Ohrt, Wallace 1919-

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OHRT, Wallace 1919-

PERSONAL: Born June 29, 1919, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; U.S. citizen; son of Norman F. (a welder) and Sigfrid (a homemaker; maiden name, Eidsness) Ohrt; married Betty Jo Martin, April 29, 1955; children: Laurie Ohrt Semke, Stephen F. Ethnicity: "Norwegian-German-English." Education: Attended University of Oregon, 1937-38, Victoria College, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 1946, and University of Washington, Seattle, 1947-48. Politics: Independent. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, reading, studying history.

ADDRESSES: Home—1105 Southwest 166th St., Seattle, WA 98166. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Boeing Aircraft Co., Seattle, WA, parts fabricator, 1941-42; Boeing Co., Seattle, WA, personnel representative, staff assistant, job evaluator, procedures writer, contracts manager, and staff writer, 1950-74; freelance technical writer and consultant, 1975-91. Teacher of English as a second language, 1994-96. Military service: U.S. Army Air Force, armorer gunner; served in Pacific theater during World War II; became sergeant.

AWARDS, HONORS: Second-place award, nonfiction book category, Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, 1977, for The Rogue I Remember.


The Rogue I Remember (memoir), Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 1979.

The Accidental Missionaries: How a Vacation Turned into a Vocation, Inter-Varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1990.

Defiant Peacemaker: Nicholas Trist in the Mexican War, Texas A & M University Press (College Station, TX), 1997.

(With mother, Sigfid Ohrt) Immigrant Girl (memoir), privately printed, 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Logtown (tentative title), a fictional account of a young boy's disappearance, based on "the author's experiences during high school and young adulthood in a mountain logging district in southern Oregon during the Great Depression"; Touch Not My Children (tentative title), the true "experiences of an Afghan widow and mother of seven who escaped to America after her husband was murdered and her own life was threatened."

SIDELIGHTS: Wallace Ohrt once told CA: "Several months after World War II, I was sent home from the Pacific theater on a hospital ship. As we slogged our way from Manila to San Francisco—a thirty-day voyage on the old Dogwood—I got acquainted with paperback novels, cheerfully passed out by a charming Red Cross lady. What joy! The deceptively easy style of Nordhoff and Hall, Kenneth Roberts, and Samuel Hopkins Adams made me think this was something I could do. I pursued that illusion through two more years of college and one year as a starving freelancer, then settled for the greater security of corporate life. The urge returned in midlife, and I took early retirement to settle the question: could I actually become a writer? Twenty-five years later, as I approach my eightieth birthday, with three nonfiction books published, I still count myself an apprentice.

"My original motivation for writing was, as I have indicated, to discover whether I could write professionally. With that question at least partially resolved, I am now motivated by a desire to discover forgotten or neglected heroes, present and past, and to bring them to the public's attention so they can receive the honor they deserve.

"I count all good writing as instructive: novels, biographies, history, short stories, articles, essays, even newspaper sports reports. Writers I particularly admire and seek to emulate include novelists Willa Cather, Conrad Richter, and A. B. Guthrie; biographer Marquis James; historian Samuel Eliot; and essayist E. B. White. I read everything I can get my hands on, including biographies by the score about everyone from Dr. Samuel Johnson to Wild Bill Hickok.

"My writing routine is not particularly novel. I seldom get started before 9:30 and work until about three o'clock, leaving enough daylight for a little gardening in season or a two-mile walk in decent weather. I write only five days a week, having become attached to the leisurely weekend during twenty-five years of corporate life. I become totally absorbed into the world I am writing about, almost to the point of losing touch with my real surroundings. Insomnia becomes chronic, but I hardly begrudge the lost sleep because it is usually compensated in increased creativity.

"A love of history has inspired me to write about historic subjects. My only complaint with history is that there is too much of it! As to one recent project, my mother spent seven years in her eighties writing her memoirs, concluding with the statement that this was her legacy to her descendants, including those yet unborn. It is a rich legacy, needing only polishing and organizing in a somewhat more book-like form. She died at age ninety-four in 1985, and I have inherited her notes, which she called her 'stories.' I committed myself to the necessary editing task and self-published the result."

More recently, Ohrt commented: "At this stage of my life my primary motivations for writing are to acquaint today's readers with the daily lives of those whom Tom Brokaw refers to—over-generously—as the Greatest Generation, and to share insights I have been privileged to gain into the struggles of refugees as they seek to survive and raise their families in twenty-first-century America.

"From earliest memory, I have been fascinated by words. Capturing ideas, feelings, and events verbally, with precision and honesty, has always seemed the most difficult and yet the most worthwhile endeavor of mankind. As evidenced by the relatively few writings of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, the whole course of human history is altered by the stirring language produced by noble minds. Conversely, I am grieved by the erosion of language that currently invades our culture, the so-called 'dumbing of America.' George Orwell expressed it well when he wrote, 'Political chaos is connected with the decay of language.' "My writing process should serve as no model for anyone serious about writing. I am a hopeless procrastinator who finds infinite excuses to delay getting started, and by four o'clock I am looking for a convenient stopping point. I loathed, feared, and avoided the computer until I was in my seventies; fortunately, my daughter and others wore down my resistance. Now I happily avail myself of its marvelous editing capabilities, though I consider it an idiot on subjects such as long sentences and the passive voice. Our relationship, you might say, is distant though symbiotic.

"Choosing subjects to write about does not come easily to me. Sometimes they are suggested by others, and sometimes they thrust themselves upon me. I choose to write books rather than shorter works, such as magazine articles or short stories, because I like to have a good-sized project that will hold me in thrall for a reasonably long time. The novel project, Logtown, came into being slowly after a friend urged me to write the history of the Upper Rogue River in southern Oregon, where we both attended high school. The nonfiction project, Touch Not My Children, is a natural: my wife and I are volunteering our assistance to an Afghan widow and mother of seven children who fled to this country after the husband/father was murdered by the Taliban."