Daniel “Dick” Richardson Twichell, a founder of Ohnstad, Twichell, P.C., one of the largest law firms in North Dakota, died June 29 in Scottsdale, AZ.
Mr. Twichell was born in Fargo Jan. 25, 1927, and grew up in Mapleton, where his father, Daniel, was the postmaster and owned a grocery store. At the age of 9, he began helping his father behind the counter.
“All the kids worked, but most of them worked on farms,” he remembered. “I liked working in the store. In those days you actually waited on people. That’s where I learned that people are good, and that I really enjoyed working with them.”
He joined the Army upon graduating high school and was in boot camp when the war in Germany ended. He remembers being on a shooting range when he got the phone call and said that no one believed him when he told them the news. “I finally put the sergeant on the phone (to headquarters),” he said. “Then they believed me.”
Because the war in the Pacific had not ended, the soldiers assumed they would be heading west from their Texas boot camp. “When the train started going east, we assumed we were backing up,“ he said. “Two days later we’d backed up all the way to New York.“
He was sent to Berlin, where he remembers being dropped off alone in the middle of the night. “It was after the war so there were no lights, and I hadn’t eaten all day,” he remembered. “I walked for miles looking for someplace that had food.” Finally he spotted a USO. They had donuts. “I must have eaten a dozen” he said.
He served in a military police battalion. He was assigned to military intelligence after his unit was given an IQ test, and he landed a spot in investigations. “But believe me, I was the least intelligent guy there,” he said. “Those guys were brilliant but to the point they couldn’t really interact with people. Some of them were so smart they couldn’t even drive a car.“
He returned to North Dakota upon discharge and attended the University of North Dakota, receiving his Juris Doctorate in 1952. While he was in college, his mother, Arene Richardson Twichell, died of cancer, an illness she had suffered for several years.
He was practicing law in Bismarck when he met his wife, Hilda, who had a job in the bookkeeping department of a wholesale lumber company. She said she’d gone to a restaurant with a friend one hot summer day because they knew it had air-conditioning. There, she met her future husband. They were married the next summer of 1954.
The couple moved to West Fargo in 1955 where he joined Manfred Ohnstad in his law firm, which Ohnstad had founded in 1939. The couple initially lived in an apartment in the same building, which meant Mr. Twichell, always a proponent of a good work ethic, could spend evenings and weekends at his practice.“
In the early years, Manfred and I put in an unbelievable amount of hours, and we just couldn’t keep up. We slowly took on new associates and were able to specialize more.”
Mr. Twichell, an avid storyteller, often told anecdotes about Ohnstad, who for the first several years of their partnership was willing to barter for his services, accepting cream, corn and, occasionally, homemade wine in payment. “He always said, ‘Nothing is hard if you know how to do it,’” an aphorism Mr. Twichell repeated often through his life.
In 1957, Mr. Twichell became West Fargo City Attorney and held that position for more than 30 years. He also became city attorney for several small cities and was nationally recognized as a Bond Counsel. He served in that capacity for many municipalities and water resource districts in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.
Through the years, working on water projects became his professional passion, and he was instrumental in the construction of both the West Fargo and Horace flood control diversion projects, the increase in flood storage capacity at the Baldhill Dam and the construction of the flood control dam on the Maple River near Enderlin. These flood control projects have since saved thousands of people from suffering property loss in flood years.
Representing the Cass County Water Resource Board, Mr. Twichell and others held meetings for several years that eventually resulted in the Sheyenne Diversion flood protection project for West Fargo in the early 1990s.
“This was extremely rewarding,” Mr. Twichell said. “We spent a lot of time working with city and state and county officials, North Dakota water groups and local supporters. It wasn’t always easy but the eventual outcome made all the effort worth it. Water is controversial. We lost a lot of battles but thank goodness we won the war.”
He was involved in several other areas of law as well including establishing the Legal Assistant curriculum at Moorhead State University; organizating of the North Dakota Municipal Attorney’s Association and founding the Maple River Golf Course in Mapleton.
He also was recognized by several peer organizations including the Natural Resources Award from the Greater North Dakota Association, the State Bar Association of North Dakota Outstanding Chairman Award, the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Natural Resources Award, the NALS of Fargo Moorhead Boss of the Year and in 1998 his induction into the North Dakota Water Users Hall of Fame.
Mr. Twichell was equally involved in community endeavors. He was a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in West Fargo and later of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Scottsdale. He served as president of the Maple River Golf Club, the West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, the West Fargo Lions, the Cass County Bar Association and the North Dakota Water Users Association. He was chair of the Legal Economics Committee of the State Bar Association of North Dakota and was a founder of and first president of the North Dakota Municipal Attorney’s Association.
In his retirement years, he and Hilda spent summers in their West Fargo home and winters in Scottsdale, where their eldest daughter, Mary Ritter, and her husband Don live. He played bridge and golf for most of his life and enjoyed reading books about history and watching the Minnesota Twins, whether they won or not. A lifelong baseball fan, he remembers squatting below a neighbor’s window as a boy listening to ball games because his own family’s radio wasn’t working. “I really suffered when it was cold, and they closed that window,” he remembered.
In addition to his wife, to whom he was married for 58 years, and eldest daughter and her husband, Mr. Twichell is survived by another daughter Tonia of Denver; a son Dane and his wife Tami, and their son Aden of Los Angeles; granddaughter Kathryn Banks (Mary’s daughter), of Portland, OR; and brother Seth and his wife Beverly of Peoria, AZ.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday July 9 at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church, 6261 N. Granite Reef Road, Scottsdale. Private burial will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday July 10 at Sunland Memorial Park, 15826 Del Webb Blvd., Sun City, AZ. A memorial service will be held later in West Fargo. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Hospice of the Valley, www.hov.org/donate or 1510 E. Flower St., Phoenix, AZ 85014.5656.
July 3, 2013