so happy.”

The young couple moved to the Krassna area to farm with John’s parents, Nicholas and Odelia (Kopp) Ternes. The elder Terneses moved from the homestead to a new home they built near the Holy Trinity Catholic Church at Krassna. At that time, John’s brother-in-law, also John Ternes, had a store at Krassna. Later, he moved his store to Strasburg. Because of the duplicate names John went by John N. all of his life.

People in the Krassna community enjoyed dancing and parties in homes. The Ternes home was often the place where Name’s Day parties were held.

“We would take all of the furniture out of the living room except for a table with a chair on top of it for the musician,” Katie explained.

Sometimes Max Josek would play the accordion. Other times it would be Speckie Keller on the trombone and Charlie Richter on the accordion.

“We had to make our own entertainment in those days,” she noted.

John and Katie farmed with horses and were doing well until the Great Depression of the “Dirty Thirties.” They struggled to have enough to eat after the drought started.

“A lot of times we would just have chokecherry jelly, coffee and maybe some canned sausage,” Katie remembered. “There was nothing for the cattle, which is why we decided to move off the farm.”

In 1933, they rented their farm to the Baumgartners and moved into Strasburg where they lived until 1957 when they moved to Bismarck.

Katie recently sold the farm to Duane Ternes of Strasburg, and it had been rented to Duane’s dad, Edwin, and uncle, Oscar, for many years. Edwin and Oscar are nephews of John’s

Owning a bar

John learned from his dad that Jake Mastel wanted to sell his bar in Strasburg, so he visited with him and came to terms. “We had a little money from an auction we had for our farm machinery, and John’s mother gave us $800,” Katie said.

Prohibition (1920-33) had not yet been repealed when John and Katie took over the Northside Pool Hall, so they had to dodge “Revenue agents” to serve beer and whiskey to their customers. They also had pool tables and served ice cream.

“We would run the bar as usual until we would get a call from Linton that the agents were making raids,” Katie said. “John would load up the whiskey and take it to a garage down by the elevator until things quieted down. We had to do that several times.”

The Blue Room, where wedding dances and other big events were held (as they are today), was owned by Ray Biegler and Matt Fischer. They had a choice between being drafted or working in the defense industry, so they moved to Milwaukee, Wis., and temporarily closed the Blue Room. John was also draft age, but he was not called up. Consequently, the Ternes bar continued to operate into the war years.

“I loved working in the bar because I got to meet so many people, and we made lots and lots of friends in Strasburg,” Katie said.

She remembers that the 4th of July was a big day in Strasburg, and they served hamburgers and pop on the street outside the bar to dozens and dozens of people.

After 10 years in business, John sold the bar and started a livestock sales barn near the grain elevators. Initially, the barn handled cattle and butcher hogs and then specialized in buying and selling pigs. He found that he didn’t like working with livestock, so he started a grain hauling business and did that until the family moved to Bismarck where he worked at the Eagles Club for 10 years before he retired. John died August 3, 1984.

During their time in Strasburg, John and Ernie Borr repainted the interior of Sts. Peter & Paul Church.

“That was a big deal,” Katie recalled.

Raising a family

Katie and John had four children. Art, the oldest, is 83 and a resident of the Strasburg Care Center. A graduate of Strasburg High School, he was a Depot Agent for the Soo Line Railroad for many years, served in the U.S. Army in World War II and the Korean War and attended from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He has six children.

Antonia died at age 18 months when the family lived on the farm at Krassna.

Dolores could not speak English when she started school, but she soon picked up the language and went on to graduate from Strasburg High School. She died in 1997. She was married to Bill Feist, originally of Zeeland, and they lived in Bismarck. Bill, now retired, owned Feist Jewelry in Bismarck for many years. They had four children.

Diane, the youngest, started school in Strasburg and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Bismarck. She and her husband, Mike Zainhofsky, live in Bismarck. They have three children. Diane is a Licensed Social Worker and is the Executive Director of the Abused Adult Resource Center in Bismarck, a position she has held for 30 years.

Thefamily lived in the back of the bar until Diane was born. They purchased a home just south of the Blue Room.

Katie had a huge garden that covered two lots in Strasburg, and she grew virtually all of the food for the family. That meant many hours of canning meat that came from relatives on farms, vegetables and fruit.

“I made very few trips to the grocery store. I went for toiletries, sugar and flour,” Katie said, noting that raising food was one way people survived the Great Depression. “My basement was full of canned food from the floor to the ceiling.”

She also baked her own bread, cookies and pastries.


Katie did not work outside the home in Bismarck, and she and John enjoyed their retirement, focusing on their children and grandchildren.

Her only job in those years was baby-sitting, and she provided day care for U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan’s children.

She was 90 when she left her own home to move to the Waterford retirement home. A year and a half ago, she moved to the Baptist Home after breaking a hip and needing time to recuperate.

One of her favorite pastimes is playing Bingo, which she still does at the home on a regular basis.

Katie has been on kidney dialysis for 10 years, and the center’s van takes her to her appointments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she is one of the staff’s favorites at the dialysis unit.

“I go three days a week, It’s like my job,” Katie joked. Noting that she never expected to live to be 100, Katie said she is looking forward to her party.

“I feel great, and I am ready to have a party with my family and friends,” Katie said. “Everybody’s so good to me.”

(Editor’s note: This story is based, in part, on Michael Miller’s interview of Katie Ternes in 1993. A native of Strasburg, he is the Director and Bibliographer of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University, Fargo. The Record also interviewed Katie and her daughter, Diane Zainhofsky.Miller’s complete interview can be found at http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/history_culture/oral/samples/ternes.html.)

Reprinted with the permission of the Emmons County Record.

Katie Ternes
Katie’s dad, Tom Ehli, stands on the ramp at the elevator in Mandan.
Katie’s mother, Regina Ehli Friesz, poses by her home in Mandan.
The Ehli and Friesz children include, back row, left to right, John Ehli, Katie (Ehli) Ternes, Ralph Friesz and Peter Friesz; front row, Minnie (Friesz) Kuhn, Lizzie Ehli, Ida (Friesz) Schmidt and Mary (Ehli) Franck.
Katie Ehli was 17 when she married John N. Ternes.
John Ternes was a handsome groom.
This photo of Katie was her engagement picture.
John’s mother was Odelia (Kopp) Ternes.
John and Katie Ternes are pictured with their daughter, Antonia who died at 18 months.
Katie and John are pictured next to their Krassna farm house with their son, Art, who is now 82.
John and Katie Ternes present their daughter, Diane, at her wedding to Mike Zainhofsky.
Dolores (Ternes) Feist is pictured with her sister, Diane, and Diane’s grandson, Kyle.
Katie and John posed for this portrait on their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1977.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller