Veterans Voices: Utica-area baker got his start making donuts for Army during Korean War

Veterans Voices

This week, NewsChannel 9 and LocalSYR.com are honoring Central New York’s servicemembers with a series of special reports from Washington, D.C. for Honor Flight Syracuse’s Mission 15 culminating with a special broadcast on Veterans Day, “Veterans Voices” at 7pm on NewsChannel 9.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSYR-TV) — For most people who served in Korea, the war was life-or-death work. On his trip to Washington, D.C. with Honor Flight Syracuse, Charles Terpstra, of New Hartford, admits his job was pretty sweet.

Charlie was a baker and cook for the U.S. Army. His 14-month service was devoted to feeding fellow troops and Korean natives with a baking team of five locals in a kitchen run by a generator.

He recalls: “They’d scoop the donuts out of the grease and dump them in a cardboard box. They’d harden during the night. In the morning, five trucks would come with five women from the Red Cross. They’d distribute coffee and donuts all over Korea to boost morale.”

It was Terpstra’s first time in uniform, but not his first war. Growing up in Holland, he helped his grandfather run an underground railroad credited with saving many lives. The so-called “Dutch-Paris” helped 1,500 Jews running from the Nazis to reach safety in Switzerland and Spain.

At 18 years old, Charlie moved to the United States and enlisted.

About the joy he brought to people at a time when it was needed most, Charlie said, “Makes you feel good. Although you weren’t making a lot of money, you were making a lot of dough.”

He’s not kidding. Charlie turned his war assignment into a full-time career. He spent decades making birthday and wedding cakes at Holland Farms in Yorkville and rose through the ranks to become the president of the Mohawk Valley Bakers Association.

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