A dog named Navel

Today I thought I would share a humorous story about the late-night escapades of a car loaded with Utah State University students venturing down to see the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Sanpete, Utah.  Brad Hales, Mark Morris, Emily Sarà, Seth Warburton, and I made the trip in my 1998 Toyota Camry in what I believe was the spring of 2004.

The story starts with the rather unexciting drive from Logan, Utah to Manti.  We took the normal route off I-15 at Nephi to drive to Manti.  We conveniently located a parking spot only blocks away because we were plenty early.  We met our friends who drove down separately and staked out our territory with quilts on the grassy green expanse you can see in the photo above.  It is on that very same hill that the Mormon Miracle Pageant takes place.  Here is a nice photo I stole from the Deseret News to give some idea of the stage and what is going on.

The pageant ended and the four of us found our way to my little Camry to head out.  We were told by myriad friends that if we truly wanted to get back to I-15 from Manti in a speedy fashion that we should take the old highway out of Manti to the south via Gunnison and Levan.  We started to wend our way through the darkness.

We had a great, great time leaving Manti.  I do not mean to knock the pageant in any way, but we were certainly making light of it.  We hold no ill feelings towards the doctrines or ideas presented, but maybe it was just that year, but the whole thing came off as pretty hokey.  We decided only the local drill team was allowed to be the angels on the hill with their coordinated flag signals that only someone trained in shipping would have understood.  We drove the darkness really making fun and laughing ourselves silly about how poorly some parts of the pageant were done.

The conversation turned as we continued through the dark roads.  We sang along with a song and the conversation turned to Levan, Juab, Utah.  I do not know how true this is, but lore goes that Levan was named Levan because that is “navel” in reverse.  The area was named Levan because it is the very center of the state, about where a navel would be.  I do not think this is really true since I am sure the town was founded before the final boundaries of Utah were defined, but it sure made great fodder for laughing and conversation that night.  (Apparently there is a Levan, Illinois too)

Well, we made our final approach into Levan with the lights of the municipality drawing closer and closer.  Some of the members of the car were preparing the cameras so we could make a very quick stop and everyone could disembark for a photo with the Levan city sign.  We were laughing about getting a picture with Utah’s navel and then it happened.

Do you know that feeling when you see something and suddenly you do not know quite what to do because it is coming upon you so quickly?  As I drove 70 miles an hour down this road and with the blinding of the lights just as you emerge.  I suddenly had a car behind me with his lights on and that was also partly blinding me.  I made out the faint outline of something laying in the middle of my lane.  Just as I could see that, I had a car also coming my direction so I knew I could not really just dodge whatever it was in my lane so I prepared to straddle it.  I could not slam on my breaks because of the car so close behind me, the shoulder on the right, and the car approaching on the left.  I could see it was too big to straddle just as I was too close and too fast to stop.  I clenched my teeth, gripped hard on the steering wheel, and yelled over the conversation for everyone to hold on.

That is when we heard it.  This massive animal went under the car and we heard and felt him rolling under the car and at one point a serious thump right under the feet of the people in the back seat.  The sickening smell of scalded hair filled the car.  Cries rang out, “What was that?”  I watched for the car behind to dodge whatever it was I hit but he didn’t even flinch.  The individuals in the back of my car were trying to see if they could tell what we hit.  I could see no sign of the roadkill in any of my mirrors (beyond the headlight glare from the car behind).  I continued to let the car coast and finally started to breath realizing that massive thing went under the car and did not appear to do any damage at all.  I continued to coast down the now four lane highway until I hit city limits cruising speed.  I think I should point out at this point that this creature was already laying in my lane.  Although because it was so large and lumped, I assume it was a fresh hit and I was just fortunate enough to be the next person to hit it.

Nobody seemed quite as chipper anymore.  Nobody wanted to stop at the Levan city sign.  It was just silence as we drove through town.  As we left town somebody asked if it was a body we hit.  I told them I did not know what we hit but that it looked like a really big dog.  I thought he was a fresh kill and fortunately he rolled right under the car without relatively little incident.  The way he was clumped up in the road though, I was sure the car would jump or he would be lodged there.  The rolling of the thing under the car was clear so no need to get out and take a look underneath.  The others in the car were sure that I killed the dog.  Then more silence; dead silence.

After another 10 or 15 minutes or so with just the faint strains of the radio in the background, conversation started to pick up again.  We named the poor beast “Navel” after Levan.  I did not know what he was, but we were laughing again and having fun conversation again.

We climbed on I-15 and started heading north at full freeway speeds.  I seem to remember that Seth was sitting behind me and he commented on the fact that cars driving by us were looking at us.  Sure enough, we could not figure out why in the world everybody was looking at us.  It surely could not be some coordinated effort to stare us down.  It became a game of sorts to make faces back at the people as they drove by.  This elicited some hilarious expressions back at us.  One lady looked at us in complete and total disgust.  I was the one driving and could see expressions of the individuals.

Finally after probably 20 minutes of this, a car pulled beside us on the freeway and rolled down his window and motioned for me to do the same.  He then yelled, “Hey, you’re dragging a coyote!”  In that split second to conjure and give a response, I yelled back, “It’s okay, we picked him up in Levan!”  The total disgust in his face was quickly manifest and they sped off.  All the occupants of my car erupted into laughter at my complete nonsense reply.  Even now I realize how disconnected it must have sounded motoring down the freeway at 80 miles per hour.  It took me a minute or two to realize what I just said and even I was laughing so hard I was in tears.

Then the thought came, “Now what?”  I am not going to just pull to the side of the freeway in the middle of the dark.  We all decided we would get off at the next exit and see what damage was done.  We had just passed the Nephi exit, so we had at least another 10-20 miles to go before the next exit.  In that meantime driving down the freeway, let me assure you we thoroughly enjoyed those who passed us by.  I deliberately slowed down a little bit to maybe not cause as much damage to Navel.

Here is the question; how do you via some form of charades inform those in other cars that you know you have a coyote dragging behind you?  A thumb up and a big smile just never gets the impression across the 3-4 feet to the passenger in the other vehicle.  They would insist on pointing to the rear portion of the car.  We just smiled bigger and give them two thumbs up.  Of course, we were laughing so hard I don’t know how we stayed on the road.  Every person trying to convey the message must have thought we were a group of sick, psycho individuals who could only laugh.  They must have assumed we did not know, which means they tried all the harder.  As we attempted to confirm we knew, we would all break down in heavier laughter.  I cannot tell you how hilarious this was!

The Santaquin exit fortunately arrived and we left the interstate.  Navel was probably pretty excited about the ending of his trip.  We pulled to the end of the off-ramp and into the gravel of the road.  We all piled out to see our first view of Navel.  This is what we saw!

I know this will be a bit gruesome for some of the viewers out there.  I need to describe this a bit more to you though.  This dog is half worn away by this point!  I think you can tell that half of his head is also ground away.  If you click on the picture and get closer, you can see tiny chunks of hamburger all over the back of my car (Which we did not discover until the next morning because it was so dark.  The picture is only lit from the camera flash).  I cannot tell you the smell that was present, but my expression and covering my nose should give you some hint.  It was flat-out disgusting.  Also, I point out to you that Navel’s leg was jammed between the body of the car and part of my undercarriage right in the middle of the car near the axle.  That means Navel is at this point stretched out probably 5 feet in length from the axle to the end of his leg you can see in the picture.  He was mangled, stretched, and partly disintegrated.

Now the issue became, how to get him out from under the car?  We tried backing up hoping he would become unattached.  We tried poking at him with a tire iron.  Brad even had the idea to stand on him when I drove off, but we then became afraid of Navel coming apart.  You know how you should avoid injured dogs?  None of us really wanted to lay down next this stinky dog, slide under the car in the dark, and try to get him unattached.  What options are left?  We decided to drive to a gas station for assistance.

We hopped back on I-15 and began another episode of being stared down by every car passing us.  It was not quite as funny anymore.  Levity did finally arrive as we would deliberately not look at the cars trying to get our attention and then we would break down laughing to the horror of those trying to inform of us our dire situation.  The 10 miles or so to the next exit with a gas station went exceedingly slow.

Now we were parked on the sanitary and clean concrete of the Payson Maverik.  We all stood around the car again trying to figure out what we were going to do.  At least now we had sufficient lighting to really tell what was going on.  We stood around talking and figuring a plan of attack.  Emily and Seth figured out they would not have to do the dirty deed so they went in the store and returned passing out donuts!  Emily remembers that I made some comment like, “What do you think this is, some sort of Relief Society meeting?”  The comments from individuals as they came up to our circle and realized what we were all standing around looking at, WHILE eating donuts.  I remember one lady was very disgusted.

I tried climbing under the car but it was so low to the ground that I could not reach the spot where Navel had his leg lodged.  Nobody wanted to have to get out a jack so we could climb under the car.  I walked into the Maverik and asked for ideas or thoughts.  The attendant suggested I go grab a rod for turning valves down in the ground (about 3 feet long with a “T” at the top) and try using it to get him dislodged.  We poked and prodded at him for a while.  The broken leg and all the tissue just wasn’t helping me pull out his leg.  I cannot emphasize how terribly disgusting of a sight that Navel was.  This is roadkill that we had to deal with in an intimate fashion.

Finally our hero arrived with a couple of rednecks in a red Dodge minivan.  The dad walked up and asked us what the problem was.  Upon seeing Navel and then looking at my Missouri license plate he asked, “You from Mississippi?”  I responded, “No, Missouri” and he walked back to his minivan and his son quickly appeared with a plastic bag in his hand.  That little 7 or 8 year old climbed under my car without any fear and with his plastic covered hand pulled Navel’s limb out of its wedged location.  (I warned him of the hot exhaust which he still hit with his little arm!)  The kid then and went and hopped back in the little van (and did not go inside to wash!).

I walked in and told the attendant I wanted to buy that red minivan’s fuel.  He let me do it.  The man was appreciative, and so was I!

Now, what to do with the remains of Navel?  The Maverik attendant suggested we just throw him in the dumpster at the side of the building.  No small task for a bag of bones that must have still weighed 50 pounds.  Nobody wanted to touch him so we used the valve rod to pick him up and walked him to the dumpster.  We could not get the rod up over the top of that dumpster without Navel sliding down the rod.  It clearly was not working.  I finally had to reach out and touch Navel to hold him in place and keep him from sliding down the rod while Seth and I put him in the dumpster.

We returned the bloody rod to its location and later, unfortunate user.  We both washed our hands multiple times in the bathroom before heading to the attendant to let him know we were leaving.  He gave us both a Mt. Dew for the road!  We thanked him and headed on our way.  We arrived in Logan, Utah about 1:00 or so in the morning and all collapsed into our beds.  But whenever I hear of Manti, Levan, or the Mormon Miracle Pageant; I now think of Navel the dog from Levan.  May he forgive me for dragging him over 40 miles!  May he forgive us for the endless laughs that night and many since then at his expense.  I feel bad about his owners who wondered where their dog ran off to, I guess at least they did not see his terrible state.

In Memory of Lowell Hansen and Garrett Smith

With a recent bout of suicides, I thought I would pay a bit of a tribute to 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?

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 was called upon 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.

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 I always helped in our relationship.  When the 6 weeks were up, we had both profoundly influenced the other though.  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 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 in the ground 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 Auswich 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.

Van Leeuwen – Janzen Wedding

Harmanus and Johanna Janzen are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Hermina to Gerhardus Hendrik Van Leeuwen, son of Gerrit and Elsebina Van Leeuwen. Gerhardus and Hermina were married in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands on 31 March 1880.

Gerhardus is a carpenter and the family will make their home in Arnhem.

That might be somewhat how the wedding announcement might have been like for the couple, except in Dutch.  When referring to individuals in the United States, I have kept the English capitalization of Van and Der, while the Dutch individuals I have maintained the Dutch preference.

Gerhardus Hendrik Van Leeuwen (who went by George Henry in English) was born the fourth of nine children to Gerrit van Leeuwen and Elsebina Maria Catharina Weenig on 16 October 1856 in Oldenzaal, Overijssel, Netherlands.  I have written of them at this link: Van Leeuwen-Weenig Wedding.  He was a carpenter by trade, on the finishing side.  He would also tune and service organs.  After moving to the United States, he worked as a finishing carpenter.

We do not know anything about how they met, the courtship, or the marriage in 1880.

Hermina Janzen (who went by Minnie) was born the fourth of nine children to Harmanus Janzen and Johanna van der Meij on 19 August 1860 in Gorssel, Gelderland, Netherlands.

George and Minnie would eventually have 12 children born to their marriage (Here are some pictures of the children).  Nine of these would live to adulthood and marry.

Gerhardus Hermanus Van Leeuwen was born 22 February 1881 in Arnhem and died 19 November 1883 in Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands.

Shortly after Gerhardus’ birth, the family moved to Amsterdam.  The family moved around quite regularly, sometimes only living in one place for a couple of weeks.  This may show the family was struggling financially.

Elsebina Johanna Van Leeuwen was born 5 January 1883 in Amsterdam and died 18 Mar 1883 in Amsterdam.

Johanna Hermiena Van Leeuwen (known as Annie) was born 30 January 1884 in Amsterdam and died 20 July 1958 in Ogden, Weber, Utah.  She married Ibele Idsenga (known as Emil Edsinga) 3 February 1905 in Ogden.

It is assumed that around this time (1885-1886) is when George incurred a head injury.  My Great Grandmother, his daughter Dena, indicated he fell from a ladder.  Other siblings reported to descendants that he was struck in the head with a board.  This is believed to be the reason why the family moved back to Arnhem, that due to his inability to work, this may be the reason they returned to Arnhem to be near family and rely on them for help.

Elsebina Maria Catharina Van Leeuwen (known as Elsie) was born 7 March 1886 in Arnhem and died 2 March 1927 in Ogden.  She married Elmer Leroy Staker 2 May 1906 in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah in the LDS temple.

The family then moved back to Amsterdam perhaps in pursuit of employment again.  It was in Amsterdam that the Van Leeuwens met with missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  George and Minnie were both baptized 4 June 1887.

Gerhardus Hermanus Van Leeuwen (reuse of the older sibling’s name, known as George) was born 29 August 1887 in Amsterdam and died 21 January 1937 in Ogden.  He married Maria Timmers 17 September 1908 in Salt Lake City.

According to George’s 1932 death certificate, he suffered from epilepsy with psychosis for 45 years. That would predate his immigration to the United States. His mental health could have become an issue when immigrating, and it may have been easier if Minnie and the children had gone first and established their new home. That may have enabled George to follow the next spring without risk of having the family turned back. With family already in Utah, immigration officials would hopefully admit him into the country.  Epilepsy had a stigma of illness that the family had to deal with, everything from wickedness to a contagious disease.  This way, only he would be turned away, and hopefully with the family already there, the officials would admit him to the country.  George arrived 21 March 1889 in New York City, New York on the S.S. Veendam having left Rotterdam.

Minnie’s membership records appear in Ogden 1st Ward and Wilson Ward of the LDS Church by October 1888.  The family settled in the area around Wall and 32nd in Ogden.  A number of other Dutch emigrants were also in the area.

Hermiena Van Leeuwen (known as Minnie) was born 26 January 1890 in Ogden and died 21 August 1971 in Ogden.  She married George Berglund 22 September 1915 in Ogden.

Jantjen Van Leeuwen (known as Jane and Jennie) was born 30 December 1891 in Ogden and died 27 July 1942 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California.  She married Frederick William Bremer 10 December 1913 in Salt Lake City at the LDS temple.

Maria Van Leeuwen (known as Mary) was born 15 November 1893 in Ogden and died 16 August 1977 in Ogden.  She married Andrew George Hewitt (known as Andy) 22 September 1915 in Salt Lake City at the LDS temple.

Hermanus Van Leeuwen (known as Herman) was born 10 July 1896 in Ogden and died 26 November 1973 in Ogden.  He married Cora Edna Biddulph (or Lowe) 21 July 1916 in Ogden.

Berendena Van Leeuwen (known as Dena) was born 28 December 1898 in Ogden and died 5 March 1959 in Ogden.  She married David Delos Donaldson (known as Dave) and I have written of their marriage at this link: Donaldson-Van Leeuwen Wedding.

Christiena Van Leeuwen was born 16 March 1901 in Ogden and died 20 March 1901.

Catharina Johanna Van Leeuwen (known as Kate) was born 2 December 1902 in Ogden and died 27 November 1975 in Ogden.  She married Richard Leslie Collins (known as Les) 17 March 1920 in Ogden.

All the individuals who knew the family mention first how close the family was.  The family was known that once a visitor was around, the food came out.  Apparently Minnie was a master cook and all loved her food.  She apparently made loaves and loaves of bread at a time.  The neighbors knew what days she made bread and would regularly buy loaves from her.  Friends of the children knew what day to come and eat some of Minnie’s bread.  After she passed, her daughters had all learned well and continued the tradition and into their own families after marrying.

The family was also known for the practical jokes they would play on one another and the constant play quarreling.  Even throughout life, some of the siblings would make up stories about other siblings that would make the sibling mad and things turned hot for a while and then the favor would return.  All throughout the rest of their lives, the siblings met together oft and enjoyed meals together.

Five children in back (l-r): Minnie, Annie, Elsie, George and Jane. Second row: George, Dena, Hermina. Front: Mary and Herman.

The above photo placements are as follows.  You can tell George and Minnie Van Leeuwen.  Dena is sitting on the stool between the parents.  The five children behind from left to right are Minnie, Annie, Elsie, George, and Jane.  The two in front of George are Mary and Herman.  Kate was not born yet when this picture was taken roughly in 1902.

George’s head and mental injuries continued to worsen as the years passed.  The family either had to keep him safe during a fit and keep him calm to keep from inducing a fit.  By the time 1911 rolled around, the family could no longer deal with his mental condition on their own.  Dena referred to her “Daddy” as tender and sweet and then at the switch he would become angry and threatening.  He had made enough threats and raised enough raucous that neighbors called the police.  George was committed to the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah, Utah in 1911.  The family tried to get him out and succeeded.  Unfortunately, he lost control again and ended up spending the rest of his life in the mental hospital.  The family would drive down nearly every weekend to pick up “Daddy” and keep him for the weekend before taking him back.  By the mid 1920′s, they could not even take him home on the weekends his condition was that poor and uncontrollable.

Photo from George’s Utah State Hospital file

“Momma Minnie,” as she was known to friends, died 9 June 1921 in Ogden.  She was buried 3 days later in the Ogden City Cemetery.  When Hermina died in 1921 she left a will specifying $1 to Gerhardus who was in state care and otherwise her estate was divided among her surviving children.  Hermina died at Elsie’s home.  George died 5 January 1932 in Provo, Utah, Utah.  He was buried 3 days later beside his wife.

Charles and Christina Nuffer

Back row: Bertha, Anna, Clara, Louise. Seated row: Charles, Charles, Christina. Lap children: Preston, Laura. Front: Ida, Joseph.

Back row: Bertha, Anna, Clara, Louise. Seated row: Charles, Charles, Christina. Lap children: Preston, Laura. Front: Ida, Joseph.

Christina Wanner, the mother in this picture from 1910, is the sister to my Johann Georg (John George) Wanner Jr.  I previously posted a family portrait for Christina’s sister, Maria Magdalena Wanner Wagstaff.  At some point, I will write my Great Great Grandfather, John, but until then, I will keep writing on some of the peripheral lines.

Charles August Nuffer, the father in the photo, is the brother to my Regina Friederike Nuffer.  A brother a sister with the last name of Nuffer married a sister and brother with the last name of Wanner.  Two other Wanner sisters married another set of brothers with the last name of Bodrero.  Anyhow, the children in the above photo are all double cousins to me.  Can you smell the consanguinity in the Wanner family?

Charles August Nuffer was born 18 June 1871 in Neuffen, Esslingen, Baden-Württemberg to John Christoph Nuffer and Eva Katharina Greiner.  His parents joined the LDS church on 12 April 1880 after following the example of their daughter, Regina who was baptized in January 1880.  Charles actually joined 26 January 1894 in Mapleton, Franklin, Idaho (then Oneida County).  He passed away 17 July 1952 in Preston, Franklin, Idaho and buried beside his wife 4 days later in the Preston Cemetery.  If you are interested, here is his autobiography.

Christina Wanner was born 30 March 1872 in Holzgerlingen, Böblingen, Baden-Württemberg to Johann Georg Wanner Sr and Anna Maria Schmid.  Her whole family joined the LDS church in 1891 (she 16 October 1891) and immigrated to the US in 1892 settling in Logan, Cache, Utah.  She died 10 August 1940 in Preston and was buried 4 days later.  Her daughter Louise, wrote a biography about her.

Charles and Christina were married 1 February 1894 in the Logan LDS Temple by Marriner Wood Merrill.  Note, this is 5 days after his baptism!  To this marriage was born 9 children.  The first 7 were born in Mapleton and the rest were in Preston.

Clara Katherine Nuffer born 10 August 1895, died 18 August 1984.  Married John Leroy Hansen 30 October 1918.

Louise Mary Nuffer born 19 November 1896, died 16 October 1980.  Married LeRoy McDonald Roberts 17 November 1944.

Anna Christina Nuffer born 8 January 1899, died 25 January 1928.  Married Elmer Willis Cummings 23 April 1919.

Bertha Wilamena Nuffer born 9 June 1900, died 9 November 1990.  Married Alfred Dean Winn 9 February 1921.

Charles Fredrick Nuffer born 21 October 1901, died 30 June 1970.  Married Ruth Gamble 4 October 1922.

Joseph Adolph Nuffer born 18 May 1904, died 27 June 1985.  Married Greta Susan Alder 20 July 1927.

Ida Eva Nuffer born 15 June 1906, died 1 December 2000.  Married Gilbert Warren Stater Cafferty 24 February 1926.

Preston Albert Nuffer born 13 June 1908, died 20 July 1995.  Married Ella May Day 24 June 1936.

Laura Elvina Nuffer born 15 February 1910, died 21 December 1994.  Married Hilden Jack Alvord 12 April 1929.

I am happy to correct or add information to this family if you have information.

Andra’s in Virginia

Since I seem to write so much about ancestral lines and their stories, I like to pay homage to the living from time to time.  Here are a few photos from Thanksgiving 2007 when my Great Uncle and Aunt Andra came to visit.

Donald is the brother to my maternal grandmother, Colleen Andra (1928 – 1999).  I have written of her elsewhere, rather than a link, you can search for it here on the blog.

Donald and Lolane were called to serve a mission in the Washington D.C. Temple for 18 months.  We visited them many times in Kensington, Montgomery, Maryland.  After Thanksgiving Dinner with them in the Rock Creek Ward building, they were finally able to take some time off, drive down to Richmond, Henrico, Virginia, and spend some time with us.  I have written about their visit at the time, but wanted to include a picture.  We visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (the picture above was in one of their buildings).  We also visited Monticello, Shirley Plantation, and various sites around Richmond, Virginia.  We very much enjoyed their time with us and look forward to when we can spend more time with them in the future.

One of the highlights of the visit for all of us was having lunch with Sister Angela Andra and her companion.  It was a unique experience for me to sit at lunch with three full-time missionaries, all cousins with the last name of Andra.  Angela is the granddaughter of Don’s (and my Grandma’s) brother, William (Bill) Fredrick Andra (Jr).  Here is a picture of that occasion after lunch in Chesterfield, Chesterfield, Virginia.

I will wrap up with a picture of the breathtakingly beautiful Washington D.C. Temple.  I wholeheartedly understand and agree with the reasons why the church has moved to the smaller temples for ease of access and utility.  However, something about the size and grandeur of the big temples still strikes more awe of God into my hard heart.

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?

Donaldson-Van Leeuwen Wedding

George Henry and Minnie Van Leeuwen are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Dena to David Delos Donaldson, son of Mary Elizabeth Donaldson and the late William Scott Donaldson. David and Dena  were married in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah on 16 July 1919.

David is currently an independent plumber in Ogden, Weber, Utah.

The couple will return to make their home at 2310 Grant Avenue in Ogden, Utah.

David Delos Donaldson (he went by Dave, his son also went by Dave or Davie, so to keep them clear, I will refer to father as David and son as Dave) was born 26 March 1894 in Evanston, Uinta, Wyoming.  He was the second of seven children born to William Scott Donaldson and Mary Elizabeth Williams.  I have previously written of David’s parents at this link: Donaldson-Williams.  David grew up in Evanston, Uinta, Wyoming and Park City, Summit, Utah before moving to 2270 Moffits Avenue, now 2270 Ogden Avenue, in Ogden, by the time he was six.  He lived at this address until he moved to Twin Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho to work for Ballantyne Plumbing Company as a Sham Filler.  When he registered for the World War I draft on 5 June 1917, he was living on Shoshone Street North in Twin Falls and listed that his mother and two siblings were dependent on him.  He may have listed this in hopes of not being drafted.

Ballantyne Plumbing & Heating Company was newly incorporated (about 1916) by Varsell Ballantyne who had just moved from Ogden.  Varsell had been one of the incorporators of The Ogden Plumbing, Gas & Steam Fitting Company in 1904 or 05.  He had worked in the same spheres as David’s father and probably felt some desire to help the Donaldson family and invited David to Twin Falls.  He may also have been the master to which David was an apprentice, or another plumber worked with in the Ogden PG&S Company.  While David worked for Ballantyne Plumbing Company, it was located at 145 Second Avenue East in Twin Falls.  David lived on Shoshone Street North, probably not far from his employment.

The draft card indicates that he had gray eyes, black hair, and stood tall and stout.  David served in the U.S. Army during World War I.  When he was finally drafted, he went to Utah to report with his two brothers who were also drafted (another brother would also serve in World War I).  Unfortunately, the government cannot find his service paperwork and very little is known of his time served.  His obituary indicates he served in the 91st Division of the Army.  We do not know his dates, but this division fought in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in 1918 and went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive through the rest of the year.  It was in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that David would receive his life lasting injuries to his lungs from the dreaded gasses of World War I.  One lung collapsed and never worked again, the other lost a large percentage of its capacity.  He would receive weekly treatment for the rest of his life (over 30 years) for these injuries at the Veterans Hospital in Salt Lake.  He became a member of the Disabled American Veterans, Ogden Chapter 4.

l-r: Ed, David, and George Donaldson

Berendena Van Leeuwen, who went by Dena, was born 28 December 1898 in Ogden.  She was the 10th of 12 children born to Gerhardus Hendrik and Hermina  Janzen Van Leeuwen.  I have written of George and Minnie’s marriage here: Van Leeuwen – Janzen Wedding.

Nine of these children would live to adulthood and marry.  Both parents joined the LDS church in 1887 and immediately sought to immigrate to Zion.  The family immigrated to Utah in 1888.  Gerhardus waited until the next year to immigrate.  Gerhardus had fallen from a ladder at work giving him head injuries that lead to epileptic seizures and bouts of insanity.  These considerations were perceived as mental illness at the time and could have kept the family from being admitted had they all come together.  The Van Leeuwen’s immigrated from Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands.  In the United States, Dena’s parents were known as George Henry and Minnie Van Leeuwen.  The Van Leeuwen family lived at various places in Ogden, mostly near Wall Avenue and 33rd Street.  Her father worked as a carpenter, more on the finishing side, for employment.  George may have even known of the Donaldson family.  Dena was baptized in the LDS church 7 November 1907 in Ogden. The family was extremely tight knit and was known for their large and very tasty family meals.  If company came over, a meal was put on.

George’s head and mental injuries continued to worsen as the years passed.  The family either had to keep him safe or calm him down before.  By the time 1911 rolled around, his fits were becoming uncontrollable.  Dena referred to her “Daddy” as tender and sweet and then at the switch he would become angry and threatening.  He had made enough threats and raised enough raucous that neighbors called the police.  George was committed to the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah, Utah in 1911 when Dena was 13.  The family tried to get him out and succeeded.  Unfortunately, he lost control again and ended up spending the rest of his life in the mental hospital.  The family would drive down nearly every weekend to pick up “Daddy” and keep him for the weekend before taking him back.  By the mid 1920′s, they could not even take him home on the weekends his condition was that poor and uncontrollable.  “Momma Minnie,” as she was known to friends, died in 1921 in Ogden.  George died in 1932 in Provo.

Dena as one of the youngest children of the family was known among siblings as telling slight variations of stories to other siblings such that it would cause some contention within the ranks.  While the siblings were never distant from each other, a feud of one sort or another was always brewing or being fought.  It would always pass, but Dena often started many of the feuds and received a bit of flak for it.

David returned from the war and met Dena Van Leeuwen.  We do not know about the courtship or how they met.  We do not know why they chose to be married in Salt Lake.  David and Dena took a honeymoon to California.

David resumed work as a plumber in the 1920′s in the Ogden area.  Between 1920 and 1928, 5 children were born to David and Dena, all in Ogden.  Twins named Dena Dorothy and Dora Mary were born 28 May 1920.

Gladys Maxine arrived 20 September 1921.  Here is a picture of the three kids with Gladys against the wheel of the car.

Maxine appeared 3 August 1924.  Lastly a boy, David William came 25 November 1928.

A shot of all 5 children on the front porch of the home that David built at 629 8th Street in Ogden.

Here is a picture of the home from the side.  You can see from this point that the home is probably older than 1920′s and that Dave probably added the addition onto the back rather than building the entire home.

In 1930, the family lived at 753 Browning Avenue in Salt Lake.  We do not know how long they were there, but they moved back pretty quickly to Ogden living on 8th Street.  Times were hard during the 1930′s so David went to Boulder City, Clark, Nevada to work on the building of the new Boulder Dam (later named Hoover).  He also headed to Napa, Napa, California to work in the shipyards as a pipe fitter, primarily on submarines. Jennie Bremer, a niece to David and Dena, told of a funny story when David was replacing the plumbing in their home after a serious earthquake in Los Angeles.  David was deathly afraid of earthquakes and while he was working in the basement or under a cupboard if an aftershock hit he would rise up and run from the house.  He told Jennie at one point that he did not want to be caught in the basement if the house should fall.  Well, being little kids, they played with this some.  They would sneak to the window of the room he was working in and shake the screen and windows in a way that sounded like an earthquake.  She said it was funny to see a man as big as “Uncle Dave” to hop up and run out of a room like that.  They would laugh and laugh over it.  They made sure not to do it too often so he would not suspect anything and she does not believe he ever knew of the joke they would pull on him at least once every time he visited.  She did comment it was a bit sad to see him winded for a while after he hopped and ran, but the guilt from it would only come later in life as she realized what she had done to him.

David would often visit family to help with their homes or other needs.  He also come home to Ogden fairly regularly on the weekends to visit the family. He finally found employment in Ogden at the Ogden Depot in 1937 as Supervisor of Maintenance.  In 1939, the family returned to visit the area David had worked, Donaldson extended family in the bay area, and the 1939 San Francisco World Fair.

After World War II, the family moved to 639 Wall Avenue.

Life in the 1940′s treated the Donaldson family much better, even despite the war.  David still had his penny-pinching ways.  Dave would refer to David as the “King of the Tight Wads.”  Dave started working about 12 years old as a shoe polisher at a barber shop on Washington Ave.  David had told Dave that now he was 12, he was expected to be a man and take care of himself, that the Donaldson household would no longer be carrying him.  When he brought his paycheck home, David would take half of it for the family.  This incensed Dave over the years and he quit reporting his full pay to his father, who took half of it.  David even went on to require Dave to pay rent for his space upstairs in the Wall Ave home. Sometime between 1942 and 1945, David’s mother’s husband had passed away and she wanted to move in with the Donaldson family.  David tried to get Dave to move his bed to the back porch so his mother could take the upstairs.  Dave made it very clear he would move his bed, but it would be out of the house and he would never come back.  David’s mother did not move in and Dave kept his “apartment” even after he married.

David insisted that Dena only needed two dresses and no more.  The family would often buy her dresses, shoes, or other things for her birthday and Christmas, so she did not ultimately go without.  But he refused to buy for himself or for her.  Dave and Betty Donaldson got a pretty serious scolding one time for buying Dena a crystal berry bowl indicating that it was going to spoil Dena and the family.

Dena grew up LDS and David 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.  When the time would come for Gladys to marry, the Bishop determined that he was not going to allow them to be married in the temple without David being a member.  David had made it known he did not want any of his girls to marry a poor boy and would not submit. All four of the girls married in the next two years, and then Dave in 1953.  Interestingly, David never joined the LDS church, but the family put it into the obituary that he was a member.  Gladys ended up being married in the Donaldson home on 8th Street, but David refused to allow the Donaldson Bishop to do the honors, so the Plain City Bishop of Glady’s husband, Milo Ross, performed the wedding.

Gladys married Milo James Ross 4 April 1942.

Dena married Chauncey De Orr Michaelson 7 December 1943.

Maxine married Sterlin Delaino Telford 24 December 1943.

Dora married Malcolm Claire Birch 11 September 1943.

Dave married Betty May Oram 12 April 1953.

Maxine, Gladys, Dena and Dora Donaldson (don't know which is which of the twins)

David retired in 1949 from the Ogden Defense Depot due to his physical condition and inability to breathe.  About this time, the family took a trek to visit family and friends throughout the west and to see some national and church historical sites.  Included was Hoover Dam, St. George Utah Temple, Mesa Arizona Temple, Cove Fort, Lake Mead, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The family, not caring about the thoughts of others, loaded the car and set off.  Dena, who loved and raised canaries, insisted they come with her.  So the canaries rode in cages that were wired to the outside of the car (and the canaries lived through the entire trek).  Dave joked that driving around they looked like the Beverly Hillbillies in their early 40′s sedan with bird cages wired to the back of the car.

David would claim that the only relief he could receive for his lungs was through smoking cigarettes which would calm his breathing and ease the pain.  Remembering also, this was also a slogan for some cigarette companies!  He picked up smoking while still in the military, but he would become a chain smoker very early on. The smoking would later aid in his death from emphysema.  It was not uncommon at all for David to light one cigarette from the one he was finishing.  He was also known as a dirty smoker among the family in that he would allow the ashes to fall anywhere and would even throw his butts on the floor in the house, in the toilet, or even leave them in the drain of the bathtub after he finished bathing.

David’s lung issues would come back to haunt him more and more as the years passed.  The cigarettes were no longer delaying the pain or inevitable loss.  His emphysema would come in fits to such a degree that he would be confined to bed and the family would have to place newspaper on the floor around the bed to catch the black phlegm (sometimes bloody) he would cough up.  His emphysema would become more and more restraining on his life in the last 5 years of his life.  It was the reason he had to take such an early retirement.  In the end, he had a couple of days where he was coughing and could not breathe and went to the Veteran’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.  After a two day stay, the chronic lung disease caused a cor pulmonale that took his life on 24 September 1953.  Four days later, he was buried in Ogden City Cemetery.

Dena moved on with her life and kept busy visiting and spending time with family.  Dave, who had recently married and was living in an apartment upstairs, decided it was time for a major cleaning of the house.  They completely and thoroughly cleaned the home, wall-papered and replaced wall-paper, and replaced the carpets and furniture to remove all the cigarette smoke grease and filth.

Betty told me that as long as she knew the family that she really loved Dena.  She said everyone loved Dena.  She said that when she remembers the home in Ogden on Wall, that every time she drove into the driveway that the curtains would part and a Dena’s curly white hair, bright blue eyes, and big smile poke through with a little wave.  Apparently she had an infectious laugh which was both giddy and happy.

Four of her siblings were still alive and she had 11 grandchildren by the time 1955 rolled around.  Then one day she was visiting at the home of Jane (Jantjen in the Dutch) Bremer, her sister.  Dena needed to hurry off and Jane warned her that she should not go.  Jane was known in the family for having the gift of foretelling the future.  Jane told Dena that if she left at that time she would be in a terrible accident.  Dena gave no heed and left to go on her way.  Dena was known by all to speed, and she was doing so this day.  Sure enough, as she drove north on Wall Avenue in Ogden and at reaching 2nd street, a truck made a left hand turn from the right lane and hit the rear passenger side of the 1955 Oldsmobile.  Her vehicle was sent careening and slammed broadside into a telephone pole on the north east corner of the intersection (133 feet from the point of impact).  The initial hit threw her into the passenger side of the front seat with the passenger door open, her leg partially out of the opened door.  Then the impact collapsed the dashboard in on her and slammed the open passenger door on her leg.  She broke her hip, leg, and back with a number of other injuries.  The door had closed and latched on her leg and had to be cut open.  She was taken to the hospital where the family did not expect her to live.  She underwent a pretty major hip and back operation.

Dena was put into a full body cast for the next six months that reached all the way up to her armpits. Dave created this bar with a rope/cloth over the bed by which she could lift herself up so they could place a bedpan under her to do her business.  Betty would help her do the business, clean her up, and make sure her needs were tended.  The cast was eventually removed but she could not properly walk or get around very well.  She was pretty much confined to her home for the rest of her days.  At times a little heat came into a relationship and she would go spend some time with one of her other children, but she came back.  She had a terribly heavy hospital bed she used these last few years.  Dave made it clear early on that once he moved that bed out of the house again, he was not ever moving it back in so her stays elsewhere were of short duration.

Dave and Betty would take Dena around to visit places and get out of the house.  Betty joked that Dena loved to go fishing and that she could catch fish in the gutter if she tried.  She had a gift for catching fish. Dave and Betty set up a little camp chair so she could fish on camping trips.  They would leave her be for a while and she would giggle at the birds and once and a while one would fly to her.  She giggled openly and happily at everything.  Her grandson, Milo Ross, remembers her in the full body cast but yet she would smile and the whole world would smile with her.  He thought she was a funny lady with tongue twisters, slight Dutch accent, and catchy little jingles.

Dena had problems with her body that come from inactivity, like regular kidney stones and other painful problems.  But she always had a twinkle in her eye and a contagious laugh.  She never, if ever, complained about the lot cast to her in life.

On the 5th of March, 1959, Betty Donaldson, Dena’s daughter-in-law had finished work and was headed to the theater to catch a matinee.  She felt a distinct impression that she should go home.  Dave was at work and she had the whole afternoon free, so she did not see the need to go home.  As she waited in line at the theater, she knew she needed to go home so she caught the bus.  She made it home and all was well.  She changed her clothes and then Dena called up to her.  Dena had this sinking feeling in her chest, was not feeling very well, and was asking Betty for help.  Betty called the Dr. and for an ambulance.  Dave, who never called home from work, had felt impressed to call home.  Betty was just headed up to the hospital.  Dave met her there.  Dena had suffered kidney failure which lead to a heart attack and she passed away that evening around 10:30 PM.  She was buried four days later next to David in the Ogden City Cemetery.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”

We have the old story of Huck Finn told by Mark Twain.  The struggle in Finn’s mind.

All religious and secular thought was that it was moral and right, as citizens and god-fearing individuals to turn a slave in, to return him or her to the proper owner.

In that conflict, Huck really thought he would go to hell if he did not return Jim to his master, or at least report him.  In the end, he did what he felt was right.  That was directly contrary to both the legal and ecclesiastical realm.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

He would not report Jim and go on with his life.  He would rather go to hell than do the injustice to his friend.

Amazing how little things have changed since that time.  Slavery has passed away in this nation.  But the mentality has not.  Some still stick those old creeds and notions which are not divinely inspired, but still taught.  They demean and belittle other men, and yet in their pious attitude go about believing they are righteous.

It was with dismay that Amanda believed she is going to hell.  A friend of hers, a friend, is telling others that Amanda is going to hell.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

We are not Christians, that is what they say; just like blacks are not people.  We believe in a different God, just like their skin is different.  Well, if that is the way their God and church life, preach, teach, then I do not want a part of it.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

Their God condemns to hell all those who might be erring in judgment.  Their God condemns all those to hell who never even had an option to err in judgment.  Their God condemns to hell all those who never even had a chance to know of God.  Why would I want to be in a heaven where such a God lives?

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

Mormons are not Christians because we believe in a different Christ?  Our Christ is a dear friend and close associate.  Their God is a distant impersonal God.  Our God has a body, parts, and passions.  Their God has no substance, being, or place.  Our God has characteristics, perfections, and attributes.  Their God, well, they can’t agree on his personal characteristics.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

Our God believe sin building up people and helping them, inasmuch as they want to be helped.  Our God is benevolent.  Their God will tear down and lock in some burning place even the best of souls who possible erred.  Their God is malevolent.  In the story of Ezra Benson, our God gives a new doll to have the child leave the old doll.  Their God tears apart the doll to reveal the sawdust and stray to have the child leave the doll.  If that is their God…

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

Just as there were those in the days of Christ who could not move on from their strict reading of the law (scriptures). So also are there those today who cannot come to Christ because they are too locked into the scriptures.  They strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

We will go on happy and leading our lives doing our own thing.  We will go on peacefully building up our kingdom and Zion for Christ’s return.  They can go on drawing lines in the sand and condemning everyone who dares to cross it.  We don’t give much of a hoot.  Why do we care if they think we don’t worship their Christ.  Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way…

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

If it makes them happy, in some sadistic way, then let them think we are going to hell.  Just as the Jews missed Christ the last time, there seems to be a lot of Christians who are missing him this time while he is in our midst working mighty miracles.

We will worship our God, they will worship theirs; both in our delight and happiness.  We will just have to see which one is more lasting.  One thing is for sure though, we are learning to overcome the devil and hell now.  They think they are avoiding it; even in telling us our destination.  But even if we were sent to hell, we would be happy for we know the true God in whom to rely.  He can save us from hell, the pit, and darkness.  Theirs just condemns more souls to go there.

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”  Mark 17:33.