Good-bye Joan Holmes

Joan Holmes passed away last week (7 Jul 1936 – 29 Jan 2014).  We spent some great time with the Holmes family in 1999.  I visited them again in 2003 and 2008 at their home in Runcorn, England.  I thought I would bid my own farewell to Joan with this picture.  Rest in peace Joan until we meet again.  You were sure a lot of fun.  Ray, all the best in this difficult time.

Paul

Amanda & Paul Ross, Ray & Joan Holmes

Amanda & Paul Ross, Ray & Joan Holmes in 2008

Apostolic Brush

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rose and John Byrom

Ruby and David Haight, Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom

I stumbled upon this picture the other day and thought maybe it was time to share it.  This picture has an interesting story behind it.

On the far right are John and Rosie Byrom.  Rosie is mostly in the shadow so it is difficult to make her out.  I served in the Runcord Ward from around December 1999 to around August 2000.  John served as Ward Mission Leader and Rosie as a Ward Missionary.  (The Byroms have since separated and divorced).  I served in the ward for a long time and they remained in their callings for the entire time, so we built a friendship which, I feign to believe, still exists to this day.

I returned home from my mission in December 2000.  It was not long into 2001 that I learned the Byroms were planning on visiting Utah.  Of course, I invited them to spend some time in Idaho.

During the majority of time I served in Runcorn I had a companion by the name of Brad Hales.  Also in our district was a senior sister companionship of Meriel Peterson and Patricia Kleinkopf.  We were all native Idahoans and were in close proximity of each other.  It was natural that the Byroms also wanted to visit each of them while they were in Idaho.

This particular day we drove to Oakley, Idaho to visit Sister Peterson.  We had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation.  Sister Peterson decided she wanted to give us the tour of Oakley because there were some architectural gems that she thought the Byroms would enjoy.  I grew up near Oakley so I was familiar with many of these local landmarks.

We all piled into my little Camry and away we drove.  We had not made it very far driving down some of the streets of Oakley when Sister Peterson announced, “Wait, David is home, he will want to meet you!”  She had me turn around and we pulled into a little home in Oakley.

I had no clue who David was and I was not familiar with the home we were now pulling into the driveway.  We all exited the car.  In the yard there was a man trimming his hedges with a large straw hat and a large set of sunglasses that you only see old people wear.

Since Sister Peterson indicated that David would want to meet the Byroms because they were from England, I remained at the front of my car in the driveway and leaned back against it in the hot, summer, morning sun.

I have to give a little bit of background on the month prior.  We are in the latter half of July 2001 at the point of this picture (I recollect it was the 21st, but may be wrong).  I had just spent considerable time in Hawaii with family at the beginning of the month.  During that time I picked myself up a shirt and a shell necklace among other items.  As you can see in the picture, I am wearing my red shirt (not the blatant Hawaiian design you regularly see).  For years I thought I was in a pair of board shorts too, but this picture corrects my memory on that tidbit.  But I had continuously wore my new puka shell necklace since the trip to Hawaii.

Back to the story, I am leaning on the front of my car watching the Byroms enter the back yard through the hedge and approach this old man in a large straw hat and holding an electric hedge trimmer.  The man stopped trimming and turned to greet his trespassers.  Curiously, after what was a short couple of moments, probably no more than 20 seconds of conversation, this man leaves the Byroms and Sister Peterson and headed my direction.

My first reaction was that I was doing something wrong so I looked around to see my misstep.  Alas, not seeing I had done anything wrong I approached the man and met him near his hedge.  He had set down his trimmer before arriving to me and he pulled his hand out of his glove to shake my hand.  I shook hands with him and he with his free hand reached up and took of his hat and glasses and asked me my name.

My first thought was something along these lines, “Boy, this David fellow sure looks familiar.”  He asked my name and I gave it.  He asked about my Ross name and whether or not it was Scottish.  I informed him it was my name but not the name of which my ancestors carried.  He then informed me that Ross was a common name in Scotland where he had served as a Mission President.

He then grew quiet and he sidled up closer to me and put the hand with the hat and glasses in the small of my back while still holding my other hand in a handshake.  He was now close enough that his face was in my shadow (and he was considerably shorter than me).  He then broke the handshake and with that hand reached up and touched my puka shell necklace.

“What is this?”

“My necklace?”

“I am disappointed that you have fallen from the principles of the gospel that we teach as missionaries.  We teach than men and women have separate and distinct roles and this is confusing the two.”

My first impression was, “How did you know I served a mission?”

This man then turned to walk away back to the Byroms and Sister Peterson.  As he walked away, the thought occurred, “You have just been rebuked by an Apostle.”

Then it dawned.  David was David B Haight, one of the twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was an individual I recognized as a Priesthood Leader and on my first meeting with him, I had been rebuked.

I stood there reeling from what had just happened.  It stung.  David went to the back door of his house and summoned his wife Ruby.  Ruby appeared and they all stood 25 feet away from me chit chatting about England, Scotland, and whatever else they were talking about.

What seemed like an eternity was likely only a minute or so, if that.  I remember reaching up and taking the puka shell necklace off and holding it in my hand.  I dwelt on what was really an unintended and probably unwanted visit that was a bother to me and this old man.  Sister Peterson just commented he was home and a few lines of dialogue just ended up potentially effected my eternities.  According to him I was already on the path, so I guess it did not matter what he said except to correct my backsliding ways.

Next thing I knew, the distant conversation between the Haights and Byroms had stopped and this Apostle was returning to me.  He again held out his hand as if to invite another handshake. I held out my hand with the necklace in it and he cupped his hand to receive whatever I was offering.  I dropped the necklace into his hand and once he realized what it was he let it drop to the ground.

He held out his hand again inviting mine in a handshake and I clasped his.  He sidled up close to me again, put his other hand in the small of my back, and was close enough to be in my shadow and that I could smell the salt in his old man sweat, and he continued…

“Where did you serve your mission?”  (I remember thinking that was an ironic question since the Byroms were from England, Sister Peterson served in England, and he asked where the fourth member of the party served his mission?)

“England Manchester Mission”

“How long have you been home?”

(After a quick mental tally) “Nine months”

“Elder, you hold the Priesthood.  You have a duty to uphold that Priesthood.  You should have been married by now.”

He released my hand, pulled his hand from the small of my back, turned, and walked away.  Maybe 4 steps later he turned around and said, “When it happens, I want to know about it.”

He returned to a conversation with Ruby, Sister Peterson, and the Byroms.

I stood there while they chatted for a few more minutes.  I do not recall hearing anything of the conversation between them, even if I was close enough to have heard.

Rosie had a picture taken of the occasion.  Sister Peterson sacrificed herself in the moment to take the photo that now memorializes this occasion.

I shook hands again with Elder David Haight and Sister Ruby Haight and we headed on down the road to see some other homes.  I ended up driving many more hours that day to Boise, Idaho City, Stanley, and elsewhere chauffeuring the Byroms through some of the sights of Idaho.  Rosie Byrom teased me about the moment the rest of the time I was with them.  After all, it is not every day that you get rebuked by an Apostle.  I cannot recall if they overheard the conversation or if I told them about it.  I cannot imagine that they overheard the conversation due to the close proximity in which David and I spoke that day.

Oddly enough, it weighed on me for a long time.  It became the butt of jokes as time went on, especially as David continued to age.  He was already over 95 at the time of my meeting him.  Roommates and friends would indicate that I better hurry or else I would not fulfill the rest of my duty to let David know when it happened.  I will not lie, it became a great story to tell people.  People loved to hear about my rebuke by an Apostle.

I regularly tell the story to individuals I am close to and that wear a necklace.  Missionaries I worked with I regularly told the story, especially if they wore a necklace.  I admit, I never wore a necklace or bracelet of any type since that date.  I know a number of missionaries who have “fallen from the principles we teach as missionaries” and forsaken their evil ways.  Honestly, I do not know that the story is one that should be heeded by others.  But for the deep effect it had upon me at the time and the power in which he spoke to me, I recognize it was for me.  Others should be careful about applying revelation of others to themselves.  But I do believe there is a principle here that we can learn, I just don’t know that I can very clearly articulate it.  I know the principle clearly for me, but don’t know how narrow or general to make it in application to others.

I remember Rosie reminding me that if I properly repent, I would be married within another 9 months.  Boy if that did not apply a little pressure!

As a side, I did pick up my little puka shell necklace and ended up giving it to a friend when I returned to Missouri later in August.  I don’t believe she has any clue what that little necklace meant to me.

There is more to the story.

On the following Monday, I believe 23 July 2001, I was in Salt Lake City with the Byroms.  After an endowment session, Rosie announced we were to go to the Church Administration Building.  She did not tell us why and I thought she just wanted to see the sights from the Church Office Building.  We walked in the Church Office Building and after Rosie talked to the man at the desk, she said we were in the wrong building and we needed to go to the Church Administration Building.  I informed her that the Church Administration Building was not really open to the public.  Rosie announced that we had an appointment.

In light of my experience a few days before, I was not really thrilled about our appointment in the Church Administration Building.  We walked around to the front door of the Church Administration Building and walked in.  As we approached the man at the security desk he asked,

“Are you the Byroms?”

Rosie responded, “Yes.”

“We have been waiting for you.”  (Never a very heartwarming phrase, whether the morgue, jail, CIA, bank, or Church Administration Building)

The man then responded, “You will need to leave your bags here, take the elevator to the fourth floor, take a right, and it is the last door on the left.  I will let them know you are coming up.”

We entered the elevator and headed to the fourth floor.  Rosie then turned and commented to me, “John helped provide security and drive for Elder Ballard while he (Elder Ballard) was in England for the Preston Temple Dedication.  He told us that if we were ever in Utah to stop and pay him a visit.”

Suddenly the realization came to me that I was going to visit with my second Apostle in less than a week.  I am a fairly laid back guy but felt some apprehension after the experience just days before.  We turned the corner and there stood M Russell Ballard in the doorway.  He invited us in to his office, introduced us to his secretary, and then ushered us into his office.  Across from his desk, I think, there were two nice wing-backed chairs.  Another chair was already there for me, or we pulled up a chair.  Elder Ballard left the office for a moment and then reappeared pushing a little chair toward me.  We were already all seated and he asked,

“Where is your wife?”

“I am not married.”

“Oh, that is something you will have to fix.”

He turned to push the little chair back out the door.  I heard Rosie chuckle and comment, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses…”

Elder Ballard returned and took his seat and we had a nice conversation that probably did not take more than 15 minutes.  Once again, Rosie had a picture taken.

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, Elder Ballard

Paul Ross, Rosie and John Byrom, M Russell Ballard

That was the extent of the interaction and I felt some sting from the second witness of my duty to uphold the Priesthood.  But it was a pleasant experience.  Rosie reminded me often after that, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Well, time passed and eventually Elder David B Haight did pass from this veil of tears at the end of July 2004, three years after our encounter.  Fortunately, Elder Haight and I did have an opportunity to talk again regarding our first interaction that lessened the blow of the occasion.  Nevertheless, roommates and many friends called after Elder Haight’s passing to let me know how dire my situation was now that the revelator had passed and I had not fulfilled my duty.

Rosie commented to me that I could fulfill my duty by reporting my marriage to Elder Ballard when the time came.

Well, forward a few more years and I became enamored with a little red-headed girl from Kaysville, Utah.  She came to enjoy her time with me and after a while we would end our walks with a little dancing on the porch of the Alumni House at Utah State University.  It became a regular thing to end our walks and evenings out with a dance and closing conversation on the porch of the Alumni House.  I dare say we danced on the porch of that building more than 60 times.  It was on the porch of this little Alumni House that I made an unofficial proposal to Ms. Hemsley.  It just seemed like the right place.

Months later, Amanda and I returned to Logan under the guise of visiting some friends.  While on the campus I took her to that little porch of the Alumni House and there after midnight, now on 4 July 2005, I fell to my knee and proposed to her.  Of course she said yes and we danced and kissed there on the porch of the Alumni House.  Interestingly, before we left that night, I caught sight of a huge portrait hanging inside the doors that open to the porch that had become an important part of our courtship.  As I looked closer, I could see the familiar sight of a man whose face I knew.  As I got a little closer to see in the dark the portrait lit only by fire escape signs it dawned on me it was a portrait of David B Haight.

If that was not a little coincidental, and perhaps a little creepy, I do not know what is.  Elder Haight’s portrait had actually witnessed some of the most personal moments of my courtship.  The building I had only known as the Alumni House is properly named the David B Haight Alumni Center.  Somehow it seemed the whole experience had just came full circle.

We sent a wedding invitation to Elder M Russell Ballard with a short note explaining that due to Elder Haight’s passing I was sending the note and invitation to him to fulfill my duty.  He responded with a card thanking me for my note and invitation and suggested I consider my duty fulfilled.  He also apologized for not being able to attend our reception (which I am glad about, surely some further duty might have been laid upon me if he had!)

There is my story for the above photo with the Haights and Byroms.  Maybe some day I can tell my story about Elder Hales (the Apostle, not my missionary companion)…

A duck story and the Gores

Here is a picture of our latest visitors here in Oklahoma City.  Kevin and Jean Gore from Walkden, Greater Manchester, England.  They visited and stayed with us for two evenings and about two days.

I first come to know the Gores in 1998 as I was preparing to leave for my mission to the UK.  The Bishop from the Hazelton Ward, Paul Tateoka, sent word through his brother in my ward, Ted Tateoka, that I needed to call this couple from the UK.

The Gores were staying with one of the missionaries who had brought them into the church, who lived 5 miles or so down the road from me.  I called the Meacham home and had a nice visit with Kevin for about 30 minutes or so.  I obviously had my mission call, but I do not recall knowing that they lived in my mission.  Kevin knew I was in the mission so he told me a few interesting things and we hung up the phone.

I admit I completely forgot about this conversation with Kevin Gore until my first Sunday serving in the Eccles Ward (now Swinton) of the Manchester England Stake.  I stood there shaking hands with members and introducing myself when a man asked if I was Elder Ross from Hazelton, Idaho.  I apparently looked dumbfounded so he informed me that I had spoken with him on the phone before my mission.  Granted, this was the first time I laid eyes on him.  Well, that started a relationship that has now come down through the years.  I served in the Eccles Ward for about 6 months, although since there were two sets of missionaries, me and my companion had the other half of the ward.

The Gores were probably one of the closest families I had in that ward, although there were a couple.  Before we left late in 1999, Kevin and Jean Gore treated all four of the missionaries to a very nice roasted duck dinner.

Time has a way of marching on, and so it has done with this friendship.  Brad Hales, Amy Hales, and I visited the Gores again in the summer of 2003 when we went to England for a convert baptism of a lady who Elder Hales and I had once taught (in Runcorn Ward).  I think we spent two evenings with them at that time, although our time was limited because they were working and we had other people in the area we also visited, but Jean made us a roasted duck dinner again!  We did not request it, but she made it, and it was fabulous.  We again enjoyed our time with them, although limited.

The Gores were kind enough to invite us to the wedding of their son, Ian, in Springville, Utah in 2004.  Brad Hales and I visited, partook of the food (no roasted duck!), and enjoyed a good evening with our British friends.  The Gores came to visit Utah in 2008 again, but we were only able to enjoy a light dinner at Olive Garden together (again, no duck, only in England!).

Amanda and I made the trek over the water again in 2008.  This time we again spent 2 nights with the Gores in their home on Trinity Crescent.  Both in 2003 and 2008 I knew the neighborhood well enough I could still drive to the home without much difficulty.  Jean once again made her now famous roasted duck dinner!  I honestly think this is the only times I have ever eaten duck in the past decade, if ever in my life (other than what they call duck at the Chinese buffet).  The Gores were more than kind in allowing us to stay with them, use their computers, talk family history, and even hosted a little get together of other members of the Swinton Ward I still knew and asked about.

Here we are in 2011, 13 years later after the phone conversation, and the Gores have come to visit us!  Sorry, we did not treat them to a roasted duck dinner.  It would have been an insult to Jean’s cooking.  Their son, Ian, had moved from Springville, Utah to Bentonville, Arkansas.  Kevin and Jean wanted to come down to visit the Oklahoma City Temple and, we feign to believe, us.  We drove out to Pops Soda Shop in Arcadia.  We also ate out at our favorite little Mexican joint and then we treated them to capers and artichoke pasta the night we made them dinner.  We played a couple of games of Ticket to Ride and just enjoyed our time together.  Thanks for being such great friends and keeping in contact through the years!

When is the next time we will see the Gores?  And, the question you all want to know, will there by duck involved?

Flanders

I thought I would write a little in relation to Veteran’s Day.  For the most part, it seems this holiday is forgotten in the United States.  Really, American’s celebrate the same day on Memorial Day in May.  I can understand the European View of holding it on the 11th of November.  It is the day WWI ended.

I remember well the time I first experienced Veteran’s Day.  I sat in the Eccles Ward Chapel in Patricroft, England.  There on 11 November 1999 I sat.  The services started at 11 AM.  We had the hymn, opening prayer, and a few comments by the Bishop until 11:11 arrived.  It was then we took two minutes to remember what was done.

Growing up in Idaho means we had little or no realization of any war.  There are no war memorials outside of cemeteries to commemorate anything.  No war in modern days has taken place anywhere near Idaho.  Even the American Civil War means little to Idahoans.  My grandfather served in the Philippines during WWII but he speaks so little of it.  I had Uncles and Great Uncles who perished in WWI and WWII.  I had been to their graves but they were the dead, just like the other dead in the cemetery.  The idea of dying for one’s country meant very little to me.

One of my first memories of England is the day after we arrived.  We were taken into Altrincham Town Centre and there we proselyted for an hour or two on the way to the mission office.  I did notice the cenotaph.  I thought how oddly placed it was.  It was something that we have relegated mostly to cemeteries in the United States.  Once and a while you find one in front of a town or city hall.

While I served in Hyde, Cheshire once of the way we knew where to turn in town was at the cenotaphs.  The same in Dukinfield.  When we arrived early at one member’s house we would loiter at the cenotaph to street contact until time for dinner.  A number of times I thought how oddly placed these things were.  I knew they were naming those who died in the ‘Great War’.  For some reason or another I thought they doubled up on the names over the various cenotaphs.  It never occurred to me names are not typically duplicated on these things, or if they do, the intention is not to do so.

Suddenly I found myself sitting in a church meeting remembering.  These souls did not fight for my country.  However I felt come into my heart a gratitude for their sacrifice.  Could I do the same thing if called upon?  Somehow a dawning realization came upon me of the hundreds if not thousands of names I had seen on cenotaphs in my first year in England.  They were everywhere.  There were continuous reminders of the dead who fought for their country.

About a month later I found myself walking the streets of Runcorn, Cheshire.  There is a large cenotaph probably around 15 feet tall.  The bus would drive by it every day.  I could not help but notice the little red, fake flowers on popcicle sticks stuck in the flower bed all around it.  The cenotaph meant more to me by this point but what were the little red flowers?  I noticed each of them had a name written on them and they appeared hand-made.

I asked what the little red flowers meant that were still scattered everywhere a month after the 11th of November.  I was then told about Flanders Fields and the poppies.  The poem was shared with me.  It made sense, I felt the poignancy of it.  The imagery is intense while the poem isn’t all that catchy to me.  In fact, some of it still doesn’t make sense to me so I share only the first verse here:

In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Would I have this type of courage?  Would I be willing to go and serve my country so willingly?  Even if I was drafted, unwillingly?  To set aside all other hopes and aspirations to serve my country?  I did so for my church.  I would think I would be willing to for my nation.  While I am not entirely enamoured with my country at the present, would I still be willing to do it?  Probably.

In fact, I feel some desire to serve in the military.  However my life hasn’t permitted the chance and my wife is against the idea.  I don’t think I will be making that decision.  But I wish to honour those who do and especially those who died in doing so.  Accordingly, when I saw my clock at 11:11 this morning, I stopped for 2 minutes to remember.  What does our future hold?  I don’t know.  But our past is nobler because of these good souls who gave all.  Not only to join, but they never returned.  We were on the side of right then, and our nation was preserved.  I hope and pray our nation continues on the side of right and we will yet be preserved.

An uncle of mine arrived in Whitney, Idaho a year after his death in WWI.  His remains arrived in a lead casket which was buried with great fanfare for the small community.  WWII repeated this scenario with another Uncle, another family line, buried in Richmond, Utah.  His body arrived months later and he was interred with great fanfare.  May we live our lives in such a way, regardless if dying for our nation, but let us die in such a way that the community wishes to come out and pay homage for your great sacrifice for the future of man, good, and our country.

Walkden, England

Just a quick and short update.  I uploaded photos from Scotland this morning.  I hope you find them interesting.  We will see how many more photos it will let me upload for the month.

We are now staying with the Gore family in Walkden.  We arrived later than anticipated after a day of visiting in Runcorn.  We attended church in the Runcorn Ward at the local community center since their building burned down a while back.  It was good to see so many people and that we received such a hearty welcome.  We did go visit a number of families while there.  A couple of which include the Campbell (and Young), Fleming, McWilliam, Johnson, Byrom and more.  A couple of families were not home so we did not visit with them.  It was sure good to be back in Runcorn, despite the fact that you have to drive around in circles to get anywhere you want to go.  Busways might be spectacular, but at the sacrifice of the drivers!

Saturday we made another trip into Liverpool.  The only thing really to mention is that we got lost and had lunch with Gheorghe and Claire Simion family.  Gheorghe was one of my mission companions.  We spent nearly four hours with him and his good wife.  It was convenient he lives in Liverpool now as he was originally from Romania.  It was a great meeting.

We are off to Hyde and Disley today.

Chester, England

Some of you have already noticed, but I uploaded a whole lot of photos yesterday.  About 250 actually were in the batch.  It includes the rest of the photos from Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France.  I did not upload any photos from Scotland or England.  They will have to wait for the next chance I get.

We are now staying with the Byrom family in Runcorn, England.  Today we went to Chester and walked the walls.  We went through the cathedral and went down the main shopping streets.  It was a beautiful day for what we were doing.  We quite enjoyed ourselves.  We each had a pasty and a vanilla finger.  She liked it but it was too much.

We stopped by Ellesmere Port on the way home at a outlet mall.  We picked out a couple of suits and bought them.  However, we were not convinced we had the best deal so we took them back.  For as much money as we were paying, I didn’t absolutely love the suits.  With our buyers remorse, we took them back.  Interestingly, on the way out, we stumbled upon another store.  I found better quality suits that were on sale for almost half of the cost for the other two suits.  Hands down, Amanda and I both liked the second store over the first.  Now I have some new suits, one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Europe.

We had dinner this evening, some amazing lasagna.  Rose has always made great lasagna.  Afterward, Rose, Amanda, and I went to visit an older lady I taught on the mission.  She was such a sweet soul and she proved to be the same.  We have all aged, but the sociality has not diminished or changed with time.  I think Amanda quite enjoyed Jane Young and her quaint little home in the English countryside.

Yesterday, we had dinner with Jack and Brenda Millington from Howe Bridge.  Jack used to cook us as missionaries some wonderful homemade pot pies.  Visiting with him on Sunday, he offered to make me and Amanda one.  We agreed and met with them yesterday.  The pot pie was as wonderful as ever, boiled cabbage, and homemade trifle.  We really had some good laughs.  Jack even sent us off with a couple of parting gifts.

There are so many people that nearly 10 years have changed nothing.  We don’t always remember each other’s names, but the feelings are still the same.  Memories seem to come back quickly, surprisingly.  What will heaven be like?

Runcorn Burning

I received the news today the ward building in Runcorn, Cheshire burned down on Saturday.  It gave me an opportunity to reflect some on my experiences in good ole Runcorn and the building which is now no more.  I do remember hearing they were going to start adding on a new addition for the building.  However, I do not know if they had started yet or if that had any part to do with the fire.  Perhaps somebody thought if they burned it down, they would get a whole new building.  Hopefully the church isn’t as slow in rebuilding this building as I know they have been in replacing other buildings.
I remember seeing pictures of the Runcorn Building being built.  There were pictures of John Byrom’s mother on the roof of the building when it was being shingled.  I can see other good Saints helping in the construction of their building.  I remember hearing the stories of John and Audrey McKee in helping build the Birkenhead Ward Chapel.  They still had the saw that he used to cut a pipe down in a hole one day.  He asked if the power was turned off and assured several times it was.  The saw proved that it had not been.  He had shared stories about helping build other buildings, the Chester and Runcorn Chapels included.  Even though he lived in Wallasey he traveled to help.  That is the way I guess they did it.  I can see the pictures of Ray Holmes and some of his family helping on a building, I am not sure if it was the Runcorn Building though.  I tend to believe it was.
In another month or so it will be 8 years since I was transferred to Runcorn.  It was there I was assigned to be Elder Hales’ companion.  I had only met the boy a half year before at Pizza Hut in Stretford on Preparation Day.  He was a new missionary and I would see him a couple of months before one of us was transferred elsewhere.  I arrived at 29 Handforth Lane early one morning.  Brother Wood (Rob or Bob, cannot remember) had driven me from Eccles to Runcorn.  We became terribly lost on the meandering roads of Runcorn.  At one point we found ourselves illegally on the busway.  We finally pulled into the flat to find John Pass there with his father, Doug, to welcome me.  They actually were cleaning up some of the front and fixing the shower downstairs.  It had been having some problems.  I remember embracing Brother Wood and the expression on his face.  I too had really come to love Eccles and was not looking forward to leaving.
I entered which definitely had to be one of the largest flats in the mission.  Three floors and it was all to ourselves.  Just weeks before the missionaries for Northwich had lived there.  That P-day Brad and I cleaned up the apartment.  We stacked mattresses upon mattresses in the 3rd flood bedroom.  I remember being astonished there was a weight room on the 3rd floor.
That evening Elder Hales took me to visit the Bennett’s and the Byrom’s.  The Bennett Family was less active.  We sat there visiting with them and that was the first time I ever heard or saw Britney Spears.  She was in a music video singing her One More Time song.  Of course the family had to stop all conversation and turn it up.  We watched.  After that, we excused ourselves and walked to the Byroms.  There we met the whole family and their friend Simone Keogh.  It would begin a relationship that continues even until today.
I am going completely from memory so I may be slightly off in some of the details, but I believe I am correct.  But Runcorn proved to be one of what I felt was my most productive areas.  Elder Hales and I struggled sloshing through the rest of 1999.  One day in the kitchen of 29 Handforth Lane we had a disagreement that would change our relationship.  Our impromptu Companionship Inventory would change the rest of our missions.  Through the week that followed we adapted to each other and our unity increased.  The Lord visibly blessed us in a myriad of ways.  The remainder of Elder Hales’ time and my own in Runcorn saw success regularly afterward.  Our teaching pool became full, we saw lives change, and baptisms started occuring every week.  They were not always ours, but they were the district’s.
Every week we would have our District Development Meeting in the Runcorn Chapel.  The Elder’s from Chester, Northwich, and the Sister’s would join us.  Every week the baptisms were held at the Runcorn Chapel.  It was only a few weeks later the Northwich Branch was created and split from Runcorn.  It was a very exciting time.  We had whole families who were starting to come out.  The chapel was becoming fuller and fuller despite the loss of Northwich.  The whole energy was powerful.  We were very fortunate to be there then.
It was from those friendships there so many other experiences have come.  I would never have entertained Elder Haight or met Elder Ballard if it were not for Runcorn.  My Mission President and I bonded during this time.  I still count Brad Hales as one of my closest friends today.
I remember watching from the weight room in the Handforth Flat the fireworks for Y2K.  We had the perfect view overlooking the valley between us and Frodsham, Helsby, and towards Ellsmere Port.  The fireworks were phenomenal.  In the next room was the bathtub we had shined and filled with water for preparation just in case something should go wrong and we should have no water.  We had a score of water saved there for the drinking or for the toilet right there if need be.
Just across the tracks was the home of the Stake Patriarch, Tony and Norma Johnson.  We spent many an evening on their doorstep or in their dining room.  They were very good to us on a regular occasion.  If it wasn’t for Patriarch Johnson I would not have met Elder Brough and years later be asked if he knew me at a Stake Conference in Logan, Utah.  I remember accidentally fluffing it one evening after dinner to the horror of the Johnson grandchildren.  However, Norma was very civilized and all went on as if had never happened.  It was only a squeek but enough for the kids to smirk.  I am grateful for those who understand our slip ups and keep moving on with life.
I remember many evenings sitting there while Elder Hales made phone calls and I planned for the next day.  I admire how humble he was for making the phone calls because I so much disliked it.  Every evening after the calls he would collapse in bed irritated by the Sisters and annoyed that I harrassed him about being on time for prayers.  He was a humble man and I can only hope all the lessons I learned are retained and applied.
I don’t remember how often, but it was that flat we would arise at 5:30 AM to go running.  We would run and both would be exhausted by the time we got back.  It was then to shower and get ready for the day.  I really enjoyed our scripture study.  Is it any wonder that all the future times we were roommates we carried on that tradition.  Together we finished the entire Standard Works in 2003.  That was a goal we made together and achieved.
Anyhow, Runcorn holds many fond memories.  Elder Hansen who now lives in Richmond, Virginia and whose wife Amanda worked with this summer, that association was started in Runcorn.  Sister Peterson in Oakley started association in Runcorn.  President Wightman called me in Runcorn as he became lost going the wrong way on a busway.
It was on the porch of the Runcorn building I played with the Fullwood girls.  It was in the choir seats of Runcorn I refused to make a hip beat of a hymn.  It was in Runcorn I did a solo in the Easter Cantata.  I think it is sure to say, the Runcorn Ward and Chapel will forever be remembered as a great increasing point for the fire which burns in my bones.
I have heard in recent years the Runcorn Ward has diminished in activity.  There appears to have been a great deal of tumult in the ward.  Even the Byrom Family, who I would never have thought to separate, has been split asunder.  A former Bishop went Apostate and now the building has burned down.
One thing is for sure.  It can only go up from here.  I wish I was in Runcorn now to be a part of the rebuilding.

Christmas Greetings

A quick Christmas update for everyone out there. 

Christmas went very well. I can say I am one spoiled boy! I have a wonderful wife with wonderful family. I am fortunate enough to have a comfortable home and a job to provide income. Who could ask for more? I have clothes to cover me, and gained more this Christmas. I have food to fill my belly (that of course does not include all the tasty junk food that comes this time of year).

The weather was in the upper 60’s with an almost continual rainfall all day. It was pretty. It was a nice relaxed day.

I phoned and talked to all my immediate family that I could. It was good to visit with them.

Dad is doing very well. He said for the first time in the last 10 or so years, he does not have swollen ankles. Something the doctors attribute to
the liver and gallbladder problems. He said he is still sore in the tummy, but the water weight is falling off him. In the last week he has squeezed
in his belt 3 notches. He says his breathing capacity is back up to what it was in about 2000. Another thing attributed to his liver and gallbladder.

Andra is happy and doesn’t have any complaints. She had a Merry Christmas and was looking forward to going out to Dad’s place for the evening. I wonder what she thought of her present.

Amanda’s family continues to do well. They rehearsed all the presents and how their morning had gone. It sounds like Christmas was good for them.

I visited with Rose Byrom from Runcorn for at least an hour over the two days. Who would have thought the housewife of 7 years ago would now be a lecturer at John Moore University and Halton/Riverside University? Neither she nor I would have believed you. She should have her Master’s by the end of 2007. Life changes quickly.

I sat down and did some family history. Ended up with a serious road bump in some of my research. I found the Confederate Record for James A
Meredith. In the 1880 Census my James Thomas Meredith is living with an old man, James Meredith. That old man claimed little James was his son. That just seems implausible. How did he marry Nancy Graham if he was still married? Oh his wife is living with a sick daughter in that same census. So, knowing Nancy married a James Meredith, we always assumed it was old man James’ son, James Jr who was the father of James Thomas Meredith. Well, I found the Confederate record for James’ service. He was killed in Lexington, Virginia in a battle in 1864. Well, that makes it pretty difficult for him to be the father of a boy born 4 years later. Everything points that this confederate soldier, James Anderson Meredith is the same James A Meredith, son of James and Sarah Meredith. Their birth years, even the A for a middle name, and the soldier joined the Confederate Army in Pulaski County. The missing James A Meredith did not add any more children to his family, and his wife is alone and head of household in 1870. So, it all pieces together. So now back to the drawing board. Is old man Meredith really the father of James Thomas? Is that the real reason why he and his wife are living apart, or is it really as the census says, she is ill? Why did Nancy let the boy go to live with the father/grandfather? Where is the marriage record? That is what I really need to verify she married a James. Oh, another piece of evidence, old man James’ history tells he lost two sons in the war. Daniel, and another not named. This could certainly be the James A I have been seeking for such a long time.

On a good note, I found the father my Edith (Edie) Boothe. His name was Daniel Boothe and had quite the family. It took me a good hour just to get everything in relation to his children and wives situated. I also pursued some more on the Martin lines hoping to find something, but nothing yet. Will Virginia yield her secrets to me? I sure hope so.

Tomorrow we are headed back up to Washington. Taylor Duncan’s wedding is at 1:00 and we are planning on attending the temple while we are there. It will be great to see Paul and Kathy again, along with the rest of the family. I wonder who else of the family will be coming out. I have some new temple names to print up while we are there. Should be a good day.