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-   -   John Earl Bredfeld, 81, Durango, CO (

GyBill 04-28-2014 11:51 AM

John Earl Bredfeld, 81, Durango, CO
Former Santa Rosa resident John Earl Bredfeld passed away on April 10, 2014 at his home in Durango Colorado.

A lifelong lover of trains, he passed away surrounded by family as the Durango and Silverton railway steam whistle sounded in front of his home. With a well-known flair for a dramatic tale, he always said he would depart this world aboard a train. It turns out he was right. John was born on December 8, 1932, in Atlanta, Georgia to John Morris Bredfeld and Elizabeth V. Eichhorst.

He received a Lionel Train set at six years of age, starting his lifelong love of trains. He was known to his childhood friends and family as "Toughy". John had a younger sister, Elizabeth Ann Bredfeld (Betsy Davis.) John was known for being charming, positive, and thankful to be spending time with everyone he came across. He loved celebrating milestones with his loved ones, grandchildren, and friends. Lifelong friend Charlie Saussy and John recently visited and recounted tales of their youth from their first meeting 76 years ago. Family members were amazed those two survived their childhood in the countryside outside Atlanta between their adventures with dynamiting the spring house and repeatedly wrecking the Saussy family jeep.

After moving to Corning, NY, John attended Corning Free Academy and graduated in 1951. In June of 2013, he attended his 62nd high school reunion. John started college at Bucknell University and graduated from Long Island University after he returned from service during the Korean War. John was a proud member of the U.S. Marine Corps from December 7, 1952 until his discharge at the rank of Sergeant on October 5, 1955. He served aboard the USS Saipan during the Korean War as an airplane crew chief and was charged with keeping the Corsairs flying.

According to John, the coldest place on the planet was the windswept flight deck at 5am aboard the Saipan. John was awarded the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal. Many of the Marines who served with John remained close lifelong friends. A recent visit by fellow Marine Jack Crosthwait included many more tall tales accumulated during 50 plus years of friendship. On March 15, 1958, he married Faith Bain Connolly. They welcomed a daughter, Gail Bain Bredfeld (Laplant), in 1965 while living in Portland, Oregon. They divorced in 1984. John was always in printing press or newsprint sales. He started at Fairchild Graphic Equipment in New York selling printing presses then transferred to Portland in 1962. A switch to Zellerbach Paper Company and later Crown Newsprint Sales brought the family to to Santa Rosa in 1965. He worked at Fletcher Challenge before his retirement. Throughout the years, John lived in Atlanta, GA then moved with family to Corning, NY as his dad was employed by Corning Glass. Then on to Long Island, NY; Portland, OR; and Santa Rosa, CA.

Retirement brought him to Salida, CO; and finally Durango, CO for the last 13 years. John struck up lifelong friendships with the publishers of almost every small or large daily newspaper in Oregon, California and Nevada. He never forgot the folks he met and could tell well-crafted stories about the people he came to know and love in his travels. Among his peers, he was know as the champion of small daily newspapers all over the West and always knew where the good bakery was in each town. He met Debbie Carlisle in 2004 and they enjoyed their life together at their home in Durango's Hermosa Valley. Debbie's sense of humor, great laugh, and their love for each other was a welcome addition to the family. John befriended many a neighbor and their dogs on his daily walk on the Lower Hermosa Creek Road with his labrador mix Jessie and Debbie's boxer Bubba. No matter the weather, John could be found on his daily hike an "easy" seven miles up and down the steep mountain road. Always a craftsman and artist, John was never without a project. First built was a Christmas tree stand created for his daughter, Gail. The stand is still in use and has a snow-covered holiday scene complete with an operating train, miniature town, horse-drawn sleigh, and even tiny ice skaters on a frozen pond.

Gail remembers using a flour sifter to gently apply the snow to the holiday scene with her dad every Christmas. In Santa Rosa, he restored an Austin Healy and a MG TF 1500 to concours d'elegance winning condition. In Salida Colorado, he spent ten years completely restoring his Victorian residence into a showplace that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In Durango, John found an ideal home near the narrow gauge rail line with enough property to build the garden railway of his dreams. He was an expert modeler in HO and large scale layouts. His garden railway layout often hosted events for the the San Juan Large Scalers Club. John loved the holidays and made frequent appearances as Santa on the Durango Christmas train with pockets full of candy, silver bells, and, of course, a few pieces of coal. As always, he charmed old and young alike with a ready laugh and unforgettable smile. He was part of the amazing Durango Railroad Historical Society 315 Club volunteers that restored a 1895 steam locomotive Engine #315. The 315 originally operated on the Denver & Rio Grande Western line. In August 2007, after years of backbreaking restoration, the #315 ran under its own power for the first time in 57 years. According to John, there was nothing on that old steam locomotive that was not only incredible heavy but equally grimy to boot. John's 1930s era scale model of the Durango Train station is now displayed at the Railroad Museum in Durango along with other beautifully crafted models he donated. While in Durango, John was a member of the San Juan Large Scalers Club and the Durango Railroad Historical Society 315 Club.

John is survived by his wife, Debbie Carlisle of Durango, CO; daughter Gail Bain Laplant of Mill Valley, CA; son in-law Brian Huber also of Mill Valley; ex-wife Faith C Bredfeld of Santa Rosa, CA; stepchildren Scott Kruger, Douglas Kruger, and Courtney Roseberry of Durango, CO; grandsons Jon, Nick and Taylor Laplant of Mill Valley, CA; nephew Peter Davis of East Aurora, NY; and niece Lissa Davis Tepas of Buffalo, NY.

The sound of a steam train whistle, jingle of a small holiday bell, the sparkle of a beautiful christmas tree, or joy of a dog bounding across the lawn will always remind our family of John. We hope these small reminders keep John in your heart too.

Per his wishes, there will be a celebration of John's life scheduled later this year aboard the Durango Silverton railroad. Details will be announced.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in John's name to the Durango Railroad Historical Society P.O. Box 654 Durango, Colorado 81302. This organization supports the ongoing preservation of the trains he loved.

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