Our war hero from the Greatest Generation has gone home to collect his greatest reward. CPL William “Bill” Ternes, Bismarck, left his earthly life of 95 years for his Heavenly home with his Lord and Savior on July 29, 2017. Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2, at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Bismarck, with Rev. Greg Luger officiating. Burial will be at North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bismarck Funeral Home with a rosary and vigil service at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service on Wednesday.
Bill was born Aug. 20, 1921, the second of 14 children to Anselm and Deonella (Braun) Ternes, in Shields. He attended country school there through 8th grade until he was needed to go to work for neighboring farmers for 10¢ a day. When the opportunity arose at 16, he saw a way to better his family financially and he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) where he received and accepted the assignment to work on the nose of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
He served in the US Army (Military Police) from 1942 to 1945 as a soldier in the European theater of WWII. As a young man of 22 he stormed the beach of Normandy on D-Day, at 23 lead his soldiers into the Battle of the Bulge and at 24 was aside General Patton when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. He came home in 1945.
While he caught the eye of Ida Miller in Sunday school they didn’t start dating until shortly before he left for war. She faithfully wrote him letters during their courtship while he was overseas. They were joined in marriage on May 21, 1946, at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church in Raleigh and made their home five miles north of Shields, where they raised dairy cattle, beef cattle, hogs, chickens and small grain crops. Together, Bill and Ida raised their six children on the family farm
In 1975, Bill and Ida moved off the farm to Bismarck. Bill worked at the Holiday Inn as the head maintenance man where in 1979 was asked to build a custom stage for Ronald Reagan when he came through Bismarck on a campaign stop. President Reagan asked to meet and thank him personally.
Bill officially retired in 1987 and then his fun officially began. He spent every day in his workshop creating handmade wood treasures for his family and repurposing furniture to new life. In his later years he developed a passion for creating keepsakes from license plates. He was the family’s go-to guy because he could repair anything that needed it.
In 2002 Bill received an honorary high school diploma from the ND Department of Veterans Affairs as a soldier who didn’t finish his education because of his military service. In 2010 he was chosen to take the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., with his son and Vietnam veteran, Ervin.
Bill was a student of life. He’d say “every day you learn something new.” At 95, a man who had little love for the kitchen except for at suppertime, learned and developed a passion for baking apple pies. His philosophy of “doing what you need to do” made him a man who adapted on the fly to his rapidly changing world.
Bill was a storyteller to the very end, sharing his life stories and never missing a detail. He’d read the newspaper front-to-back every day and could discuss current events with the wisdom of his life experiences.
Bill will be missed and remembered for his sharp wit and quiet demeanor, for his crooked cap and smirk, and as a creative of problem solver and a master visitor by his six children, Hilda (Ernie) Hinderer, Flasher, Arlene (Roy) Riehl, Raleigh, Ervin (Penny) Ternes, Shields, Kathy (Jim) LaDuke, Nisland, S.D., Roger (Audrey) Ternes, Bismarck, and Steve (Carmaine) Ternes, Emporia, Kan.; 17 grandchildren, Juanita Lee and Dallas Hinderer, Russ Riehl, Stacey Pfliiger, Ryan Riehl and Dayna Zins, Waylon, Brandon, Brent and Kayla Ternes, Will LaDuke, Faye Pelster and Curt LaDuke, Dwight and Marc Ternes, Brock Ternes and Stephanie King; 34 great-grandchildren; four brothers, Aloys (Alice) Ternes, Larry Ternes, Baldwin Ternes, and Balzer (Joan) Ternes; four sisters, Linda Gustin, Alvina (John) Buck, Minnie (Ron) Keller, and Anisia Beggar; and two sister-in-laws, Mary Ternes and Ramona Ternes.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ida, his parents; four brothers, Ambrose, Lenus, Ray and Bert Ternes; one sister, Claudina Ternes and many brothers and sister-in-laws.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers memorials to the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, Mandan.