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Bekkevar family celebrates

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They waved and hollered, flanked by a couple of wandering cows and a few farm dogs, as traffic driving by on U.S. Highway 101 honked at the crowd of familiar faces who share what is a household name in eastern Clallam County.

They are the Bekkevars and during the Labor Day weekend they celebrated 100 years on the family farm east of Blyn.

As the clouds lifted and the sun shone down on the rolling green hills prefacing the Olympic Mountains in the backdrop of the farm, one could see what drew Olaf Bekkevar, a Norwegian man, to settle here on 40 acres of timberland in 1910.

"It was home to him," Dick Bekkevar, Olaf's son, said. "In Norway it looks just like this. He saw the mountains and thought he was looking at Oslo."

Olaf Bekkevar left Norway as a young man on an English ship transporting coal between England and Canada. After hearing of his mother's death back home, he jumped ship and took work where he could in Alaska, Seattle and Sunnydale, Dick Bekkevar said.

In 1910 he was deeded 40 acres of timberland from the Gardiner Timber and Land Company. In 1914 he met Anna Campbell Huffman while ice skating on Lake Burien. They married in 1917, two years after he was naturalized. Olaf Bekkevar spent two years in the infantry during World War I and after returning home began work clearing the farm and cutting car loads of fence posts to be shipped away on the railroad.

Anna and Olaf Bekkevar had four children: Elida Ruth, born in 1920, Laura, born in 1921, Richard (Dick), born in 1923, and Lucille, born in 1925.

Dick Bekkevar, wearing a Bekkevar Logging and Trucking hat, remembers starting the family chicken business in the early 1930s. The family built one chicken house a year for five years and at its peak there were 5,500 laying hens on the farm.

The eggs were sold to Clallam Grain Company with the surplus going to Seattle. Dick Bekkevar said propagating chickens was a long process, with each egg hand-picked and examined, sorted into those that would hatch and those that wouldn't, and each hatchable egg placed in an incubator and rotated a quarter-turn a day by hand for about three weeks.

Dick Bekkevar met Winona Joyce Lotzgesell at a dance at the Fairview Grange in 1943. That same year he joined the Merchant Marines and served for three years, transporting occupation troops to Japan and picking up combat troops to return home. He would write letters every day to his parents, neighbors and Winona, he said.

"Sometimes I'd get so much mail it'd be embarrassing," he said. "Some of the other guys wouldn't look at my stack of mail and they wouldn't even have one letter."

Winona and Dick Bekkevar married in 1946. The wedding photo shows the two smiling and Winona Bekkevar wearing a round white hat.

"My mom made me wear a hat when we got married and I hate hats," she said, looking at the photo with a grimace. "I'm not a hat person."

In 1948, Dick Bekkevar started building the yellow house he and his wife still live in and they moved in the following year, though it wasn't finished.

"It's still not completed," he said. "It never will be. We're comfortable now and not worrying about it."

With the help of their six children, Christina, Aleta, Dave, Loretta, Dorinda and Jim, the Bekkevars raised chickens, cattle, dairy cows and cultivate hay. Dave and Jim Bekkevar began taking over operations of the farm in the 1980s and each started side businesses.

Dave Bekkevar and his wife Trish started a logging and trucking business in 1981, which is still in operation. Jim Bekkevar built a saw mill in 1983 and started a sandblasting business with his wife Andrea in 2001.

Dave and Trish Bekkevar's three sons, Nelson, 24, Ole, 23, and Eli, 20, along with Jim and Andrea Bekkevar's daughters, Amanda, 18, and Megan, 16, are active in the farm's operations.

"She's a real farmer," Dick Bekkevar said of his granddaughter Megan. "It seems like with cattle she's a natural."

All the grandchildren showed animals at the county fair, he said.

Eli Bekkevar said he showed cattle for 10 years and is involved in all aspects of the family farm.

"I'll always be on the farm," he said, sitting on a wagon of hay with his dog at his side. "I'll never move away."

Two Norwegian flags hang on the farm, each below the American flag, a reminder of the Bekkevar heritage. This year a windmill was installed at the site of the original 1942 well, the first dug in eastern Clallam County.

The windmill is painted the colors of the Norwegian - and American - flags: red, white and blue.

The windmill pumps water from the well into a cement drinking trough for the cows, Trish Bekkevar explained to a group of children during a hayride tour of the farm.

It is both a kick-back to the past and a look to the future for the farm.

Dick Bekkevar said he deeded the property over to Dave and Jim Bekkevar when he turned 65.

"You might get a couple million to sell it so they could build a golf course, but we didn't want that," he said.

Dick Bekkevar said he knows it is impossible to make a living on the farm these days. The land is too poor and the taxes too high, but if you hold on to it, it will be worth something, he said.

"Maybe we'll be here for another hundred years," he said. "Life has been hard here, but it's been good."



Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 


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