Thursday, May 14, 2015

Judge Harry Richard (Dick) Thurston (10/10/1889-4/12/1970)

Judge H. R. Thurston on right
When you walk along the waterfront on Harborview Drive, you might notice the old buildings on the west side of the street.  Nestled between the Gillich-Richardson ‘Peninsula Hotel’ and the art gallery ,‘Gallery Row’, there is a two-story building which now houses a spice shop and upstairs a Psychic Boutique.  This building is the Thurston Building and once housed Pioneer Electric Co., Electrical Contractors.   Next door, Gallery Row’s building, was also built by Harry Richard Thurston, known as Dick specifically for Dr. Ryan’s dentistry practice containing a waiting room in the front, and behind the waiting room two dentist chairs and a laboratory.

Dick Thurston owned this business where not only did he work as an electrician but also as an appliance salesman and did repairs.  But he also conducted his legal business here:  he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1922 and continued to serve in that capacity until 1967.  He was appointed municipal judge for the newly incorporated town of Gig Harbor in 1946, and, as stated above was a Justice of the Peace since 1922.  Court Proceedings were also held in this building at 3104 Harborview Drive as were early Town council meetings, rent free.  In fact the property behind this building that we today refer to as the Bonneville property all belonged to Dick and Asta.  The lane from Judson Street down to the back of the Peninsula Hotel building has been known as Thurston Lane from the mid-1940s.
Standing Dick Gilbert, seated Hubert Secor, Mary Secor, Judge H. R. Thurston, Asta Thurston, Unknown

Swearing in of Mayor Hubert Secor, Seated Mary Beth Gilbert, Dick Gilbert, Mary Secor, Asta Thurston

Dick was born in Carver County, Minnesota in October, 1889.  Dick received his WWI draft notice at age 28 while living in Hamburg, Minnesota.  His draft card shows he was married June 5, 1917, no children and sole provider for his wife.  He also had a draft card for WWII at age 52.  However, when searching for information, I found that Dick had been married previously to Lillian Emelia Carlson Thurston, who died January 4, 1919 from the Spanish Flu pandemic and their infant girl Thurston had died at birth December 29, 1918 are buried at the Cromwell Cemetery.  

He moved to Tacoma where he lived for a short period of time before crossing the narrows and making his home in Gig Harbor in 1919.  At first, he earned his livelihood by selling and repairing portable light plants, installed lights on ferries and fishing boats as well as setting up switchboards needed to operate the systems.  Dick was also responsible for electrifying the west side of Gig Harbor where his office building was located by setting up a 32-volt generator and bringing light to the newly constructed Peninsula Hotel.

He met Asta and they were married on May 27, 1919;  Asia was living in Poulsbo at the time.  Dick’s obituary in Tacoma newspaper stated the couple had eloped to Gig Harbor.  (unfortunately the name and date were cut off the article).   

Like so many of our early residents, Dick spent countless hours devoted to the community helping it grow into the beginnings of what we, today, call the City of Gig Harbor.  Some of the things he accomplished include the following:  donating the property at 3105 Judson Street for the first city water well which served the city from 1949 until 1988; preparing the specifications for the installation of the water systems and personally inspecting every foot of pipe to confirm it was layed in accordance to those specifications.  He set up a topographical survey to coordinate all prior surveys of Gig Harbor.  Dr. Harold Ryan, Gig Harbor’s first mayor, has stated that Dick spent unknown hours accumulating information and visiting other small towns similar to Gig Harbor to see how they solved their problems, and all of this travel was at his personal expense. 
Asta Thurston and Grandson, David Wenning, First City Well

Dick was also a member of the South Side Improvement Club and had been a driving force behind the club’s donation of  the Hyleen* (sic) property consisting of 10-acres to the Town of Gig Harbor for the expressed purpose of a park.  *Shyleen - Grandview Forest Park including the water tank.

This is just a very short history of a man who served as an outstanding justice of the peace and judge.  Governor Arthur B. Langlie (1941-45 and 1949-57) had commissioned him to revise two chapters of the justice of the peace education and training standards, Code Book for the Justice of the Peace.

Note:  Thanks to Harry Richard (Dick) Thurston, Judge Thurston’s grandson for all his information for this blog.
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