Portrait of the Week: Ole Jorgenson

Ole Jorgenson (1909-1952)

Ole Jorgenson (1909-1952)

This is my maternal grandfather, Ole Jorgenson. The original photo was quite gnarly—wrinkled, frayed, damaged and torn, with 1950s-era Band-Aids (!) serving as Scotch tape to hold the torn areas together.

This is my best attempt at restoring the photo through Photoshop. Unfortunately, I inadvertently rubbed out the rivets on the WWII bomber that he is standing in front of in this picture, which must have been snapped around 1943, when Ole would have been about 34 and working as a Boeing bomber mechanic.

The round metal badge with the No. 353 on it is not fully legible, but appears to indicate that he was working for the Renton Division of the Boeing Aircraft Company at the time the photo was snapped. If that is accurate, the plane he is standing before is likely a B-29 Superfortress—the aircraft that was manufactured at the Renton plant throughout WWII.

I know little about my grandfather except that he was born in Wisconsin in 1909 and died in Prairie County, Montana in 1952, age 42. I know that the 1940 Census shows he is the father of my mother and her three siblings, and that he was a WPA carpenter in 1939, having pulled in about $650 salary—roughly the equivalent of $11,000 today. He was unemployed during a long stretch of that Depression-era year.

I can tell you that the family resemblance between Grandpa Ole and my late aunt Jackie Andren is astounding.

I also am informed that Ole was an alcoholic and that he and my grandmother Vivian divorced sometime before he made his way to Terry, Mont., possibly in the late 1940s. She remarried a family friend, Falke Helden, a WWII veteran and the man I always knew as my grandfather.

Family rumor has it that after building a series a churches in Terry, Mont., Ole was murdered on March 21, 1952. I have no idea if that is true. I would like to find out.

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