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This is Dean

This is Dean

Dean is one of ten kids, born into a long line of Norwegian farmers. (And Vikings, too!) He was born in Wisconsin (GO PACKERS!) and moved to Yakima at age 10.

After spending his formative years at St. Joseph Marquette school, he attended East Valley High School. (GO RED DEVILS!)

With five brothers, four sisters and a father who worked as a welder, Dean grew up in impoverished conditions. He tells stories of his childhood, dusting corn for change to help with household expenses, gleaning fields in East Valley to bring home fruit for canning, having nothing but popcorn to eat for lunch at school. (There’s a reason we provide complimentary popcorn in our clubhouse… it’s a reminder, as well as a tasty treat.) His family ran a small farm to provide for themselves, but he has lived through many hungry nights.

Dean knew that to change the trajectory of his life, he needed an education. (Core Value #4!) He graduated from East Valley and set his sights on higher-level learning. He put himself through school at Washington State University (GO COUGS!), slept on closet floors and ate ketchup-packet soup to pay tuition, and earned himself a degree in electrical engineering.

Eventually Dean married and grew a family. He raised three kids, each of whom attended school in East Valley and then transferred to Davis High School. (GO PIRATES!) His daughters attended University of Washington (which led to many “HUSKY vs COUGAR” mascot and logoed apparel wars at Christmas gatherings), and his son moved to Ellensburg to study mathematics at Central Washington University.

After a long, dedicated career at Pacific Power and Light, Dean retired. Instead of slowing down and whittling things (like a normal retired person should probably do), he thought to himself, “Huh. I like golf, I’ll build a golf course.”

And so he did.

River Ridge Golf Course was first opened in Selah, Washington in July of 2003. The objective of the course was to offer an affordable and challenging executive-length golf experience, while requiring each golfer to use every club in his bag. (If you’ve ever golfed here, I think you’d agree: “mission accomplished!”)

Dean has always been a lover of nature and green, grow-able things, and tending the course has been a source of great enjoyment for him. He turned a dusty, weed-filled sliver of riverside dirt into a lush oasis.


River Ridge clubhouse and restaurant opened in 2004. The building is constructed with over 70% recycled lumber (“scrounging” is a fantastic trait of Norwegian farmers at least the Laurvick ones; most of the material used to build the clubhouse was stored in Dean’s backyard for no less than 15 years), including local varieties like Douglas fir, cedar, Ponderosa pine, lodge pole pine burls and tamarack.

Dean’s second daughter, Kari, contributed much to the interior, but the back bar is Dean’s pride and joy. He collected and hand-milled the burl wood himself, designed and assembled it according to his exact specifications. It is a sight to see, and we are quite confident there is none other like it.

Through hardships, harsh winters, hunger and the occasional flood, both Dean and River Ridge remain standing. This business and building and golf course are tangible examples of one man’s greatness… his continual resourcefulness, unrelenting work ethic, constant demand for self-improvement, and his unwillingness to settle for the circumstances life tries to hand him. There is power in this place, and every meal we serve is small victory dance for guts, grit and perseverance.

OH. Also. In addition to designing and building the golf course and running the restaurant, Dean enjoys watching football, building things with Unistrut (Legos for grown-ups), playing with his grand-kids, and enjoying a mean hand of cribbage.

This is me. My name is Erin.

This is me. My name is Erin.

I am Dean’s oldest daughter.

(And yes, my hair is purple. It drives Dad crazy. I told him I chose this color because I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair until I was 18. “It’s rebellious, Dad. You can’t get mad, it’s your fault.”)

After I graduated from Davis High School, I moved to Seattle and attended UW. I studied biochemistry and endocrinology, mostly because I love science and biology, but partly because it was the toughest course of study available to me. For a long time my philosophy of life was to “choose the road least traveled,” even though “the road least traveled” was not traveled because it went right off a cliff. Everyone said “That’s too hard, that’s a five year degree you’re trying to obtain in just four years, are you nuts?”

Turns out, YES. I was.

Instead of pursuing a career in medicine, I started work with Red Robin International just before their IPO. It was a pivotal time to join the company, and my time there provided great experience. Under the guidance of some truly amazing mentors and managers I learned everything I could about operations management, business and leadership.

They say that God determines the time and place in which you’ll live, and that nothing is coincidental. I believe that my life circumstances have steered me home, back to my roots, for the purpose of working with Dad and adding my life experience to the foundation of River Ridge. My personal goal is to leave this place better than it was when I found it, to empower and encourage everyone I meet, and to teach others the skills I’ve acquired through trial, sweat, and tears.

When I’m not at River Ridge I can be found chasing down my kids, folding the mountains of laundry they create, working out at the YMCA (not nearly as consistently as I should), or sitting in my home office, pulling out my hair as I try to blog, write a book, create not-sucky content and figure out (the way under my age bracket) social media platforms. Like Twitter. (Seriously. I don’t know how to tweet.)

I believe in River Ridge, our business, and our mission. It is my deepest desire that every single person working for us and with us feels as appreciated, significant and valuable as I consider them to be, not just because of their patronage, but because of their individuality. We are all masterpieces, sparks of life and light with unique perspectives and specialized skills, and we are stronger together than apart.

I would love to meet you, and I am at your service. Please feel free to contact me at any time.

Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon!