Rachel Woods says she was fine waiting a day after she turned 22 onTuesday to have a special birthday dinner with her hard-working, America- and family-loving, usually-dirt-covered fiance, Josh Ketchem.
After all, the Redmond couple, already with three kids between them, learned just a week ago that they would be having their first child together, due next March.
But instead, Woods said, Wednesday became -- in a tragic instant -- “the worst birthday of my life.”
Joshua Lee Ketchem, 27, was killed late Wednesday morning, just two months into his job at the Fontana Wood Products plant on Lamonta Road, when a 1,500-pound metal press, supported by a forklift, fell on top of him.
Other workers found him a short time later, but medics arriving around that time were unable to revive him.
Woods was spending Thursday on the phone and with Josh’s two best friends, trying not to focus on the awful turn of events – keeping busy.
They already had created a special Facebook page, filled with photos in memory of “our local infidel,” at https://www.facebook.com/InMemoryOfJoshKetchemOurLocalInfidel and also started a “Joshua Lee Ketchem Memorial Benefit Fund,” accepting contributions at Wells Fargo Bank branches.
Ketchum was born at Fort Gordon, Georgia and attended Redmond High School, later got his GED. He leaves behind two daughters, Taylor and Josette, 8 and 5, as well as Rachel’s 18-month-old daughter, Ava.
The couple had started planning their wedding for Aug. 16 2014, on the second anniversary of their meeting.
Woods, who was born in Portland and grew up in Madras, said they met and quickly fell in love last summer during one of his two-week breaks from his six-week stints working in maintenance for the railroad.
“It was love at first sight,” she said. “We said ‘I love you’ after four days.”
So why the “infidel” moniker – big and large, with an early U.S. flag on his truck’s rear gate, even tattooed on his calf?
Because, Rachel said, Josh was “pro-America, pro-Second Amendment -- pro-everything America.”
“Josh literally has a copy of the Constitution,” she said. (One can forgive her in-shock use of the present tense, of course.) ”He’s read it multiple times – for fun. He has a Betsy Ross flag. He’s all-America, all the time – every time.”
As for his new job at Fontana, which makes wood trusses, “he was loving every minute of it,” Woods said, her smile apparent over the phone. “He got to weld. He came home dirty and messed up my laundry.”
But that was okay, she said – on his old railroad job, “he was always black,” from working with the grinding machine and such.
“He had a thing for dirt,” Woods said, and that came up, in sad, sweet but funny fashion, on Thursday, when she and Josh’s friends went to view his body at the funeral home – and they could still see some dirt on him.
“They said they could clean it up. But we told them, ‘No – it wouldn’t be Josh if he didn’t have dirt on him.’”
Ketchem's memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, August 3 at 1PM at Eagle Crest - Juniper Hall.
"Everyone is welcome to share their respects and reflect on his amazing life with his family and friends," Woods said Monday.