Manager retires after 42 years at welding shop

Scott Swanson

After 42 years on the job at Industrial Welding Supply – and long before it was called that – in Sweet Home, Don Friesen called it a day Friday.

Friesen, who will turn 66 in September, has managed the store since 1975 after signing on as a tank delivery man in 1969, a few years after he got out of the Navy.

“I’ve been holding up this counter for a long time,” he said wryly as he pondered his career.

Kent Quesnel, controller of Salem-based Industrial Welding Supply, which purchased the Sweet Home store some 25 years ago, said Friesen is “one of the most valued, trusted employees we have. We haven’t spent a lot of time up there because we didn’t have to,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of people we can trust like we can trust him. He’s never betrayed that trust. It’s a shame for us to lose him, but we’re also excited for him.”

Friesen moved to Sweet Home with his family in 1960, and attended Sweet Home Union High School until he turned 17, then enlisted in the Navy in 1962. He served four years on a gasoline tanker ship and returned to Sweet Home, where he met a girl who’d moved in next door to his parents, Cheryle Cota.

They married Sept. 1, 1967 and had two children, Tony, now of Salem, and Teresa of Beaverton.

Cheryle died last February, which, Friesen said, put a crimp in his retirement plans.

“It’s going to take me a year or so to figure it all out,” he said. “We had a lot of plans. Those have changed.”

He said he enjoys golfing and hunting, which will give him a start.

Friesen came to the welding store after working a few jobs in the woods and in mills following his discharge from the Navy. The store was called Cascade Welders and was owned by Vern Whitlach in those days. Whitlach gave him a job, even though Friesen had no background in welding.

“I never really learned to weld,” Friesen said. “This is a supply store.”

Quesnel said that he has particularly enjoyed Friesen’s dry sense of humor over the years, in addition to his trustworthiness and dedication.

“Once you get him warmed up, he’s really funny,” he said. “I remember many times, at Christmas parties, my wife and I would sit with him and enjoy his sense of humor.”