In Memory of Lowell Hansen, Bryce Sanderson, and Garrett Smith

With the suicide of a dear young man, Bryce Allen Sanderson, I thought I would share these thoughts and this talk once again.  In memory of Garrett Lee Smith and Lowell Eugene Hansen.  Both of them forced the concept of suicide into my life and required I come to some understanding of the idea.  I wanted to give some memories of these two individuals and the doctrinal concepts surrounding suicide.  What is suicide?  How does God look at suicide?  How am I supposed to deal with suicide?  How does God deal with those who commit suicide?  I hope this talk will help address some of these questions as we all ponder once again this unthinkable act, that brings upon a person their own death.

Lowell Hansen was an acquaintance I knew in Paul, Idaho.  I was young enough that I knew who he was, but did not really know anything about him.  After I was charged by a bull at our house, I remembered that within days he appeared at our home and removed the charge from the bull.  I watched him shoot, hang, gut, clean, and cut the bull.  It was fascinating.  I remember recognizing the butcher truck each time when I would see it on the road or at some other location.  I knew he built a log home because I always saw the truck parked near it.  Years later after I became involved in the same congregation and came to know him a little more as Brother Hansen.  It was not until I returned from my mission that I realized he even had a family.  I moved back to home in the fall of 2002 and I was assigned as a Home Teacher to one of Lowell’s daughters.  It was only then I really started to get to know the Hansen family more on a personal level.  It was shortly after that Lowell decided to end his life much like he did that bull.  I attempted to help minister, however weakly, somewhat to the needs of his daughter and her then boyfriend.  The talk I reproduce in full below was given at his funeral and has provided much of the basis for my feelings and ideas on suicide.  I have gained my own testimony of the talk and testify openly of its principles and truth.

Garrett Smith was on a bit more personal level for me.  I first learned of him in Manchester, England when he was assigned my companion as a new missionary.  I was called as a trainer to him, although I only knew of him as Elder Smith.  We served together, 24 hours a day, for 6 weeks.  We had many a conversation and became close friends.  I had some frustrations with him due to some of his learning disabilities and my lack of patience.  He knew of this and I do not think it always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other.  He convinced me that I should consider leaving civil engineering and looking more into political science and law.  I think I had convinced him that his disabilities were not a very good excuse for settling for mediocrity.  I left England to return home in 2000 and he finished in 2002.  We had planned several occasions where we would get together for old time’s sake, but they kept falling through due to poor scheduling and other issues.  We finally set a date to get together on the 13th of September in 2003.  I was going to drive down to Orem, Utah where he was and spend the weekend.  Unfortunately, I received a phone call that week only to find he had hanged himself in a closet after consuming alcohol and sleeping pills.  I had a great desire to attend his funeral so a roommate from Logan drove with me to Pendleton, Oregon for the funeral.  I took a copy of the talk from Lowell’s funeral with me and gave it to Garrett’s parents.  Garrett’s mom, Sharon, later thanked me for the talk.  Our Mission President, Phil Wightman, spoke at the funeral and while I doubt he had read the talk, he referenced very similar themes as Hyrum Smith did at Lowell’s funeral (Hyrum Smith was Lowell’s Mission President too).  Sometimes I find myself wondering what Garrett’s life would be like if he wasn’t reposing at Weston, Oregon.

I lost the talk over the years and had repeated requests come to me for a copy of it.  Those asking were mostly individuals I had shared with at the time of Garrett’s funeral who were moved by it and wanted to give a copy of it when someone else took their life.  I had probably a dozen requests for the talk in 2010, so I ended up contacting Lowell’s widow for a copy.

Here is a copy of the talk by Hyrum Smith given 6 December 2002 at the funeral of Lowell Eugene Hansen in Paul, Idaho.  At the end, I will give some other thoughts I remember Phil Wightman giving at Garrett’s funeral.

~

My brothers and sisters, I wasn’t really sure until about 3 o’clock this morning why I was asked to be here, but somewhere around three, I knew.  The spirit indicated to me that I am uniquely qualified to speak here today, and I’ll share with you why as I share some thoughts with you.

I’m honored and humbled that Emma Jean asked me to be here.  When she called Monday, I was stunned as I’m sure all of you were.

Public speaking is not something that is foreign to me.  I do it for a living.  I’ve spoken before thousands of audiences, but never an assignment like this.  I’d like to begin by suggesting that we are met here today in the house of God.  That same God who sent Jesus here to help us.  We meet today in the name of Jesus Christ who died to save us.  I would ask that you keep that in mind as I share a few thoughts with you this morning.

I’d like to begin by sharing four scriptures with you that describe, as many scriptures do, how our Father in Heaven, and our Savior feel about us.  I think we need to be especially reminded of that.  I’d like to go first with the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 5 “Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst and am your advocate with the Father.  And it is His good will to give you the kingdom.”  I would then take you to the 62nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read verse 1, “Behold and hearken, o ye Elders of my church saith the Lord your God.  Even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted.”  Now go with me to John, Chapter 3, verse 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world, through Him, might be saved.”  Last I would take you back to the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 18.  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.  For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer, suffered death in the flesh.  Wherefore He suffered pain of all men that all men might repent and come unto Him.  And He hath risen again from the dead that He might bring all men unto Him on conditions of repentance.  And how great is His joy in the soul that repenteth.”  I share those scriptures with you, brothers and sisters, as a preamble to what I would ask you to consider as we have met here today.

This wonderful man, father, husband, son, brother, missionary, I knew him well as a missionary.  He was one of the great missionaries of our mission – most of the Idaho people were.  He made a big mistake the other night.  Huge mistake.  He knows that he made that mistake now.  It cost him his life.  But only his body died the other night.  His soul, his spirit, his brain, his mind are still very much alive – very active.  It’s like going into another room.

I was led to a talk that Elder Jeffrey Holland gave at a very similar funeral.  Jeff Holland and I served as missionaries in the same mission, British mission, lots of years ago.  He’s a very dear friend.  He was asked to speak at the funeral of a young man who had taken his life.  This is what Elder Holland said, and I am going to interject Lowell’s name into these remarks, because they fit perfectly today.  “We’re here to celebrate Lowell’s life, not his death.  We’re here to praise the Lord and love God for the atonement and the resurrection, but we’re also here to say, particularly to the youth in this congregation and others who struggle, that Lowell made a mistake.  Now he would be the first to say that.  Someone said, ‘A man to be good, and I would add a woman, must imagine intensely and comprehensively – he must put himself in the place of another – the pains and pleasures of the man that has become his own.  Until he can do that, he must never sit in judgment on a man or his motives.’  We need a better vocabulary, Emma Jean.  We know what we mean when we use the language of death.  But the master of heaven and earth, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all mankind, the living Resurrection said that, “When you live and believe in Him, you never die.”  So, we’ll let Lowell go for a while.  But he’s not dead, in any eternal sense, and you know that.  You know that now, you’ll know it tomorrow, and you’ll know it next week.  You’ll especially know it when he is spiritually close to you, whispers to you in your dreams, helps through the veil to raise your grandchildren.  You’ll know that Lowell lives.  It is important to me to bear testimony to you that Lowell lives – just as we testify that God lives and Jesus lives.  We testify that Lowell lives and spiritually and is loved of God and of us.  We miss him.  Death was an intruder this week.  We weren’t ready.  We do miss him and we are sorry, but none of that diminishes the brightness of his life.  The grandeur of God’s plans – the reality of life and the resurrection – of eternity and the Celestial kingdom.  Lowell is being buried with all the promises and symbols of his covenants safely around him.  God in his mercy will work out all the arrangements even as Lowell works out his acknowledgement of his mistake.”  Un-quote.

Those are words of an Apostle of God.  I would like to pose five questions to you now.  The first of which no one has an answer for, but I think we need to deal with it, because I don’t think there is a person in this room that hasn’t asked this question in the last five days.  The second, third, and fourth question, I came from southern Utah this morning, to answer.  Because there are answers to those three questions, and I believe I can answer them for you.  The fifth question, only the people in this room can answer.  I don’t know what that answer will be, but I’m going to pose it.

Here’s the first question, which has been on the minds and lips of probably everyone.  “What was he thinking about?”  What possibly could have driven him to make this mistake?  What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Nobody here knows.  What sort of despair and anguish and pain causes someone to do that?  I don’t know!  He made a mistake, so we really don’t know the answer to that question.  But that’s not the important question.

The second question, the one that I think I am uniquely qualified to answer, and one of the reasons why I think I was asked to be here is, “What is Lowell thinking now?”  Lowell’s very much alive.  He thinks, he breathes; he has probably had an opportunity to walk with his Father in Heaven.  DO you want me to tell you what he is thinking now?  He’s afraid.  He’s sorry.  He’s in anguish.  He’s suffering.  He’s wishing he hadn’t done it.  I know that.  How do I know?  Several years ago, I made some big mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Hopefully not as big as the ones I made.  Because of those mistakes, it was required that I lose my membership in the church for several years.  And after I went through the process of approaching my Bishop and my Stake President, and going through the church judicial system – which is amazing, I found myself asking the first question a lot.  What was I thinking?  I couldn’t even answer that question for me.  But I know what I thought about after.  I know about the pain.  I know about the anguish.  I know about the suffering.  It’s awful!  So rest assured, and knowing Lowell as I know him – the integrity of this man, he’s in a lot of pain.

Third question, “Will the Lord allow Lowell to repent?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question – Of course!  He allows everyone to repent.  There’s a myth that floats around the church from time to time.  It suggests that people who take their lives have committed an unpardonable sin.  I’m here to tell you today that’s just flat not true.  The Lord will allow Lowell to repair that mistake.  He’ll walk him through it.  He’ll help him do it.  He’s going to allow that.

Fourth question, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  Every natural instinct in your body knows the answer to that question.  The answer is yes.  He will.  He will forgive him.  And Lowell will receive all the blessings that he rightly deserves from a wonderful life.

Those are the three questions I can answer with surety.  The fifth question, I can’t.  The fourth question was, “Will the Lord forgive him?”  The answer is yes.  The fifth question is, “Will you?”  I know from sad experience that lots of people don’t.  But the Lord has asked us to forgive.  He said, “I the Lord will forgive whom I choose to forgive, but of you, you’re required to forgive all men.”  I need to talk about forgiveness for a moment.  Does the mistake that Lowell made the other night blot out all the good that this man did in his life?  No!  Elder Holland reflected on that.  He was a wonderful missionary.  He was a great father.  He was a great man.  He was dedicated to his Father in Heaven.  Like many of us, he made some mistakes, one big one.  It doesn’t blot out everything he was.  We heard of a wonderful tribute from a beautiful daughter today about the kind of dad he was.  None of that gets wiped out.

As I went through the initial stages of my repentance process, one of the major sources of the anguish was the worry that no one would forgive me.  Because I somehow got it in my mind as I grew up in the church, that to ultimately forgive someone, for a transgression, you had to forget it.  Because we were taught in the scriptures, that when repentance was real and complete, the Lord forgets.  How does He do that? He forgets!  Wow!  Can we, mortals, reach a level of spiritual maturity where we can forget what happened the other night?  I don’t think so.  Do you think that anybody in this room will ever forget that Lowell took his life?  Not in this life.  I don’t think so.  Do you think anyone, who knows me well, will forget that I was excommunicated from the church?  Nope – Hyrum Smith…business leader, great, great grandson of the prophet’s brother, Hyrum?  No one will ever forget that!  Do you think my kids will forget that?  No!  BUT, and this is one of those moments where the spirit instructs and saves, in the middle of the night, the spirit taught a great lesson.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Forgiveness means remembering – but it doesn’t matter any more.  I think we can achieve that.  I think we can reach a point, as mortals, where we can remember and have forgiven to the point where, in remember, it just doesn’t matter anymore.  I challenge each to deal with the fifth question, “Will you forgive him?”  I believe you can – you must!  That’s what the Lord wants you to do.  But you’ll never forget.

I want to share a concept with you that has helped me think through a number of things.  During the Vietnam War, I was in the military during that period of time; there was a man by the name of Stockdale.  He was an admiral.  He was the highest-ranking man to spend time at the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war.  And while he was in the prison, for about six years, he discovered that there were three basic types of people incarcerated in that prison.  He discovered the same thinking that Victor Frankl discovered at Auschwitz during the Second World War.  Victor Frankl wrote about it in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Then Stockdale wrote about it, and it has become known and has been written about in a number of books since – the Stockdale paradox.  The three groups of people that he discovered were these.  There were pessimists, optimists, and realists.  And this is how he defined each group.  The pessimists saw the brutal facts around him and quit.  The optimist had boundless faith and ignored the brutal facts.  The realist saw the brutal facts, but had faith they could be dealt with.

The reason I share this with you is that in this book, when he wrote about this he said the interesting thing about these three groups is that the first two groups of people died in the camps at Vietnam.  Died!  Didn’t make it back!  I understood why the pessimists didn’t make it.  They saw the brutal facts.  They were in the middle of South-East Asia.  They were 8,000 miles from help and the Marines aren’t going to get in here.  We’re going to be here forever, and they died.  And some very healthy bodies died.

The second group stunned me!  The optimists died!  How come the optimists died?  Because the optimists had boundless faith but were not willing to look at the brutal facts.  And they said to each other, “You know we’ll be out of here by Christmas.”  “We’ll be out of here by Valentines.”  Every rustle in the bush was the Marines coming to save them.  And when every rustle in the bush wasn’t the Marines coming to save them and when they weren’t out by Christmas, and when they weren’t out by Valentines, they died.  They gave up and died.

The realists survived.  They saw the brutal facts.  “We’re in the middle of South-East Asia.  We’re not going to be rescued for a long time, but you know what guys, we’ll stick together.  We can handle this.”  And they did.

A good friend, by the name of Jensen, was in our mission – Lowell knew him – served six years in that prison.  There were several LDS fellows there, and the way they kept themselves sane was they would try and remember LDS hymns.  They would tap by Morse code on the bars of the jail, and they would send what they could remember of each hymn.  They gathered lots of hymns.  And one hymn they worked on for four years.  They got the first three verses in about 18 months, but the fourth verse took two and a half years to get.  They finally got the fourth verse.  When they got back, there was only three verses.  They had created their own verse, but they survived.  Now why do I share that here?  I want to ask you the question as what are you going to do about this issue?  Pessimists see the brutal facts – Our dad killed himself.  It’s pretty awful.  Nothing so wrong, it’s awful!  And you can give up – if you want.  The optimist ignores the facts – puts on a smiley face and pretends it didn’t happen.  And the optimists live a lie.  The realist sees the brutal facts – We lost our dad, our husband, our son – pretty awful.  We’ve got to gather together and help each other now to survive financially and economically.  We’ve got to get through school.  We’ve got to do stuff that dad normally would have helped us with.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The optimist has the faith that we can do it.  And so I’m asking you today, “What are you going to be?”

On the 19th of October of last year, not this year, but 2001, Steven Covey and I, we have a business together, were asked by Mayor Giuliani of New York City, if we would come back to Manhattan and do a free, one day, workshop for the families of those affected by the 9/11 disaster.  He told that their mid-town Manhattan Sheraton had donated their ballroom.  They donated our rooms to stay.  Would you come back?  We’ve got people in some real pain.  Would you come back and speak?  We said, “We’re there!”  We got there on a Thursday night.  The seminar was to be on Friday.  I got there about midnight.  I’ve been in Manhattan many, many times.  As I flew up the East river, I was coming from Chicago, and saw the lights where the World Trade Center used to be, it was kind of an eerie feeling.  It was a very different landscape now.

At five o’clock the next morning, Mayor Giuliani had arranged for a tour, a private tour of ground zero for Steven and me.  At that point, which was just five weeks after the event; sixteen hundred policeman had surrounded ground zero, and had blocked it off.  You couldn’t get down there without a police escort.  We had to go through four checkpoints to get to ground zero.  About 5:15 in the morning, we found ourselves standing on the street in front of where the Marriott Hotel used to be. It used to be called the Vista Hotel.  I’ve stayed in that Hotel many times.  Only I wasn’t really standing on the street.  I was standing on 16 feet of compacted debris.  And as we stood there looking at this horrific hole in the ground, the policeman who had been assigned to be our guide began to tell us his story.

He said, “You know, I was here that day.  I was standing on the street right about where we are.  I heard this big bang, I looked up, and all this stuff came flying out of the World Trade Center.”  He said, “You know, it looked like paper when it all came out until it started hitting the ground.  It was fifty foot I-beams killing everyone it hit.”  He said, “I watched 34 people jump from those towers.  Four of them holding hands.  I watched eight firemen lose their lives from falling people.”  I’m not even believing this.  Then he looked at me and said, “Mr. Smith, how many computers do you think there were in the World Trade Center?”  I said, “Probably a lot.”  He said, “We haven’t found one!”  I said, “How come?”  “3,000 degree fire.  It’s still burning.”  As he was talking, a crane pulled a big I-beam out of the rubble, and the end of the I-beam was dripping molten steel.  Then he said, “You know the second plane hit and then the building started to come down – we all thought we were dead.  We got under a car, and somehow we lived.”  That’s how our morning started.

When we got back to the hotel at about 7:30, we had to shower.  We were covered with soot.  At 8:00, this meeting began.  There were 2,000 people jammed into a ballroom designed for 1,500.  People were sitting on the floor.  It started by two New York policemen and two New York Firemen, carrying the American flag in.  I will tell you, It’s hard.  And then the Harlem girls choir, sixty young women from Harlem, filed in and sang three patriotic songs, and the music that came out of those kids was amazing.  I was very grateful that Steven Covey had to speak first because I was a mess.  He spoke for two hours, and then I had to speak for two hours.  As I approached the front of the room, there were people all around on the floor.  A fireman, about half way back, in uniform, stood up, and he said, “Mr. Smith, are you going to tell us how we get of bed in the morning when we just don’t give a darn anymore?”  That’s how it started.  It turned out to be one of the toughest, and ultimately the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I said these words to the fireman – and I want to say these words to you – Emma Jean and the children, and their extended family, and everybody here.  If you don’t remember a think I’ve said, remember this statement.  I said to this fireman, “Pain is inevitable.  Misery is an option.”  And he seemed a little stunned.  Now what do I mean by that?  The fact is, brothers and sisters, bad things happen to good people.  They just do.  Airplanes fly into buildings.  Rivers overflow their banks.  Dams break and flood out villages.  Accidents happen – people die prematurely.  Bad stuff happens to good people.  How we choose to deal with the pain is ultimately a measure of who we are.

That’s why the Lord gave us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  To help us deal with the pain.  Some of the most serene, magnificent, wonderful people I’ve ever known have gone through some major pain in their lives.

Will the Lord forgive?  Yes!  Ten days ago, tomorrow, President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, laid their hands on my head and restored all my blessings.  Not just some of them.  All of them.  And President Hinckley mentioned three times in the most amazing blessing I’ve ever heard, all the blessings.  I’m here to testify to you today that that will happen to Lowell.  He’ll be there.  He’ll be ready, Emma Jean.  He’ll welcome you with all his blessings.  So the challenge for us as the living – to go on.

When the pioneers came across the plains, they periodically had to stop and bury the dead.  And the scene was always the same.  There’d be a family standing around the grave, and if you looked off into the distance, you could see the wagons – and the wagons were ready to go.  The wagons had riders in them.  They were waiting for the family to get through with that funeral so that they could move on because they knew, “If we don’t move on, then we’ll die!”  They buried their dead, and they moved on.

Well, the wagons are surrounding the building, and they’re ready for us to move on.  We pulled off the highways of our lives to pay tribute to a great human being – who made a mistake that can be fixed.  And when we’re through here today, we’ll get back in our wagons and move on.  We’ll survive.  Don’t ever forget the brutal facts, but never lose faith that they can be dealt with.  I bear you my testimony that God lives.  Jesus is the Christ.  He loves everybody in the room.  He’ll take care of Lowell.  He’ll take care of us too.  I bear that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

~

Here are a few more thoughts from my memory of Phil Wightman’s talk from Garrett’s funeral.  The talk centered around the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 which states, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In essence, since I went to the funeral with Lowell’s funeral talk in my mind (in fact, my friend, Taylor Willingham, read it to me again on the drive up and I gave a copy to Garrett’s parents) the basics of the talk were the same.  Brother Smith approached it with some practical questions and answers to those questions.  President Wightman approached it from a doctrine side that we do not really know what goes on in the minds of these individuals when suicide is completed.  But we have to have charity, love them and their families, and move forward.  In the end, the Lord will sort all things out.

Rest in peace Garrett and Lowell.  I look forward to meeting up with you both again some day.  Until then, I hope we all can appreciate the suicidal act and hopefully help avoid it in the future, and work forward from those who do commit this unthinkable deed.

First published 5 Jun 2011.

John Reese’s 10th Grade Class

Top (l-r): John Reese, Ray Charlton, Earl Hipwell, Miriam Weatherston, Delmar White, Owen Wayment, Neta England.  Second: Orlo Maw, Warren Williams, Jean Etherington, Junior Taylor, Eugene Maw, Cleone Carver, Howard Hunt.  Third: Ellis Lund, Vera Wayment, Keith Hodson, Ted Christensen, Ruth Wade, Wayne Taylor, Milo Ross.  Bottom: LauRene Thompson, Frank Poulsen, Margaret Freestone, Ezma Musgrave.

This is the fourth of the class photos.  I believe this is actually the 1936-1937 year (Grandpa says in his writing it his his 10th Grade year).  This class attended Weber High School located in Ogden, Weber, Utah.  These students graduated in 1939.  Nearly all these students came from Warren, Plain City, West Weber, and those parts of the county for school.  Out of the whole picture, only one passed away in World War II (as far as I can tell, ALL the men served).

John Major Reese (1896-1976)

Ray Charlton (1920-1991)

John Earl Hipwell (1921-2000)

Miriam Weatherston (1921-2001)

Delmar White (1921-2008)

Owen Urry Wayment (1921-2008)

Neta Elizabeth England (1920-2006)

Orlo Steadwell Maw (1921-2004)

William Warren Williams (1921-1988)

Vesey Jean Etherington (1921-2000)

Elmer Taylor Jr. (1921-1985)

Wilmer Eugene Maw (1920-2009)

Cleone Carver (1921-1994)

Howard Hunt (1921-1944)

Ellis Marion Lund (1921-1984)

Vera Mary Wayment (1921-1989)

Benjamin Keith Hodson (1920-1970)

Edwin “Ted” Daniel Christensen (1921-2005)

Ruth Wade (1921-Alive)

Wayne Taylor (1921-1969)

Milo James Ross (1921-2014)

LauRene Thompson (1921-2010)

Frank Dee Poulsen (1920-2010)

Margaret Freestone (1921-Alive)

Ezma Ameriam Musgrave (1922-2007)

Baby Milo Paul Ross

Since I am on the baby kick lately, I thought I might post some other baby pictures.  (This is a repost from 2010, but due to Grandpa’s passing, I am reposting it)  With the latest posts of myself and little Aliza as a baby, I thought I would add the two oldest pictures I have of my father (showing him at his youngest recorded images).

Milo Paul Ross born on Independence Day in 1943 in Ogden, Utah.  He weighed in at a flat 8 pounds, 22 inches.  He was discharged at 7 pounds, 10.5 ounces.  His parents were Milo James Ross and Gladys Donaldson Ross.  They resided at 829 8th Street in Ogden, Utah.  Well, Grandma did.

Grandpa had just landed in Hawaii with the Army.  A biography at the University of Utah said, “Ross soon shipped out to the Hawaiian Islands, leaving behind his young pregnant wife. As his unit landed on the big island of Hawaii on July 4, 1943, a voice on the loud speaker said, “Sergeant Ross, congratulations. Your wife and son are doing well, and, one more thing, before you get off the ship you and your men have guard duty for the next four hours. Welcome to Hawaii.”

Grandma told the story how every night before going to bed Grandma showed Dad a picture of Grandpa and told him to kiss it goodnight.  When Grandpa stepped off the train years later, Dad knew who is father was at sight.  I doubt Dad remembers much at such an early age.  It would be interesting to know his recollections.

Grandpa told me that when he left Grandma they made an agreement that no matter where they were, both would kneel and pray at 9:00 PM at night for family prayer.  Even though they were miles apart, this was a way of maintaining their relationship despite distance and not knowing whether letters would arrive at the other end.  Grandpa said there were nights he felt his family very close, especially in a lonely foxhole with people dying around him.

Anyhow, more about the photos of the little boy above.  The top photo was taken in July 1943, which means it was within 3-4 weeks of his birth.  He is held in the photo by his grandmother, my Great Grandmother, Berendena Van Leeuwen Donaldson.  She went by Dena her whole life.  I cropped the photo down just to show Dad.  My first impression of this picture is how much he looks like my Aunt Caroline in this photo.  If it wasn’t for the written date on the photo, I would think it was her.

The second photo is also cropped.  This will probably be the closest I get to nudity on this little blog.  This photograph indicates it was taken at 8 weeks, putting us at the end of August or beginning of September 1943.  Perhaps he needed a little help with Bilirubin, hence sitting out in the sun with all exposed.  Either way, he does not look entirely pleased with the situation.

Looking at the two photographs, I can see a slight expression from the second photo in little Aliza.  Amanda and I see quite a bit of me in little Aliza, and we see more of the Jonas/Coley brow and facial features, at least at this stage.  We all know how children move through different looks as they grow up.  We shall keep a keen eye out for intimations of Dad.  But here are two photos of him.

Beat the Draft

(l-r): Kenneth Barrow, Ellis Lund, Milo Ross, Jim Jardine, Glenn Geilmann, Victor Wayment, Earl Collins

Here is an interesting photo from 16 October 1942.  These boys all knew they would likely be drafted.  These men decided to enlist together so they could at least choose their branch of the military.  This picture was snapped in Ogden, Weber, Utah before catching the train to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.

Kenneth William Barrow (1921-2011)

Ellis Marion Lund (1921-1984)

Milo James Ross (1921-2014)

James “Jim” Fay Jardine (1921-1994)

Glenn Geilmann (1920-2013)

Victor R Wayment (1920-2013)

Richard Earl Collins (1921-2003)

All of them were fortunate to return alive from the war.

Milo James Ross Obituary

University of Utah Veterans Commemoration in 2009

University of Utah Veterans Commemoration in 2009

Milo James Ross, 93, peacefully slipped out of mortality in the comfort of his own bed in Plain City on 17 July 2014.

Milo was born 4 February 1921 in a log cabin north of Plain City to John “Jack” William Ross and Ethel (Sharp) Ross. His mother tragically died from childbirth in 1925. Milo and his siblings lived with his Ross grandparents until the costs proved too great and his Uncle Edward Sharp raised Milo in Plain City until adulthood.

He grew up tending to his Grandmother Sharp and spending most of his time farming with his many Sharp cousins and his siblings. He attended schools in Plain City and graduated from Weber High in 1939.

Milo met Gladys Maxine Donaldson at a Plain City celebration in 1940. They would meet from time to time for dancing at the Berthana in Ogden. Milo and Gladys married 4 April 1942 in her parent’s home on 8th Street in Ogden.

Milo enlisted in the Army in October 1942. He served in the 33rd Infantry Division, 130th Regiment, Company C. He trained in weapons and earned his expert ranking. He arrived in Hawaii in July 1943 and received the announcement that his son, Milo Paul, had been born. He served as part of the Philippine invasion force and they fought through the jungles and liberated Baguio City. He was injured five times, one while tending to other soldiers awaiting medical attention.

He was present at the Japanese surrender at Luzon as a Technical Sergeant in June 1945. He received two purple hearts and the Silver Star for his service at the end of World War II. His Company received a Presidential Citation for outstanding performance during armed conflict with the enemy in efforts to seize Hill X in Bilbil Mountain Province. At the time of Milo’s death, the military was preparing to award him another Purple Heart, another Silver Star, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal & Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantry Badge 1st Award, Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Bronze Star, Honorable Service Button for World War II. He was also to be awarded the Philippine Liberation Medal and Republic of the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation Badge from the Philippine Government.

He returned home in 1945 and began working with his father-in-law. He eventually began building or remodeling homes. He estimated he had built over 120 homes and remodeled another 50 homes or buildings in his lifetime. Two more children joined Milo and Gladys in 1946 and 1948, Judy Ethel and Caroline. Milo and Gladys dedicated their lives to raising their three children and tenderly caring for Judy’s needs until she passed away in 1998.

Milo and Gladys solemnized their marriage 2 July 1976 in the Ogden LDS Temple with their daughter Judy by their side. Milo served in various callings as a humble servant favoring their time as temple workers in the Ogden Temple for almost a decade. Milo and Gladys also relished their time in raising their garden and providing its fruits to friends, family, the temple, and local hospitals.

Milo is survived by his son Milo (Janice) Ross of Hazelton, Idaho and daughter Caroline (Abram) Gallegos of Plain City. Eight grandchildren, Scott (Robyn) Ross of Kimberly, Idaho; Jeffrey (Holly) Ross of Jerome, Idaho; Becky (Joseph) Patterson of Portland, Oregon; Paul (Amanda) Ross of Burley, Idaho; Andra Ross of Heyburn, Idaho; Christy (Sterling) Neilson of Rupert, Idaho; Cindy (Steve) Pease of Albion, Idaho; and Lonny (Amy) Taylor of Declo, Idaho; seventeen great grandchildren; and eleven great great grandchildren.

Milo was preceded in death by his parents; his wife Gladys; all five siblings Hobart Day, June Stout, Paul Ross, Harold Ross, and Earnest Ross; daughter Judy Ross; grandson-in-law Bret Adams, and two great grandchildren.

The funeral will be held Tuesday 22 July 2014 at the Plain City 7th Ward Building, 2952 N 4200 W, a building he helped organize its construction, at 11:00 AM with Bishop Tom Matthews officiating.

Friends may call at Lindquist Mortuary in North Ogden at 2140 N 400 E (Washington Blvd) from 6 until 8 PM on Monday 21 July 2014. Friends may also call from 10:00 until 10:45 AM prior to the service at the church. Burial will be in the Plain City Cemetery beside his beloved Gladys and Judy.

Milo J Ross in army uniform squat

Ross-Donaldson Wedding

David and Dena Donaldson are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Gladys Maxine to Milo James Ross, son of Jack Ross and the late Ethel Ross.  They were married in the Donaldson home on 8th Street in Ogden, Utah on 4 April 1942.  (This post originally appeared in 2010 and is reposed due to Grandpa’s death)

Gladys is a 1940 graduate of Ogden High School.

Milo is a 1939 graduate of Weber High School.  He is currently employed with American Packing and Provisioning Company as a supervisor in Ogden.

The couple will make their home in Plain City.

While short and sweet, there is much more of a story behind those words.  Milo and Gladys met  in 1940 when Gladys and her sisters rode their bikes all the way to a celebration in Plain City.  Later they would meet at the Berthana, which included a dance hall on the second floor (built in Ogden about 1914).  The Berthana later converted to a roller skating rink before closing in the 1970’s.  The building is still there although I do not know what the use for the building is currently.

David Delos Donaldson and Berendena Van Leeuwen are Gladys’ parents.  Read more of her parents at this link: Donaldson-Van Leeuwen Family.  David was a plumber by trade who had lung problems from being gassed in the Argonne of France in World War I.  He suffered from lung ailments the rest of his life.  He mostly worked in the Ogden area but worked prior to marriage in Phoenix, Arizona and Twin Falls, Idaho.  He also sought work in Boulder City, Nevada during the depression and as a steam and pipe fitter during World War II in Napa, California.  Apparently during World War II he worked almost exclusively in submarines.  You can read more of their marriage and family at the link above.  She went by the name of Dena her entire life.

Gladys and Maxine Donaldson ages 5 and 3.

Dena grew up LDS and David did not.  David’s parents were not active LDS and most of David’s siblings joined the LDS church between the ages of 10 and 22.  David and one brother did not.  Dena saw that all her children were raised LDS with little difficulty from David.  Apparently smoking is what kept him from being baptized (he picked up smoking after being gassed because he said it soothed his lungs).  When the time would come for Milo and Gladys to marry, they wished to be married in the temple.   For whatever reason, the Bishop determined that he was not going to allow them to be sealed without David being a member.  I do not know which Bishop, but I have a suspicion it was Gladys’ Bishop and that he knew the Donaldson family.  He probably hoped to bring errant David around so his daughter could get married.  The plan backfired.  It would not have worked anyhow because David was pretty set on Gladys marrying a wealthy man and would not have minded if the wedding had not gone through.  Milo said they wanted to get married and were not interested in waiting around for a Bishop to figure out what he was doing.  A week before they were actually married, they decided to elope.  They packed up and drove to Evanston, Wyoming on snow covered roads.  They arrived and decided they better do it proper with family around.  They enjoyed a meal and drove back to Ogden on a very snowy set of roads.  Leading them to get married in the Donaldson home the next week or so.  It would take them another 34 years before they finally made it to the temple to get sealed.  Perhaps the Bishop was inspired.

They married in April and World War II was in full swing.  They rented a place in Ogden for a few weeks until moving to Plain City and rented there (on 4700?) until they built a home after the war.  Milo and a group of buddies then went off to Fort Douglas to enlist in October 1942 rather than wait until they were drafted.  They anticipated at least a few more days or weeks in Utah before being shipped off.  However, Milo was put on a train that same day to Camp Lewis in Washington.  He spent the next two to four months there, he cannot remember for sure.  Gladys would move to Camp Lewis to be with him through basic training.  By this point the two knew they were expecting a baby.

Milo shipped out for Needles, California to Camp Ibis.  Due to his experience with building, he was one of the men asked to lay out some of the buildings for the latrines and then helped in starting the construction of those buildings.  Their division stayed there a few months before heading off to San Francisco from which he was put on a boat and headed to Hawaii.  He landed in Hawaii on the 4th of July 1943 with the loudspeaker welcoming the men to Hawaii and announcing the birth of a son to Sergeant Ross.  I have written of that baby at this link: Baby Milo Ross.

Gladys would live with her parents in Ogden until Milo returned from the rigors of war.  Her parents moved from their address on 8th Street down to Washington Boulevard during this time.

Milo worked for American Packing and Provisioning Company some in high school and on afterward until he went into the service.  American Pack would be sold to Swift & Company in 1949.  This packing plant would remain in use until the 1970’s when it was closed.

I have written previously about Milo’s loss of his mother in 1925 and her family keeping him from having contact with his father, John William Ross.  Here is the link: Ross-Sharp Wedding.  He was raised by his Uncle Edward William Sharp in Plain City.

Anyhow, the family would go on to have 2 more children in 1946 and 1948.  Milo received a homestead in Washington State in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s, but I do not know more about it.  The homestead is believed to have been abandoned because of medical needs of Judy and the family returned to a newly built home in Plain City around 1948 or 1949.  The family then built the current home at 2532 N. 4100 W. in 1955 and have resided there since.

Ross – Sharp Wedding

Jack and Ethel Ross holding June Streeter about 1920 in Paul, Idaho.

Milo Riley and Mary Ann “Lilly” Sharp are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Ethel to John William “Jack” Ross, son of James Thomas and Damey Catherine Graham Ross.  They were married at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado by an Army Chaplain (Julius J Babst) on 11 January 1920.

Jack is currently employed with the US Army as a cook at Fort Logan, Colorado.

The couple will return to make their home in Plain City, Utah as soon as he completes his enlistment with the Army.

Jack Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  He was the second of four children born to James Thomas Ross and Damey Catherine Graham.  Read more about Jack’s parents here.  We really do not know much of Jack’s childhood.  His mother joined the LDS church on 27 February 1898 and his father on 17 April 1898 in an unknown location.  Jack and his older brother Robert Leonard joined on 30 July 1900.  I have been unable to find the Ross family on the 1900 Census.  By July 1906, the family was living in or near Welch, McDowell, West Virginia working in the coal mines when Fanny and James were baptized.  Jack married Nannie May Day (she went by May) on 6 July 1910 in Squire Jim, McDowell, West Virginia.  To this marriage was born Hobart Day Ross (who later went by Hobart Day) on 1 Jun 1911 in McDowell County, West Virginia.

James and May Ross holding Hobart about 1912

Jack’s younger sister, Fanny Elizabeth married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs on 22 December 1906 (listed as a miner) and then moved to Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho in 1912.  Initially Calvin and Fanny moved to Rupert and purchased 80 acres to the northeast of Rupert.  He dabbled with cattle and real estate while also working as an electrician.  (He was eventually elected as Rupert City Clerk and in 1918 as Minidoka County Probate Judge.  He was admitted as an attorney to the Idaho bar 15 December 1919.)  At any rate, in 1911 the construction of a new sugar factory in Burley, Cassia, Idaho was drawing a number of potential workers.  Word reached the remaining Ross clan in West Virginia, probably from Fanny, of the upcoming opening.  The remaining Ross family rode a train of coal from McDowell County directly to southern Idaho.

Jack’s wife, May, did not come with him for one reason or another.  She divorced him shortly afterward and remarried to Andrew Cleveland Parson(s?) on 22 November 1913 in Gary, McDowell, West Virginia.  We do not know anything of the Ross family between 1913 and 1917 other than they were working at Amalgamated Sugar in Burley.  Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army on 23 April 1917 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and served in Battery E, 4th FA Rec Ser; Co. C, 21st Bn USG; 5 Rct Co (I do not know what any of that means) at Fort Logan, Arapahoe, Colorado, until 6 June 1919 when he was permitted leave.  He had obtained the rank of Sargent and was awarded the WWI Victory Button and Medal.  As far as I can tell, he never left U.S. soil.

Jack’s parents were working on farms around the area during the summers and then at the factories during the winter.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho in September 1918 when registered for the World War I Draft.  Jack’s parents moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho and started working on the first beet campaign in 1918 at the new Paul Amalgamated sugar factory.  Jack visited his parents in Paul on leave (starting 6 Jun 1919) and it was there he met Ethel Streeter running a store on Main Street, now Idaho Street, only a block or two from where his parents lived.  Jack reported back at Fort Logan on 13 August 1919 to 12 August 1920 when he was discharged from Fort Logan.

Ethel Sharp was born 9 April 1898 in Plain City, Weber, Utah.  She was the 11th child (8 siblings living by the time of her birth) of 12 children born to Milo Riley Sharp and Mary Ann Stoker, AKA Lillian “Lilly” Musgrave.  I have written about this family at this link: Sharp-Stoker Wedding.

Ethel was confirmed in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Plain City 15 May 1912.  Somewhere during this decade she was involved in a train accident on the Utah-Idaho Central Railway line between Plain City and Ogden, Weber, Utah.  I have been unable to locate any newspaper clippings or other information on this accident.  Anyhow, she obtained a settlement for her injuries.

She married Mark Lewis Streeter of West Weber, Weber, Utah on 7 May 1917 in Ogden.

Mark and Ethel Streeter

She made large deposits at Ogden First National Bank in June 1917, potentially her settlement.  We have checks from not long after that through August 1918 written out from Paul State Bank.  Interestingly, the checks state, “Paul is the Cream of the Minidoka Project, We Have the Cream of Paul.”

I have written about the photos recently found which include two photos of the Streeter Ice Cream & Confection Parlor.  Ethel Sharp and Streeter Confection.

Ethelyn June Streeter was born 4 June 1918 in Paul (she died in 2012).  Pictures of June are at the link in the preceding paragraph.  The divorce of Mark and Ethel was final after Mark had enlisted in the Army 3 March 1919.  Mark indicates in his autobiography that after he enlisted and left Ethel fell in love with Jack and that was the reason for their divorce.  Jack did not meet Ethel until June 1919, three months after Mark enlisted in the army.  Jack returned from his leave in Paul to Fort Logan in August 1919.  Ethel ventured to Fort Logan in January to marry Jack.  The 1920 Census lists him as a cook just days before Ethel arrived and the two were married.  She left little June with the Streeter family in Ogden.  We do not know much about the short dating period, but she traveled all the way to Colorado to marry him.  Whether she was head over heels for a poor military boy or something else, we do not know.  We do not know how long she stayed in Colorado or even if they came back together after his discharge.  We assume Ethel sold the store before going to Colorado.  After his discharge, Jack and Ethel moved to Plain City and he worked for Amalgamated Sugar Company at the Wilson Lane factory.  This was roughly a 7 mile walk to work one direction.  Milo James Ross was born 4 February 1921 in Plain City in a little log home just to the west and north of about 2971 N. 4200 W.  I have written of Milo James Ross at this link: Ross-Donaldson Wedding.  Here is a picture of the little log cabin in about 2005, shortly before it was torn down.

At some point, Jack and Ethel found their way back to Paul where Jack worked in the fields and at the sugar factory.  Paul Ross was born 14 February 1922 in Paul.  Work took Jack back to the Burley sugar factory and John Harold Ross (who went by Harold) was born 7 November 1923 in Burley and then moved back to Paul.  By 1924, Jack and Ethel were living with Jack’s parents and trying to make enough to get by.  Milo remembers walking to church in Paul before his mother died, he thinks a Presbyterian or Episcopal church.

To ease the load on his parents, the family moved back to Plain City.  Ethel gave birth to her last child, Earnest Jackson Ross, on 16 July 1925 in Plain City.

Sadly, Ethel passed away 21 days later on 6 August of puerperal septicemia (Blood poisoning from obstetric delivery).  Earnest lived to 20 September and he passed away in Idaho from malnutrition.  Jack is listed as the informant on the death certificate for Ethel.  Jack could not afford burial plots so Edward Sharp, Ethel’s brother, provided the burial plots where Ethel and Ernest are buried in Plain City.

Milo tells the story of the funeral for his mother.  He remembered that he was not permitted to look into the casket to see his mother.  The casket was up on the table and he could not see a thing and all he wanted to see was his mother.  Within days Jack took the four children back to Idaho and dropped them off with his parents.  Milo remembers his father riding the train holding baby Earnest in his arms.  Earnest passed away in Rupert.  James and Damey Ross took care of the remaining children through the winter of 1925-26.  June and Milo do not remember their father being there for the winter.  June’s only real memory of this period was of creamy buttered potatoes that were common and that she acquired a great love for.

By the time spring rolled around, Jack or his family had contacted Ethel’s family in Plain City and indicated they could not afford to feed and take care of the children anymore.  Os Richardson, Ethel’s brother-in-law drove to Idaho to pick up the four children.  Milo remembers the drive from Paul along the poplar lined highway from Paul past the sugar factory down into Heyburn, across the old river bridge through to Declo, Malta, Strevell, and back to Plain City.  The children were “farmed” out to family.  Milo was raised by his Uncle Ed Sharp, Paul by his Aunt Vic Hunt, and Harold by his Uncle Del Sharp.

We have very little information on what occurred in the life of Jack from this point on.  He found his way back to West Virginia where he tried to convince May to remarry him.  She had remarried and was having none of that.  This is the last time Hobart Day Ross ever saw his father.  Hobart went on to become a preacher.  He awoke blind one morning after being kicked in the head by a horse.

Jack found his way to Rock Springs, Sweetwater, Wyoming where he married a lady named Zana Cogdill on 29 November 1926.  She was previously married to Frank Coffey and was going by his name.  I have been unable to determine what happened to Frank.  She had a son already named Orval A Coffey. The 1930 Census on 2 April 1930 finds the two of them in Crawford, Delta, Colorado where he is working as a foreman in a battery shop and living with the brother of Zana’s first husband (?!?).

We do not believe this marriage lasted very long either.  Jack made several visits back to Plain City to see his children.  He would take a taxi out to Plain City, pick up Betty Booth, and the two would ride over to the fields where Milo was working.  We assume the same happened with Harold.  Paul died from a concussion in 1932 after falling out of a barn.  The car would pull up at the end of the field and would toot its horn and Milo could see the occupants wave.  It was not until he visited his father in 1948 that he realized this was his father waving at him across the way and that the lady was Betty Booth.  (Interestingly, Milo had given assistance to Betty Booth in the form of coal and helped pay some of her Dr.’s bills before she passed).

Jack reappears for the mandatory draft registration for World War II living in Stockton, San Joaquin, California working for Werl Zuckerman on McDonald Island with a Stockton mailing address.  He lists his nearest kin as his sister Ms. C. D. Phibbs (Fanny) living at 529 S. California Street in Stockton.

Milo received a telegram in 1948 telling him that his father was dying in a Veteran’s Hospital in Livermore, Alameda, California and that he was requested to come.  Milo tried to convince his brother Harold to go with him but Harold wanted nothing to do with his father.  Milo took the bus to Livermore and found the hospital. He arrived somewhere around midnight and found his way into the building and climbed up a couple of floors and found a corner he could sleep in until morning.  He heard coughs from a room and somebody in the room ask for the time.  He poked his head in and asked if anyone knew of Jack Ross.  Jack indicated he was in the room and wanted to know if it was Milo or Harold at the door.

They visited until an orderly came in and kicked him out.  He slept in a corner for a while and then told an orderly that he had come all the way from Utah to see his father and that his father was dying.  The orderly then let him stay with his father until he passed.

Fortunately, Milo and Jack were able to visit.  Milo asked why his father never came to visit and his father insisted that he wrote letters, sent gifts, and that the Sharp family kept the children from him.  He did not believe him at the time.  Vic Hunt, Ethel’s sister, had received the letters and told Milo about them after her husband and son were electrocuted in 1960 (thinking it was a form of punishment for her keeping them secret) but still did not give them to him. They passed to her son Harold in 1987, and to her grandson Archie in 2005.  Archie turned them over to Milo in 2010.

We know very little of his time in Wyoming, Colorado, or California before his passing.  Jack indicated in 1948 that life had been hard and he never had much.  So little is known of these years, hopefully some more of the story will come out in the future.

John Ross Tombstone