Terry Torgenrud cared for generations of local children and fought for public health

University Place pediatrician Terry Torgenrud died Nov. 30 at at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle.
University Place pediatrician Terry Torgenrud died Nov. 30 at at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Courtesy

Terry Torgenrud spent 34 years caring for the children of Pierce County. They, in turn, brought their children and then grandchildren to see the pediatrician.

The University Place physician died Nov. 30 at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle of complications from pancreatitis. He was 75.

Torgenrud retired several years ago from his practice but still saw patients occasionally at University Place Pediatric Clinic, the practice he cofounded.

“Torg,” as he was known to his friends, was suited to be a pediatrician.

“He knew all his patients very well,” said longtime medical partner Bruce Davies. “He knew their family tree. He would know someone’s second cousin.”

Born and raised in Wahpeton, North Dakota, Torgenrud earned his medical degree at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. While in the army, he completed his residency at Madigan Army Medical Center.

With wife, Janet, Torgenrud raised three sons, Drew, Tim and Matt, in University Place.

“He was totally into his three kids,” Drew Torgenrud said Tuesday. “He was very supportive.”

Except when they were ill.

“My mom was more concerned when we were sick than he was,” Drew said. “He would say, ‘Oh, they’ll be fine.’ 

Many of the Torgenrud boys’ school friends had the elder Torgenrud as their physician. To this day, Drew said, he still gets comments from strangers who see his family name.

“They all said he’s such a great guy,” he said.

Torgenrud’s concern for health extended far beyond the children he saw in his exam room. A proponent of adding fluoride to drinking water systems, he testified at public hearings from Fircrest to Sumner.

Fluoride has its critics and he endured verbal abuse.

“There were a lot of people not very happy with (Torgunrud’s advocacy),” Drew said.

He volunteered with immunization campaigns and at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. He got smoking banned at the Fircrest Golf Club.

“It’s just who he was,” Drew said. “He was very into people and helping them live life as best as they could.”

Aside from playing golf, Torgenrud’s sports passion was following the University of Washington football and basketball teams.

Torgenrud passed Davies a note during a visit while Torgenrud was hospitalized at Virginia Mason.

“When is the Apple Cup?” it read.

In addition to his wife and sons, Torgenrud is survived by a grandson, Noah.

A funeral Mass for Torgenrud will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 7) at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Tacoma followed by a reception.

Davies said patients would still ask him and the other physicians at the clinic about Torgenrud.

“He was a good role model,” Davies said. “I kind of looked at him like a big brother.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor