14 July 1924 - 25 June 2007My dear Grandad peacefully passed away a week ago, and we buried him yesterday. I have some very tender memories running through my mind and heart and am eager to share them here.
Families are as big as their family stories. As a budding historian and a graduate student, I have been trained to search for accuracy, to verify facts through primary sources. As a member of a beautiful family, I realize that our family stories may not be entirely verifiable--and if they are, often they lose a bit of their drama and power. These family stories provide me with a couple of important things: a sense of belonging--an identity with a larger group; an understanding of important family values--expectations, hopes, dreams; and an opportunity to participate--both in hearing and in telling our stories. Elder David A. Bednar said that "the home is the place where we cannot hide from who we really are," that home is potentially the most natural, most effective setting for learning the gospel because we find the truth about ourselves and we cannot hide from it. I want to share stories told by Grandad and about Grandad. These are stories that we will tell our children and our children's children. These are the reasons why we celebrate Grandad.
Last Sunday night, just hours before Grandad passed away, my dear cousin Arian had a dream. She dreamed that we were all gathered to say goodbye to Grandad. We believed we would see him unresponsive on a hospital bed, as he had been for the past few days. How surprised we were to see him come walking out the door, followed by GranNomi and our parents. He was beaming--full of light and life and beauty. We were so surprised that we shouted for joy. He had been healed! We celebrated this miracle, just as we celebrate his life.
Hooray for Grandad and sports. Although Grandad was only 5'8", he was a basketball star in high school with a strong jump shot. When he tried out for the University of Arizona Wildcats team, the coaches seriously doubted his ability. They required him to make 10 free throw shots, and he made every single one. They asked him to do it again, and he made every single shot. He made the team and soon became team captain. The newspapers dubbed him Buzz Bomb because of his ability to win a game from half court on the buzzer. The team participated in the 1946 National Invitational Tournament at Madison Square Garden. I love hearing stories about him sneaking into Uncle Gordon's high school basketball games at a time when it was embarrassing for a parent to be there. He always left early or waited afterword so as not to be caught.Grandad always planned baseball games at our family reunions and encouraged us in our sports--like the time when he allowed Marilee 5 or 6 strikes, even though Jennings threw down his glove in protest. My favorite sports memories of Grandad are the creative games he planned for us. After one Thanksgiving dinner when the grandkids were all a little too rambunctious for our tired parents, he would hold contests to see who could hold their breath the longest, or he offered a dollar for whoever could hold his or her nose to the floor the longest. We all immediately fell asleep. And the hours of playing dominoes, Hand-and-Foot, and the sometimes violent game of spoons. Grandad was our champion.
Hooray for Grandad and education. We loved hearing stories of his adventures at Duncan Union High School and the song, "Duncan Punkin' Rollers." Grandad's experiences at the University of Arizona and USC, where he earned his doctorate in music, have inspired many of us to pursue advanced degrees. We love hearing about the time an old professor got all mixed up and walked out the classroom door--into the closet--then all the students pretended to leave just to see what he would do. After hearing the sound of footsteps, he popped his head out and received applause from the class. Especially inspiring was his dedication and determination to make it through his oral exams.
Hooray for Grandad and music. We love the stories about how Grandad started violin lessons at the age of 8. When a boy at school called him a sissy, Grandad put down his violin case, punched him in the stomach, and said, "I'm not a sissy." At his first teaching assignment in Snowflake, the rough and tough high school boys considered him a sissy music teacher. Grandad took off his shoes and played football with them in an alfalfa field--beating them all. They all joined the band that year. Grandad used to come home from college to play his favorite violin piece for his mother--"Meditation from Thais." Great Grandad would say, "Harold, why don't you play something I'd like to hear, like "Turkey in the Straw." As a child, I remember going to my first concert at the DeJong Concert Hall with Grandad conducting. I was 3 and Lisa was 2, and when she saw him come out on the stage in his tuxedo tails, she yelled out, "There's Grandad! What is he wearing?" I received my first violin from him at the age of 3, and I loved our violin lessons. He organized the Stadium Avenue players for all the budding musicians in the neighborhood, and we had recitals once a month. I loved hearing stories about Grandad and his music service for the Church. One time, President Kimball asked him to direct the Tabernacle Choir. Grandad told him if that's what the Lord wanted him to do, he would. But, he said, there were more qualified people, and he would be happy to help find one. He did direct the Choir for an event at the Smith Field House. As chair of the Church Music Committee, Grandad headed the effort to put together the 1985 hymn book. He often told us stories about particular hymns and how they got in. After the first printing, all the mission presidents were gathered for a seminar at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. The MTC missionaries came marching in, singing "Called to Serve," a stirring new anthem. Elder Packer leaned over to Grandad and said, "I'm sure that's in the new hymn book." Grandad said, "It will be!" They had to reprint and renumber everything.
Hooray for Grandad and the family. I grew up next door to Grandad and GranNomi, and we both had an acre of land and countless yard work. Grandad had an old green Dodge pick-up to take the prunings to the dump, and we always accompanied him with a stop at 7-11 on the way home for a treat. On our birthdays, he always sent a card with carefully transcribed music notation for the Happy Birthday song. I love the story of how many years ago, Grandad and GranNomi took their family camping with Aunt Nita, Uncle Ben, Melvin and Barbara. In the middle of the night, a bear attacked the tent. Grandad stepped out of the tent with his hands outstretched, scaring the bear away. He always protected his family. Always. Grandad was a fixer--when I was little, I thought he could fix anything. As I gerw, I realized his tools of rubber bands, crazy glue, and duct tape didn't always make everything as perfect as I thought they were. He also tried to fix relationships in his own kind, loving, forgiving way. We didn't always want to be fixed. The older I got, I realized that even if Grandad couldn't fix everything, I can. Grandad alway planned family reunions--with a baseball game, a hike, and a BBQ. We always had a testimony meeting. Following the example of patriarchs such as Adam, Abraham, and Lehi, Grandad always shared with us his belief in God and Jesus Christ, and eternal families. The Lectures on Faith teach us that after Adam became acquainted with God, he taught his posterity. Elder Bednar said, "Father Abraham was given the promise that through him and through his posterity, which is all of us, all the families of the earth would be blessed. How? By our bearing this ministry, which is the responsibility to proclaim the gospel, and this priesthood, meaning the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ." We knew that family always came first for Grandad.
Hooray for Grandad and missionary work. Grandad had a larger family story--that we are all brothers and sisters and we have a Heavenly Father and Older Brother who love us. He wanted to share this with everyone he met--the security man at the airport, the postman, haircutter, and neighbors. Ezra Taft Benson said, "The Lord works form the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of the people and then they would take themselves out of the slums." That's how Grandad worked. I loved hearing stories from his time as mission president in London. One time he was assigned to drive President Benson and his wife from the Gatwick airport to the Heathrow airport. He practiced the drive to make sure he had it right, but the night of the appointment was dark and rainy. President Benson talked the whole way, with his face in Grandad's. GranNomi was in the back seat with Sister Benson, and she tried to engage President Benson in conversation so Grandad could find his way, but with little luck. He finally made it. I remember when they returned from their mission and spoke in church, he invited all the returned missionaries there to stand and recite D&C 4. I was completely impressed with the missionary spirit. As a result of his missionary stories, his grandchildren have served in England, Italy, Russia, Germany, Washington, and Idaho. He would send us cards with money in our currency, and we shared his stories with our investigators.
Hooray for Grandad and the temple. When Grandad served in the Provo Temple presidency, they had to do without his paycheck. They sold one of their cars and walked to the temple. When he walked past our house for his 5:00 am shift, he would always wave. The garden provided them with food--and as grandchildren, we always remember delight in the cherries, raspberries, blackberries. Josh and Grandad would always go to the garden to peel and eat a fresh turnip. Grandad taught us at an early age about temple meaning. I remember him teaching Lisa and me all about the meaning of the temple. We always heard about his experiences at the Atlanta Temple as he served part-member families and testified of eternal truths. He taught us the importance of temple marriage--first with his own example with GranNomi, his sweet bride. He sealed nearly all of my cousins. I gave him special instructions to find my husband and give him a gentle nudge, and to attend my own sealing one day.
Hooray for Grandad and his testimony of Jesus Christ. My favorite story about Grandad was when he was 19 and suffered from a ruptured appendix. He lived in southeastern Arizona and it took a long time to get him to the hospital. He suffered from peritonitis and was deathly ill for 3 months in St. Mary's Hospital. He was often unconscious and felt very alone, particularly at night. He would often sing the hymn, "Abide with Me, 'Tis Eventide." The chorus said: "O Savior, stay this night with me; Behold 'tis eventide." It was then that he felt the presence of the Savior with him, and he committed his life to serving Christ. I felt Christ with him as I spent time with him at the end of his life. I treasured the opportunity to care for him, to strengthen the feeble hands and the bending knees. I, too, felt the presence of the Savior as I learned how Christ served.
Hooray for Grandad. We have a champion on the other side. We are his champions here. Some of my favorite Grandad sayings are: "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine." "We're all in this together." And most importantly, "A deal's a deal." We celebrate Grandad and we celebrate our family. As Grandad would say, quoting Moroni 9:25, "Be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."
If you have memories of Grandad, please share!