Seniors & Aging

Retired truck driver looks forward to showcasing restored tractors

While in their Acme home April 1, 2016, Henry Maleng and his wife, Vivian, look at a photo of him and his father riding a 1944 Case tractor. Maleng is a retired logging truck driver and fire commissioner,
While in their Acme home April 1, 2016, Henry Maleng and his wife, Vivian, look at a photo of him and his father riding a 1944 Case tractor. Maleng is a retired logging truck driver and fire commissioner, For The Bellingham Herald

Henry Maleng drove a logging truck for more than three decades, but he never forgot the sweet childhood memories of riding on his father’s beautiful red Case tractor in the Acme area back in the 1940s.

Now Henry has plenty of motivation to follow a regimen of physical therapy in the wake of strokes he suffered last August and in February 2016. Henry, wife Vivian, and son Hank are looking forward to displaying at least three of the five Case tractors in the family at the annual tractor show this summer at Berthusen Park, Aug. 3-6.

After Henry’s retirement in 2008, he and Hank began restoring classic Case tractors. They found their first project, a 1944 model, in Prineville, Ore., and restored it to a gleaming “flamboyant red.”

Why a 1944 Case?

“That was my father’s tractor,” Henry says, feeling pride in restoring a tractor his father loved. “I didn’t really have any hobbies before I retired, except for watching sports.”

Their second restoration project was a 1952 Case DC4. They have a third, ongoing project with a 1948 Case S.

Crash brought them together

Henry, 78, and Vivian, 72, met when she was 12, when Henry and a friend visited her home to see her father’s 1947 Buick.

“I didn’t want my dad to sell that beautiful car,” recalls the former Vivian Carson. “It was the only car I had known.”

Vivian has unforgettable memories of the February night in 1963, many years later, when she might have accepted Henry’s invitation to a basketball game had she not already left with friends for a dance in Mount Vernon.

“We were hit by a drunk on Chuckanut Drive,” she recalls. “I was seriously injured. I didn’t know about Henry coming to our house that night after I had already left.”

But he came to see her in the hospital, and a lifelong love affair was born.

When I came home from the hospital, he would come to see me. I told my best girlfriend, ‘You know, I just met the man I’m going to marry.’

Vivian Maleng, of Acme

“I was happy he came to see me, but I sure wasn’t beautiful that day,” she says. “They hadn’t even shown me a mirror yet.”

Henry will always remember that visit in the hospital.

“I thought maybe I should turn around and leave,” he says, so worried was he about Vivian.

“He didn’t like what he saw,” Vivian says. “Henry’s face turned white. But when I came home from the hospital, he would come to see me. I told my best girlfriend, ‘You know, I just met the man I’m going to marry.’”

Sure enough, Henry and Vivian were married soon after the accident. In addition to Hank, their youngest at 49, they have three daughters - Melissa Jo, Stephanie Louise, and Ruth Christine - plus eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Deep county roots

The Malengs’ ties to rural Whatcom County go back to 1907, when Henry’s grandfather Martin, who was born in Norway, and wife Sigrid established a farm near Acme. Henry’s father and mother were Norman Maleng and Margaret Anderson Maleng.

Vivian formerly resided in Bellingham. They have lived for 30 years in the home where Henry grew up.

Henry studied two years at the University of Washington, but decided he wanted to work. He labored as a dairy farmer, for Boeing, as a bus driver, and as a civilian mechanic for the Washington Air National Guard. He found his occupational niche driving a logging truck in the era when such rigs were common in the the forests of Whatcom and Skagit counties.

He also served 20 years as commissioner of Acme Fire District 16, retiring in 2015.

Vivian, meanwhile, worked for a beauty school in Bellingham, as a cook for Bellingham School District, for the Port of Bellingham, and in health care.

“I always worked it out so that I could be home when the children came home from school,” she says.

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