For the past few weeks, Nadine Grace had felt like a policeman’s wife, worried whether her husband would come home safely from work.
Tim Grace, 28, was the second foreman on the day shift for Lloyd Logging of Twisp, Wash., where he had worked for five years. He often left his Colbert home on Sunday afternoons and didn’t return until Friday nights.
He worked on a rock crusher and other heavy equipment. At least one coworker had been injured in an equipment accident a year ago.
Grace didn’t like his job, which kept him away from his 3-year-old daughter, Danielle. He had started looking for work in Spokane.
“I said to him, ‘I never know whether you’re going to come back Friday in one piece,”’ said Nadine Grace, 26. “I would have a little breakdown every Sunday when he left. He knew and I knew something was going to happen.”
On Friday morning, Tim Grace was one of two people buried by a flood of rocks, clay and dirt at a gravel pit in Wenatchee.
Grace’s dog, a blue-heeler mix named Bandit who went everywhere with him, survived. Tim Grace didn’t. Neither did 5-year-old Tory Davis, the son of a coworker.
Nadine Grace didn’t get the news until 2 p.m. Friday at Lincare Inc., which distributes oxygen and durable medical equipment for the elderly. A billing clerk, she had just returned to her cubicle after a late lunch. She still was standing up when her mother called with news of the slide.
Nadine Grace sat down and sobbed.
She went to her parents’ home in the Valley and watched TV all night, hoping her husband would be all right. She thought he probably was dead.
The next morning, Nadine Grace, her parents and a brother and sister flew to Wenatchee and waited at the rock slide. They arrived five minutes after Tory’s body was pulled from a crumpled bus. They sat on railroad tracks for 10 hours while work crews shifted piles of dirt looking for her husband.
That night, dirty and exhausted, Nadine Grace toyed with spaghetti and creamed corn in Styrofoam cups provided by the American Red Cross. She couldn’t eat. It was the same menu that she planned to make for her husband Saturday night.
Tired of waiting, she went home Sunday morning. At 7 p.m., she learned that her husband’s body had been found. She flipped through her ragged address book and called friends, near and far, and told them that her husband of three years had died.
“It was really hard,” she said Tuesday, her eyes wet. “It’s amazing because he felt he had no friends. He thought nobody cared about him.
“I saw a lot of people who cared and wanted to make a difference, after the fact. He was loved by a lot of people. I wish he would have known.”
Tim Grace, who grew up in the Methow Valley in Okanogan County and graduated from Pateros High School in 1985, stood about 5-foot-6-inches tall. He was a stocky man who wore his brown hair in a side part and a moustache.
He fished, hunted and camped. For his birthday, Nadine Grace gave him a cabinet to hold his 10 guns.
The Graces had a basic life. The couple planted a garden and raised two cows on their three acres. Tim and Nadine Grace worked on a housing addition for a family room and another bedroom. They watched movies at home. Once a month, they went out on the town. The Saturday before Grace died, the two ate at Peking North and saw “While You Were Sleeping,” a romantic movie.
“He was too young,” Nadine Grace said. “We’re too young to go through this. You never plan for anything like this.”
Sitting in her dining room Tuesday, Nadine Grace - who also has a daughter, Tasha Schliebe, 5, from her first marriage - was surrounded by gifts of flowers and plants. The couple liked to keep track of the small things. On a wall calendar, all the past dates were marked with black diagonal slashes. Friday’s date has a small circle around it.
Tim Grace will be buried in his cowboy boots and a red-banded black hat, which now sits on a stereo speaker. The mounted head of a deer he shot years ago hangs on the living room wall. Evidence of his sense of humor is still around as well - a mock can of Campbell’s Noodles and Spotted Owl soup rests on a cabinet shelf.
“He’ll take anything and turn it into a joke,” Nadine Grace said. “He’d keep a birthday occasion just roaring. All around, he would keep everyone happy.”
Services will be held for Grace at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Methow Community Church. He’ll be buried at the Methow Cemetery. The family will go, including Danielle.
For the towheaded 3-year-old, life hasn’t changed yet. She’s used to her dad being away for most of the week. She played with her Barbie dolls on Tuesday afternoon and ran back and forth from the living room to the dining room. Her mother hasn’t explained that her father’s dead.
“She has asked where Daddy’s at,” Nadine Grace said. “I’ve told her we’re going to see him this weekend.”