from the Tulare Advanced Register, July 13/14, 1995
TURNUPSEED, DONALD G., Age: 63
Turnupseed, 2nd driver in James Dean crash, dies at 63
Tularean built family electric business as he resisted publicity for 40 years
Donald Turnupseed, the Tulare man who quietly built a family
business and endeavored to maintain his privacy after being
involved in the car accident that killed actor James Dean four
decades ago, has died at age 63. Requests for interviews about
the Sept. 30, 1955, crash came from around the world and served
as a constant annoyance to Turnupseed.
"That's something that bothered him his whole life. That's not
Donald Turnupseed," said Wally Nelson, president of Turnupseed
Electric in Tulare.
As this year's 40th anniversary of the crash approached, requests
for interviews continued. A German journalist was the last the call,
"He's been bothered by people constantly trying to write a story."
Nelson said. "There's always somebody calling up or coming to
the door. We had to push them out the door."
Although he has refused interviews for decades, Turnupseed did
speak with the Tulare Advance Register hours after the crash. It
occurred when he pulled his 1950 Ford from Highway 46 onto
Highway 41 near Cholame. Turnupseed's car was struck by a
speeding silver grey Porsche Spyder driven by Dean, who at 24
was the star of three major films. "I didn't see him coming,"
Turnupseed was coming home to Tulare from Cal Poly State
University, San Luis Obispo, where he was a student. Dean was
in route to a race in Salinas. His mechanic was a passenger.
Dean, star of "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955
and "Giant in 1956, died in an ambulance headed for a Paso
Robles hospital. His mechanic, Rolf Wuetherich, was seriously
injured but recovered. Wuetherich died in 1981 in a car crash in
On advise from la California Highway Patrol officer, Turnupseed
hitch-hiked to Tulare after the crash. He was treated for a scraped
nose and bruises at Tulare District Hospital.
Extensive investigation of the accident never established guilt,
said C.R. "Budgie" Sturgeon, a partner in Spuhler and Sturgeon
Insurance, which had a policy on Turnupseed's Ford. "It was never
established whose fault it was. It just died."
Turnupseed's family declined to be interviewed for this story. With
the aid of his late parents, Harley and Ruth Turnupseed, the
Porterville native built an electrical contracting business with
commercial clients across the San Joaquin Valley and the central
coast. Customers include Kraft Foods, Haagen Dazs, US Cold
Storage and California Milk Producers, among others. The 48-year
old company which employs and average of 75 workers, has
branch offices in Bakersfield and Fresno and annual sales of
about $15 million. "They were tough competitors," said Al Paggi,
owner of Paggi Electric. "As a business person, (Donald
Turnupseed) learned from his dad. His dad was a very, very
tough-minded person. But they never shorted anybody on their
Unlike his father, Donald Turnupseed was likeable, but not
outgoing, Paggi said. "You could never get close to Don." The
business owner was quiet even before the crash, Paggi said. The
accident probably caused Turnupseed to be more private still,
Paggi said. "More than likely," he said.
Turnupseed developed a fondness for cars while a student at
Tulare Union High School in the 1940s when he got a Model A,
said Al Paggi, owner of Paggi Electric.
"He turned it into a little race car." Paggi said. Years later, he built
dune buggies, nelson said. "The last 10 years he didn't do that
much," Nelson said. "The last 10 years he didn't do that much,"
Nelson said, "He devoted a lot of time to business. Business was
Turnupseed was an innovator, including selling clients on
preventative maintenance programs, Nelson said. "They had a
chance to fix it before down time."
Turnupseed was president of the San Joaquin Valley chapter of
National Electrical Contractors Association 1990-94. He handed
control of his company to Nelson last year as his lung cancer
progressed. But he kept close ties to the business, Nelson said.
He is survived by his wife, Mollie Turnupseed, Tulare; two sons,
David and Donald Bruce Turnupseed, both of Tulare; one stepson,
Rick Bradley, Coalinga; one daughter, Peggy Henson, Fresno;
and five grandchildren.
Visitation will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Miller's Tulare
Funeral Home. Graveside services will be at 10 a.m. Monday in
Tulare Cemetery. Remembrances may be sent to Hospice of
Tulare County, 605 W. Willow Ave, Visalia, CA 93201.
—courtesy of http://www.fialcowitz.com/turnupseed/obits1.htmlhttp://www.fialcowitz.com/turnupseed/obits1.html
My only connection is as an automotive enthusiast reposting this to a rather permanent genealogical website.