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Wendy Reuer, Published August 11 2012

Tale wraps up North Dakota ties: Book tells of former Fargoan’s curious family history, adoption

How to find it

The book “One of Eleven: Based on the Life of Gary Kopperud” can be found at Terrie Biggs’ website www.novelsbyterrie.com or at Amazon.com

FARGO – It’s a tale of adultery, philandering and family, set in the midst of World War II on the North Dakota plains.

The story may sound like a fictional novel plot, but a new book “One of Eleven” is based on the reality of Gary Kopperud. After nearly 60 years, Kopperud found not just his North Dakota birth parents but 10 siblings who had been looking for him for the past 50 years and the story of why he was just one of eleven children who was separated.

“It’s not a pretty story, but it’s true,” Kopperud said in a phone interview from his home in Oregon.

As Kopperud discovered his family history, his friend and business acquaintance, Terrie Biggs, followed along.

A kitchen designer and aspiring novelist, Biggs decided to start writing Kopperud’s story in novel form.

“We were putting it together as he went along, trying to put the pieces together,” Biggs said. “I call it creative nonfiction, it’s based on facts but I made up some dialogue because we weren’t exactly sure of what they would have said.”

The book, “One of Eleven: Based on the Life of Gary Kopperud” was released in June through CreateSpace, a self-publishing hub of Amazon.com

Although rare such a large family would be found intact, Kopperud said, the story of why he – born fourth in the clan – was put up for adoption and the circumstances that surround it are what make the book intriguing.

Kopperud was born in 1946 in Devils Lake, N.D., the fourth of his siblings.

His mother was accused by her husband, a World War II veteran, of cheating on him; through rumors, he believed the child was not his.

Gary was sent to the Children’s Village in Fargo, where he was adopted by a Jamestown, N.D. couple.

He and his family eventually moved to Fargo where he was raised until the age of 16, when his family moved toward the West Coast.

Kopperud said he grew up knowing he was adopted, but out of respect for his adopted parents, he didn’t seek more information.

“Even when I needed medical information I could not find it out,” Kopperud said.

However, at the age of 58, Kopperud was ready when both his adopted father and mother died within the same year.

He said he told himself there may be information he would never find out.

“Personally, that disappointed me,” Kopperud said.

Kopperud was eventually put in touch with a brother who lives just hours away, in Washington state.

Kopperud said he never imagined he would have one sibling, much less 10.

“I was the only one that got away. So I inherited a tremendous family, half of which is still in North Dakota,” he said.

After about 13 trips to North Dakota, Kopperud was able to assemble the family history.

“Being I’m from North Dakota, I have a very curious mind, and I wanted to know everything because I went 58 years without knowing anything about my history,” He said. “It’s an interesting time. We think we’re in control, but when that much information and that much revelation happens, even at 58 years old there were a lot of questions.”

Biggs said she and Kopperud were able to include many photographs from the family over the years. She said even though the tale came together, there are still answers she hopes readers may one day be able to provide.

“There are still some mysteries we haven’t’ been able to solve. We’re not 100 percent sure who his biological father is,” Biggs said. “It is a North Dakota story.”

The owner of two businesses in Oregon and father to five children, grandfather of 17 and great-grandfather of eight, Kopperud said he has strong ties to North Dakota. An entire chapter of the book is devoted to the difficult move when he was 16 out of the state.

“It’s kind of a universal story, but the North Dakota connection was very important to me,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530