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Dick Zemp: A life without fear

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NORTH BEND - Dick Zemp helped save North Bend from bankruptcy in the 1970s, organized a railroad to be built across Saudi Arabia and probably knows every hill, mountain and tree in Western Washington better than anyone else.

The drive it took to accomplish what he has came from a promise Zemp made to himself at an early age. One of his earliest memories is seeing his mother open a letter when he was 4 years old. It was during World War II and his father had joined the Navy. Zemp never found out what the letter said or who wrote it, but his mother started crying. When he crawled up on her lap and asked what was wrong, his mother said that his father was never coming home and that she didn't know what to do.

"I said, 'Mommy, don't worry. I am going to take care of you and my three sisters,'" he said. "I grew up when I was 4."

With his father (and eventually their farm) gone, Zemp saw his family ostracized. When Zemp was growing up, North Bend grocery stores gave families credit that allowed them to walk out the door with a promise they would pay at the end of the month. But with no visible financial support, Zemp saw his family's credit was nonexistent. Zemp pitched in by catching fish, picking berries and collecting bark (used as a laxative).

"I started working before the first grade," Zemp said.

For the complete story, pick up a copy of this week's Valley Record

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