Friday, July 25, 2008
At the end of my freshman year of college at BYU, I injured my left knee in a fencing tournament. That single misstep dictated the next several months of my life, through consequential knee surgery in Salt Lake City, and subsequent recuperation over the summer months at home in Wyoming. Good friends rallied around me and helped keep my spirits high with trips to Jackson Hole and Pinedale, helicopter rides and fine dining, dances, music, and distraction.
When it came time to return to Utah in the fall of 1974, one of those friends, a classmate of mine from high school, decided to drive down to Provo with me, and I took her, en route, on a late August drive up Provo Canyon to Sundance. John Denver was playing on the car stereo, "Rocky Mountain High." Water was rolling swiftly downstream over boulders while the sun, truly, danced through the aspens as we wound up the scenic drive to the place that had become a special place of refuge for me from the intensity of university life, a place where one could hear the air, and the mountain. Timpanogos.
Pam was enchanted. The lure of the setting was so complete, she decided to move to Provo, to work and possibly go to school, instead of staying home working in the oil fields or cattle ranches of Wyoming.
Fall came, the aspens turned their brilliant gold, and the first snow fell.
We went up to Sundance to apply for work.
Shortly thereafter, around the Christmas holidays, I received a post-interview call from Sundance. The good news was, they were offering me the job. The bad news was, the offer was for me, and not for my friend, Pam.
By that time, I'd decided to return to school, so I turned down the offer and asked them to offer the position to Pam, which she happily accepted.
The job turned out to be governess to the children of Bob and Lola Redford.
Pam became an extended accessory in the Redford household in the mountains at Sundance, doing all sorts of odd jobs, including picking up people like Paul Newman at the airport in Salt Lake City when he'd fly into town, helping with the household, and running the then school age children of Bob and Lola Redford here and there.
I went back to school. At that point two roads truly diverged. Pam worked for Redfords for an extended time, then left, living up the canyon. I continued with my studies.
Alone, this would be an interesting story.
But the world, as usual, shrinks to fit.
Another friend of mine also knew the Redfords. Brett Parkinson had family connections, an older brother who'd met Lola in New Orleans when he was a medical resident at Tulane. In addition to being a local dermatologist in Provo, Rick Parkinson occasionally taught creative writing classes in the English department at BYU. One semester I sat in from time to time, and there, among the students, was a slightly older very attractive woman who clearly had a gift for writing. The students only knew her as "Lola," and when she read her essay to the class on someone she knew, "Bob" was to them, just her husband.
They didn't know "Bob" was Robert Redford.
Lola was a striking figure, elegant in simple denim, who carried fringed leather beaded purses, drove a Porsche, fast, and liked to go antiquing.
I attended the Women's Conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1977, where, amid controversy over potential passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, nearly 14,000 people converged at the culmination of the International Women's Year. One of the featured speakers was Lola Redford. Brett, unable to be there, had asked me to record her speech for him. As she spoke of her years as a young mother married to a struggling actor in New York, newly involved in consumer issues (she founded CAN, Consumer Action Now, in 1970) I had an epiphany.
This was not "Robert Redford's wife."
He was Lola Redford's husband. She was a force of nature.
Lola Van Wagenen.
Lola's own path subsequently diverged, and Lola Van Wagenen went back to school, got her doctorate in American history from New York University, and became founding director of CLIO Visualizing History. She produced the documentary Miss America: A Documentary Film for the PBS series, The American Experience, and has served on a number of national boards, continuing an over thirty year involvement with educational and consumer action issues that have always been her passion.
Diane Stirland Matthews (front row above, second from right) became a part of our family when she married my uncle, Elmo Matthews. Together they raised a family of six children in Glendale and Mesa, Arizona, until his untimely death from a heart attack in 1983. Elmo had been left alone at home that day to care for the youngest of their children, Blake, and Diane's life was immediately turned upside down as a result. She successfully raised a beautiful, cohesive family of four girls and two boys to adulthood in the face of the challenges of being an unexpected single parent.
Though I was a young girl, I remember when Elmo first brought Diane home to meet his parents and the rest of the family at the motel my grandparents owned in Evanston, Wyoming. Elmo had been in the military, served an LDS mission to France, and studied both at BYU in Provo, Utah, and abroad in England at Oxford before settling down to marry, and Diane was the woman who eventually won his heart, and made his home.
Diane has always been, from first introduction to the present, elegant, gracious, poised, articulate, and above all, a good mother.
In 1998, it became clear others thought so, too. Diane was recognized for those qualities when she was honored with the title of 1998 National Mother of the Year by American Mothers, Inc.
Diane Stirland Matthews.
At the back of my husband's neck, there is a scar he got from being thrown off a wooden raft on the Tippecanoe River in Indiana as a young boy.
The culprit who had thrown the young boy from the wooden raft? A young seminarian named Bill McManus, who was visiting the Riordan cottage in Indiana with his close friend, my husband's older brother, Tom Riordan.
Some sixty years later, I was sitting in a crowded church in a northern suburb of Chicago as that young seminarian was being laid to rest. Over fifty U.S. Catholic bishops were in attendance, as was the mayor of the city of Chicago. As much as funerals can be, it was a glorious occasion, white flowers everywhere, celestial choirs, and I'm sure, the deceased himself very much present. As would be typical for the impish Bill McManus, but not for a priest's funeral, a collection was taken--to support his favorite personal cause, helping young single mothers. Bishops from Alaska to Florida were asked to empty their pockets, generously, at what was otherwise a solemn occasion.
I'll never forget the first time I met Bill McManus, at a hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin, while attending a jubilee celebration for then La Crosse Bishop John J. Paul. After joining him and Bishop Timothy Lyne of Chicago for dinner and conversation, he paid me the highest compliment I've ever received as a married woman.
"Kathy," he said, "meeting you makes me wish the Pope would change his mind about retired Catholic bishops being able to be married."
It was high praise indeed from someone who had chosen to give his life in the service of God and his fellow man.
Bishop William E. McManus.
Bishop William E. McManus went on to graduate from seminary and was ordained a priest, later to become Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago and Bishop of South Bend, Indiana, a position he held from 1976 to 1985. A close friend of well known sociologist and author Father Andrew Greeley, together they authored a study on Catholic giving.
Bruce Bastian was, while I was in college, the enormously popular conductor of the BYU Cougar Band, Brigham Young University's award winning marching band. Charismatic, single, and very talented, band members were happy to have him at the helm.
For a time I dated one of his roommates, and at various times I had more than one friend in the Cougar Band, so I would occasionally attend rehearsals.
Amid some sort of contract dispute, Bruce's tenure as a music major/instructor leading the Cougar Band finally ended, but a software program he developed while trying to choreograph band performances launched him into a whole new world, and life.
With co-founder Alan Ashton, Bruce created WordPerfect in 1978, and is now a billionaire philanthropist and social activist.
The last time I saw Jocelyn Matsuo, she was a toddler in arms, the firstborn child of the neurologist I was working for at the University of Utah at the time, Fred (Fumisuke) Matsuo and his wife, cardiologist Ruth Ann Smith. I probably have a photo somewhere of me holding her at their then beautiful new home up in Summit Park outside Salt Lake City.
But that was over twenty-five years ago. Jocelyn was a beautiful child.
In March of 1999, a news item caught my attention. A Utah teenager, on a school trip to Costa Rica, had amazingly survived an attack by over 250 killer bees. The fifteen-year-old hiker who had stumbled upon the next of Africanized bees and lived to tell the tale?
Her life spared from the bees' potentially fatal wrath, Jocelyn Matsuo is now a professional actor, performance artist and mime.
A decade ago, my husband was preparing to take me on a surprise trip to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary, both of which fall at the end of April. The secretive details of this mystery trip were held closely to my husband's vest as we anticipated what promised to be a wonderful journey regardless. Other than the travel agent helping with the arrangements, no one knew where we were going.
I had my suspicions, but I kept them to myself.
The Sunday before our departure, we were invited to join some good friends of ours for lunch. Our hostess had invited her cousin to join us.
Like me, our hostess, and her husband, long time friends of my husband from college days, had no idea where we were going on our upcoming trip, and she delighted in the prospect of guessing. Her cousin was invited simply because he happened to be "in town," and my husband, a former industrialist, had known him for many years.
That cousin was Pat Lucey.
Patrick J. Lucey.
Patrick Joseph Lucey was Democratic governor of the great state of Wisconsin from 1971-1977, when my husband knew him best, working with him in industry. In 1977, then President Jimmy Carter appointed Pat Lucey to become Ambassador to Mexico, a position he held until 1979. In 1980, he was tapped as a vice presidential candidate by Independent candidate John Anderson.
We had a delightful brunch, and spent much of it talking about his time as Ambassador to Mexico, and about Mexico City specifically, a city I had never seen, and the best restaurants there, sights to see and things to do.
Our trip a few days later? You guessed it. And the coincidence was too remarkable for words, so so did I.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
For most of my father's adult life, he worked for a small independent oil and gas company in southwestern Wyoming which was owned by Utahns J. Tracey Wootton, an industrialist and investor who had initially made his mark on local energy in the 1920's with his involvement in coal production, and O. Devere Wootton, a well known Utah county attorney who also served as mayor of American Fork. Though a state away from us, we were aware of the Woottons and their presence in our lives.
When I graduated from high school, I was shown a great kindness by Devere's wife, Nora Prows Wootton, who sent me a string of pearls accompanied by a lovely handwritten note. Sadly, she passed away last year before I had the opportunity to fully tell her how much that gesture meant to me. The last time I recall seeing her she and Devere were passing through Big Piney on their way to Jackson, pulling a fully outfitted trailer behind them (so she wouldn't have to worry about what she thought might be dubious accommodation availability in Jackson hole). It was the first time I'd ever seen a trailer with toilet and shower facilities, and she was happy to give us a tour.
Eventually, Devere's son, Noall, came to work with him at the firm known as Wootton and Wootton in American Fork. My father was fond of saying, "If anyone ever comes after you, tell them you'll just call your personal attorneys--Wootton and Wootton."
Fortunately, that was never necessary. But it made a brave bluff.
Noall T. Wootton.
But Noall Wootton didn't make his mark on the world simply as the son of my father's employer, or even as a small town lawyer.
Noall Wootton made his mark by being the county attorney who prosecuted Gary Mark Gilmore in a landmark case which ended in the first execution after reinstatement of the death penalty. Gilmore was executed by firing squad in January 1977; his story was made famous in Norman Mailer's acclaimed book, The Executioner's Song.
Noall Thurber Wootton died April 27, 2006, at the age of 65 of cancer.
I used to spend quite a bit of time at my Grandma Elsie's house in Evanston, Wyoming, when I was little. "Grandma" Elsie was actually my great-grandmother, Elsie Gulliver, who'd converted to the LDS Church in England as a young woman and left, as she described it, "the green lanes of England for the sagebrush of Wyoming." She married my great-grandfather, Roland Matthews, another convert from England, after both had come to this country by way of Salt Lake City, and eventually they made their home in southwestern Wyoming, where Grandpa Roland was a barber.
Grandpa Roland was long gone before I was born, so I never knew him. But I loved my time at Grandma Elsie's little version of an English cottage in Evanston, complete with its own English cottage garden outside. I loved her tales of the Royal Family, her British mannerisms and traditions, her little porcelain bric-a-brac, her cakes, and her love of all things English.
Of all the treasures I remember being in her home as a young girl, I especially remember how she kept a photograph of her youngest son, her baby, Robert, on her dresser, alongside a photograph of his bride, Shirley. She spoke of him frequently and with special tenderness. She'd raised a large family, seven boys and just one girl. My grandfather, Victor, was the oldest of this brood, and Robert, well, Robert was the caboose. She loved him dearly.
So when I think of my uncle Bob, it's framed in the special tenderness of the eyes of his mother, eyes that eventually were clouded over and unable to see clearly except through the heart.
"Uncle Bob" went on to greater things than just his sphere in Evanston, finishing his studies and entering the LDS Church Educational System. Eventually he became Dean of the College of Religion at BYU. Probably his most significant achievement and most noted distinction, however, is in being the first person from the LDS Church that the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (RLDS) ever allowed to view or handle the original manuscripts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (or "Inspired Version," as it has been alternately known), and he was instrumental in bringing the fruits of his efforts back to the LDS Church. He has been a popular educator for many years, in Seminaries and Institutes, and as a college professor. He is a popular speaker at devotionals, firesides and BYU Campus Education Week programs, and a highly respected author and scholar, particularly on the New Testament, John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and the Joseph Smith Translation. When the LDS Church decided to compile an Encyclopedia of Mormonism, he was central to that effort.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday last year, several of his collegues honored him with the publication of a collection of essays in his honor, A Witness for the Restoration: Essays in Honor of Robert J. Matthews.
During my own time at BYU, I took both semesters of New Testament from him, and came to appreciate him not only as an uncle but as a New Testament scholar, and a gifted teacher with a wry smile, a twinkling eye, and an ever present sense of humor. He is well loved for a reason. I will always treasure the unique way he autographs books--with a weather report, "Partly cloudy today, some sun. Looks like it might rain. RJM"
Robert J. Matthews.
Susan Anne Cook Northway was my vocal music teacher in high school. She arrived the first day of my freshman year at Big Piney High School, along with her husband, Ernie Northway, who taught instrumental music, band and stageband.
Susan Cook Northway.
In addition to leading the concert choir, Susan Northway taught art, and had a great talent for it. She had a sister who was a professional artist, and Susan's own talents in that department were apparent. As I did with her husband, I learned many things from Susan Northway, and particularly honed my skills in music appreciation and listening. When I wasn't singing in the high school choir, groups or solos, I was accompanying them. I still have a little statuette on my piano in Wisconsin that says "Frederick Chopin Piano Award," an award she dubiously bestowed upon me in high school in the absence of any great talent on that score. My piano skills were serviceable, nothing more, but I enjoyed my time at a keyboard, as I enjoyed singing.
I remember well the day she said to me that I was clearly a generalist and not a specialist, sort of good at a number of things but not particularly excelling in any of them. It was true my interests were broad and the energy and tunnel vision required to single in on one of them was lacking. But there are many things if I could go back and repeat those years in high school now I would do differently with the three decades of hindsight.
I got to know Susan Northway outside the classroom particularly when she had her first child, and I babysat for them briefly after my high school graduation. They lived in the "teacherages" then, school district supplied housing across from the high school, and I still remember her list of phone numbers for Poison Control near the telephone, sitting on her front stoop, and visiting with her in her livingroom as she explained to me about liturgical calendars. (Susan and Ernie had come to Big Piney as Unitarians from Iowa, not particularly religious that I could detect, but as time progressed she seemed increasingly involved with the local Episcopal Church and its trappings, and my only introduction to liturgy in that sense was being included with other high school choir members in participation in its midnight service on Christmas Eve.)
I also remember, the summer after my freshman year of college, being asked by her to model for a drawing class that was doing live modeling near Pinedale. I was supposed to wear a leotard, I was told, so I showed up in the only leotard I had--a black one, only to be told later that it should have been flesh colored. If there were flesh colored leotards to be had in all the state of Wyoming at the time, it would be news to me. In any case, my picture was sketched by several there, and my modesty was intact.
Susan and Ernie Northway later moved to Salt Lake City, where they taught in the local schools and raised a family.
She is now Director of the Office of Religious Education for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, after several years of teaching religion in two local Catholic high schools.
My first introduction to liturgical music came at the hands of Susan Northway in high school choir, although I didn't realize or fully appreciate it at the time, a Unitarian from Iowa in her late 20's with long red hair, braces, short skirts and fishnet stockings who clearly had an aptitude for the divine, as I did, beyond the great appeal of smells and bells.
For more than a half century, Tom and Blanche Maney were two of my husband's closest friends in our community in Wisconsin. So when I married him, his friends became mine, and no friends were more cherished than Blanche and Tom.
I first met their son, Pat Maney, and his wife Elaine, when they were living in New Orleans where he was at the time a professor in the history department at Tulane University. Tom and Blanche wintered in New Orleans, and we'd drive through from Wisconsin on our roundabout route to Florida. My husband, and the Maneys, were pleasantly surprised on our first visit there together that I already knew the Crescent City well, and could find my way easily from the French Quarter and Canal Street to the Garden District, following my nose to Commander's Palace and even a terrific local florist.
Given the surroundings, we shared some remarkable meals with Pat and Elaine, including one where I remember he dined on veal sweetbreads (something out of the range of my own generally wide palate), corn-fried oysters at Commander's Palace, and a particularly memorable dining experience at the Grill Room of the Windsor Court, prepared by Chef Kevin Graham, which we finished with one of the most splendid desserts ever--a chocolate box filled with seemingly endless tiny scoops of brightly colored fruit sorbets, which we passed around our large round table in turn until it was completely devoured.
So my thoughts of Pat are frequently turned from history, which is his area of particular expertise, to dining. He is one of the few people I know personally who loves whole garlic.
Pat and Elaine moved on from New Orleans before Katrina's wrath, relocating in Columbia, South Carolina, where he took a position as professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of South Carolina, a position he had attained at Tulane prior to his departure. He held the chairmanship of the History Department in South Carolina until the summer of 2007.
He has served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, and is a Professor of History at Boston College.
Patrick J. Maney.
Dr. Patrick J. Maney is respected not only as an educator but also as a scholar and author, particularly for his books on Bob La Follette ("Young Bob" La Follette: A Biography of Robert M. La Follette, Jr. 1895-1953) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (The Roosevelt Presence: The Life and Legacy of FDR). He is currently researching a book on the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Jeri Johnson was an English major from Meadview, Arizona, when I met her in the Honors Program at BYU. She went on to teach Honors Colloquium for a year while waiting to go on to graduate school, and also did a year at BYU Law School, and a summer as a law clerk for Mountain Fuel Corporation in Salt Lake City, while I knew her. Her ultimate goal was to win the Rhodes Scholarship and go on to Oxford.
As part of the Rhodes selection process, she met well known Utah industrialist, philosopher, author and philanthropist Obert C. Tanner (then founder and president of the O.C. Tanner jewelry company headquartered in Utah, and author of the well known LDS book "Christ's Ideals for Living"), who offered to sponsor her first year at Oxford should she become unsuccessful in her quest for the Rhodes Scholarship. As the Rhodes eluded her, she went on to Oxford anyway with O. C. Tanner's assistance, and because of her, I made my first ever trip to England in December of 1979, a few months after my father's untimely death that summer to malignant melanoma.
I remember being colder than at any time before or since in my entire life (no small thing for a girl from "The Icebox of the Nation"), sitting up at night in the house in Hugh College at Oxford, running a bathtub full of hot water to try to stay warm, putting coins in the electric meters, discovering the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, wine bars, bookstores, London, Surrey, and most importantly, Christmas at 42 Rectory Lane and the gracious hospitality of Reg and Min Oram, angels who became lifelong friends and hosted my husband and I in their home for two weeks of our honeymoon. There was the concert in Croydon, bells and carols on Christmas Eve at St. Mary's of Beddington, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Jeri always rather struck me as Liza Minelli's incarnation of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret," perhaps because they had the same haircut and some of the same mannerisms, or perhaps because our circles first overlapped at a time when several of us, including Anna Tueller and Alison Craig, went out to see the film version of "Cabaret" together, raising my consciousness at least one notch at the time.
I remember meeting her grandmother in her little apartment in Salt Lake City and watching Jeopardy, going to the BYU Law Library in the evenings to help with legal research for Mountain Fuel, and an ill fated cross country trip to deliver a car to one of her roommates. Somewhere mixed in with that was Keats, Simone de Beauvoir, and A Room of One's Own.
Clearly Oxford agreed with Jeri. Some years back, I noticed she was editing the works of James Joyce for Oxford University Press.
Earlier this spring, there was something of a rumble in the press about J. K. Rowling's venture into a New York City courtroom to take on someone who was undertaking the unwelcome publication of a Harry Potter lexicon. This received widespread coverage in the national and world press, but a particular article in The New York Times caught my eye, "Trial Over Potter Lexicon Ends With an Olive Branch." An expert witness had been called on Rowling's behalf, and details of her testimony spilled onto the page. An expatriate. An Oxford senior tutor (equivalent of academic dean) at Exeter College. And most apparently, a Potter fan.
I will never be able to hear an ABBA song without thinking of Val Holley.
Val and I met through Brett Parkinson, a mutual friend of ours at BYU. They had met two years earlier as missionaries destined for Brazil but serving temporarily in San Diego awaiting visas. The San Diego Brazilians, of whom I eventually met several, were a motley crew indeed.
Val was animated, witty and full of life, always a good time, particularly in the back of cars belting out tunes from ABBA or Saturday's Warrior. Think "Bohemian Rhapsody" in Wayne's World. Plus one.
"Knowing me, knowing you,
Yes, Val, to this day I can still see you and Brett en route to Diana Sather's wedding reception in Evanston, Wyoming, nodding your head to that music. When I go to see "Mamma Mia" at its debut next week, I will hear you beside me.
Val went on to law school, became a legislative and reference librarian in Washington, D.C., and is now best known as the current definitive author on James Dean (James Dean, The Biography). He is also the author of Mike Connolly: The Manly Art of Hollywood Gossip.
I met Robert Loosle in the late 1970's when I was working at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. He and his brother, Ronald, were Spanish foreign language testers who had been trained to administer Foreign Service Institute-style language tests, and other tests on discussion teaching proficiency, to new missionaries who were learning the language before departing for Spanish-speaking missions.
Robert and Ronald had been raised speaking both Spanish and English, and both had lived abroad in Spanish-speaking countries. Both were extremely polite, well mannered and attractive, generous in spirit and light in heart. I worked with them at a time my father was undergoing surgery and treatment for cancer, and both graciously went to the local hospital to donate blood on his behalf.
When my father died, both came to the viewing held at a Utah County funeral home, and the graveside services in Salem, Utah, along with other friends and co-workers from the MTC. They were a comforting presence.
Robert is now legal attache for the FBI in Mexico City, having most recently served as head of the crime division of the Los Angeles Bureau of the FBI. Prior to that, he served the FBI in Las Vegas, Houston, Jacksonville, El Salvador, San Salvador, and at FBI Headquarters.
As a young girl, I remember sitting in the basement of one of the dorms at Heritage Halls at BYU during a campus Education Week, and listening to my father, my uncle Elmo, and Monroe McKay discuss, or rather debate, politics. Uncle Elmo was pretty much a Republican, my dad generally voted his heart, but leaned Democratic, and Monroe McKay was the most liberal voice I'd heard at that young point in my life.
Monroe McKay was my aunt's brother-in-law's brother.
At the time, he was an attorney in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona, an ex-Marine who'd served as a Director of the Peace Corps in Africa and clerked for the Arizona Supreme Court. It made quite the impression on my young forming consciousness to hear them discuss topics I'd previously never considered, and particularly for my Goldwater Republican uncle to be trading points with someone that far to the left.
Ten years later, Monroe McKay was my last branch president at BYU, from 1976-77 at a time when he was also a professor at the BYU Law School, and in his typical inimitable fashion, made that position quite his own by skirting orthodoxy somewhat (it was before women were allowed to pray in LDS Sacrament Meetings, something he found to be in need of remedy). He was very interested in civil rights issues as they related to the LDS Church, at a time when blacks had not yet been given the priesthood (this happened a year later, in June 1978), and having served an LDS mission to South Africa in the early 1950's, was instrumental in influencing his cousin, former LDS Church President David O. McKay. To have the same person from whose mouth I heard my first liberal musings become an ecclesiastical leader is an interesting phenomenon. I will always remember Monroe McKay fondly for both. He was compassionate, caring, and, yes, a character, larger than life.
Monroe McKay was appointed by President Jimmy Carter shortly thereafter in 1977 to serve on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, a position he continues to hold today as senior judge. He held the position of Chief Judge of the Tenth Circuit from 1991-1993.
I found this recent post from another blogger also singing the praises of Monroe McKay:
Lynne's somewhat invented life: WORDS OF COMFORT
Sunday, July 13, 2008
A country doctor from Connecticut by way of Africa, William T. Close, M.D. came to my hometown of Big Piney, Wyoming, with his wife in 1977 to establish a rural medical practice.
"Rural" doesn't quite describe it. For much of my childhood, Big Piney didn't even have a doctor, unless you count Dr. Burgoon, who was always over playing cards across town and had a dubious medical license. The closest small hospitals were 90 miles away in Jackson or 120 miles away in Evanston, and the closest medical centers of any significance for serious illnesses and injuries were four hours away in Salt Lake City.
Dr. Close had left Africa in 1977 and settled in Big Piney while I was a state away attending college at BYU, ostensibly "to retire," as we understood it, but it was clear he planned to do anything but. He changed the landscape of a community.
More importantly, he arrived just in time to be on the scene when my father, and our family, needed him most, as a persistent backache in early 1979 led my otherwise healthy, athletic 48-year-old father who worked supervising oil fields for a small independent oil and gas company to see a doctor. Dr. Close, in his wisdom, referred my father to a surgeon in Salt Lake City, Dr. Lawrence Stevens, and in the whirlwind that ensued, my father had surgery to remove tumors from his abdomen and spine which were later diagnosed as the progression of malignant melanoma.
We were only about ninety days from diagnosis to my father's untimely death from the disease, a progressive nightmare that enveloped our entire family and held my father in the chains of unspeakable pain and suffering, but Dr. Close was there, in Big Piney, to offer sensitive, appropriate palliative care during the times my father wasn't in Salt Lake City being treated or hospitalized at LDS Hospital. He did the unheard of. He made house calls. Sometimes he brought his daughter, visiting from out of town, with him.
I hadn't had a lot of personal contact with Dr. Close myself prior to that, as I was most of the time away at school, but I do recall a time I went to see him over Christmas break with a persistent bronchitis. He talked to me about stress, about trying to do too much, about burning the candle at both ends, an easy trap of the college student, and then told me about his daughter, and how in many ways she was the same way, and I reminded him of her.
It would be five more years before Glenn Close was a household name, following her performances in "The World According to Garp" and "The Big Chill." We didn't know much about Dr. Close's daughter then, maybe that she was an actress, but once her image became emblazoned across the screen and the world consciousness in roles like that of Michael Douglas' stalker in "Fatal Attraction," no one would soon forget.
In 1988, taken with the local community that her parents had embraced, Glenn Close made a documentary for the BBC and HBO Films, "Do You Mean There Are Still Real Cowboys?" The film, narrated by Robert Redford, who also has connections to Big Piney (an alternate version was narrated by Glenn Close), explores the lives of several ranching families in Big Piney and the apparent disappearance of the American cowboy from the national stage. It subsquently ran on television as part of the PBS series, "The American Experience."
Dr. Close still practices medicine in Big Piney, where he lives with his wife, Bettine, and still continues to look after the elderly, the infirm, and the dying. Last I heard, his daughter is building a home there. He hasn't yet retired, and it's doubtful he ever full will. He's been honored by many over the years for his dedication to practicing rural medicine in an area of the world particularly challenged by geography and climate, and has published a number of books on his life and experiences (his book, "A Doctor's Life," sits on the nightstand in a guest bedroom at my cottage). He is well regarded as a local citizen and author, and a citizen of the planet, someone who has made a difference.
William Taliaferro Close.
Mike Thomas was the cutest guy in the third grade. He was probably the first guy, other than my first cousin, on whom I ever consciously had a bona fide crush. Everyone liked him. He lived across town with his father, the local game warden, and his mother, an artist, and an older sister.
At an early age it was clear he had his own share of artistic talent. His mother occasionally came to our school to teach us about drawing, perspective, and share some of her life work with us. His father's life working for Wyoming Fish and Wildlife as a local game warden, particularly in an area with lots of hunting abuses, was also fascinating.
Mike moved away before we graduated over thirty-five years ago, and I always imagined he'd somehow pursued his art.
He's now one of the premier bronze sculptors of the American West.
D. Michael Thomas.
Those who will be fortunate to own his pieces or have them grace their homes are lucky so-and-sos, indeed.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.
Omnis Gallia est divisa en partes tres.
You'd think after several semesters of Latin that more would easily come to me, but that's what's stuck in my brain.
I'd already had Latin 101 in college when I met Margaret Merrill, who became my Latin teacher for the next few semesters of Latin 201 onward. She was something of a fireball in the Classics Department, and a good teacher and friend. At the time I met her, she was single, but somewhere during that time, she became engaged to her first husband. I recall, as she told me at the time, he gave her two roses--a white one for her purity, and a red one for her passion.
That was long ago.
I enjoyed her classes, and particularly the extracurricular activities. I'd taken Latin primarily because it was a dead language--no danger of conversation--but it turned out to be most useful not only in my chosen primary field of study in the humanities but in later life. I fondly recall Christmastimes going door to door caroling in Latin (Dallin Oaks, President of BYU at the time, wondered what we were doing on his doorstep singing "Tinnitus, tinnitus, semper tinnitus" to the tune of "Jingle Bells"). She encouraged me to play Aphrodite wrapped only in a sheet for a Classics department banquet skit ("The Judgment of Paris"), and somehow I managed to carry it off.
I liked Margaret both as an instructor and as a friend, and held her in high esteem.
Like so many other people at the time, I lost contact with Margaret over the years. Later I heard she'd remarried a man named Paul Toscano. Paul Toscano later became part of the infamous "September Six" who went down in a wave of excommunication, and Margaret later followed.
Margaret and Paul became particularly well known over the years for their work on feminism and theology within the context of Mormonism.
Margaret Merrill Toscano.
These days, if you are a serious saxaphone or clarinet player, an Ernie Northway mouthpiece is a prized possession.
Back in the day, Ernie Northway was my high school instrumental music teacher.
Ernest Vernon Northway.
I remember the first day of my freshman year of high school in 1968, when we learned that several new teachers had been hired, among them a husband and wife straight from Drake University in Iowa by way of Las Vegas to teach instrumental and vocal music, respectively. After getting their degrees from Drake they headed to Vegas, where Ernie was a studio musician for headliner shows in the more prominent casinos, something that gave him a unique ability to lead a band in a small town of 500 people in southwestern Wyoming and take its stageband to a position of Intermountain prominence in its class. Apparently Vegas also lended itself to some choreography skills which Ernie was able to use during his time as faculty advisor to the Puncherettes, our high school drill team.
Ernie did me more than one great favor during my years in high school. The summer before my sophomore year, he took a mediocre flute player who'd been unenthusiastically plugging along with the instrument since fifth grade and waved a bassoon in front of her, a beautiful, big, double-reed instrument, and gave her the confidence to learn something new. He introduced that same girl to the works of Hermann Hesse, starting with Steppenwolf and Siddhartha. He taught her how to play tympani when wind instruments no longer held her interest, and how to change the pitch of the individual drums by ear. He had the confidence in her to make her president of the band and have her schedule travel arrangements for out of town trips, including the famous two week school trip to compete in the Reno Jazz Festival in Reno, Nevada. And before she ever went on to play keyboards or electric bass in the stageband, he entrusted her to run the choreographed lights for the spring stageband concert.
Somewhere out there is an audio tape of the stageband concert in the spring of her senior year, which she emceed. "Ham," I recall, were his exact words to describe that unfortunate combining of 16-year-old and microphone. "Primadonna" was another word I won't soon forget escaping his lips during a long and tedious Puncherette rehearsal. Ernie pulled no punches. He encouraged, sometimes he challenged, but in the end, he raised the bar. He changed many lives during his time in Big Piney. I learned a lot about Wheat Thins, Type A personalities and your heart, Bill Chase, Bobby Shew, hotel rooms in Reno, what worked, what didn't, and above all, listening listening listening during that time. "Northway" was what most of us affectionately called him. That he went on to start a business of handcrafting exclusive woodwind mouthpieces that bear his name is most fitting.
He played many instruments, but I remember him best as a trumpet and saxaphone player, in addition to clarinet and flute. Standing in the back of the room with the trumpet section during stageband rehearsals won't soon be forgotten.
Southwest School District #9 brought a number of people to Big Piney for a few years only to move on again later, as the Northways did. The riches of the local petroleum industry allowed for salaries in our school district, and amenities, that would have been unheard of elsewhere. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be students there abundantly benefitted.
When I first met him, Kurt Bestor was a gangly 17-year-old kid at Orem High School. I was a 19-year-old college junior at BYU embarking on two semesters of student teaching, one of which was with Mrs. Hill's Honors English class at Orem High School.
Kurt was then as he is now an enormously talented musician, but he was something much more curious at the time, a lone Catholic in a school filled with Mormons. His father, Rollie Bestor, was diving coach at BYU, and the family had moved from Wisconsin to Utah and transplanted themselves in a place where they were very much the minority. Difficult as it might be to believe now, there were parents who wouldn't let their daughters date him because of the difference in religion at the time.
Although I sat in on the instrumental music program while doing my student teaching at Orem High, my primary focus was Mrs. Hill's English class, and the slow, plodding reading we were doing of her chosen paperback for the semester, William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying." Slow. Plodding. Did I say it was slow and plodding? It was.
I stayed up until 2 a.m. most nights grading papers, a task I took seriously, during a semester where I had an extremely heavy load of classes in addition to significant church responsibilities. Kurt was easily my best student, and his papers were a pleasure to grade.
Mornings I would meet him and a friend at the Joseph Smith Fieldhouse on the lower campus of BYU very early, sixish, and watch them dive, then together we would drive out to Orem High School together to spend the day, and repeat the process again the next morning.
I knew Kurt as a trumpet player. I hadn't a clue at the time he played piano, although it would have made sense for that to be the case.
As part of my student teaching, I had to also teach junior high, and did that under the mentoring of Kurt's mother, Phyllis Bestor, who taught English at Orem Junior High. Phyllis was an inspirational teacher to her students and involved them in all sorts of projects, like creating television commercials, to spark their young collective imagination.
At the end of his senior year, Kurt was a finalist for the Utah Sterling Scholar Award in Music, and a violinist friend and I drove from Provo to Salt Lake City to see him compete. He finished as runner-up to Kelly Clark, a young violinist from Provo High School who later married a friend of mine, Brett Parkinson.
After graduating, Kurt came to BYU, where I would run into him from time to time in classes or in the hallway or in the BYU Bookstore. I remember well the day he told me, with great excitement, that he was "being baptized," along with his whole family, as converts into the LDS Church. Some months followed, and again I ran into him, and he told me, with equal excitement, that he was being called to serve on a mission for the LDS Church.
I don't think I saw Kurt again after that. He went on that mission, to the former Yugoslavia, came home, got married.
Sometime later I was living in Wisconsin and went into a local music store in the mall at Christmastime. Beautiful seasonal music was playing overhead, and I asked the clerk what it was.
For many years since I followed Kurt's career as a professional musician, buying each new Christmas CD as it was released, in addition to others, and noting the many projects with which he was associated, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, ABC Sports, film soundtracks and original scores. Every year at the Christmas holidays he undertakes a popular concert tour in the Intermountain West that is the season's hot ticket.
I've always fancied a certain symmetry in our lives. Kurt was a Catholic from Wisconsin who moved to Utah and became Mormon. I was a Mormon girl living in Utah who moved to Wisconsin and became Catholic. I've been enormously proud of what he's accomplished with his significant talent, not just in music, but in his writing, and wondered if ever at all there was a time he looked back and thought I had any influence with the red ink scrawled in the margin.
Kurt Bestor Brand Video#1 from Kurt Bestor on Vimeo.
Tulisse Antoinette "Toni" Onstott was my high school history teacher. When she married a local boy, the cowboy son of a famous ranching family who was at the time working as the school custodian, Mike Murdock, she went from being "Miss Onstott" to "Mrs. Murdock."
I loved the sound of her name, Tulisse Antoinette. Very French. Very exotic. There was a little ditty that some of us wrote in the back of a school bus once coming back from one of many long school trips, probably to a basketball tournament or a music festival, to the tune of the children's song "Alouette, gentille Alouette." Her name fit perfectly to the music.
I remember writing a paper for her on "The Heathen Chinee" (Chinese labor used in southwestern Wyoming on building the Union Pacific Railroad line), and participating in many interesting projects and discussions in her classes, debates on welfare reform, and extended school trips to the State Legislature. I also remember a rather uncomfortable moment getting caught passing a note with a friend and classmate (our desks were in a semicircle at the time), and the aftermath of that insensitive lapse in judgment (to this day, I can recall the contents of that note, and her comments following). I wish I had been more interested in history then. I wish she knew how much more interested I am in it now. Still, she apparently had some faith in me, and I remember well her attendance at my high school graduation, where I was valedictorian, and her congratulating me afterwards with tears in her eyes, apparently moved by my speech which was really distinctive only for its brevity.
( I can still remember the high point of that short speech, a quote by Francoise Hardy: "There are so many dreams beyond your night, and so much sunshine beyond your grey walls, but you can't see it because you stay at home. There is so much sky above your roof. Is your door so old that it won't open, or are you staying at home because you're afraid of catching a chill?")
She gave me a record album as a graduation gift. If I'm not mistaken, it was John Denver, probably "Rocky Mountain High." I was touched by her generosity and her kindness on that occasion, and it occurred to me that whatever misdeeds I'd done in her classroom, she genuinely had an interest in me as a person, and yes, it was possible, thought maybe I had some potential.
I left town two weeks after graduation and headed straight for college, and never looked back. Toni, a New Mexico native with a background in social work and aspirations to go to law school, also left Sublette County and moved onward.
I saw some years back that she had become President of Antioch College in Seattle, and more recently noticed that she is now Chancellor of the entire Antioch University system nationwide, and has found herself in the middle of academic controversy spilling out onto the pages of The New York Times.
Unfortunately the first entry in this blog is dictated by tragic recent events, a young man gone missing in the Wind River Mountains just outside of Pinedale, Wyoming, and the tragic recent discovery of his remains.
Bardy Bardin was a classmate of mine growing up in Big Piney, Wyoming, from grade school until we graduated from Big Piney High School as two of the thirty classmates in the Class of 1973. Bardy was one of those good looking, popular guys that everyone liked. He was an accomplished athlete, a valuable player on many of the sports teams, and participated in a number of other activities. In high school, we were in band, stageband and choir together. He played the trombone in band and stageband, and had a beautiful bass voice that took him all the way to All State Choir. I remember him singing the role of one of the three wise men in a setting of songs from "Amahl and the Night Visitors." He was talented and well liked. All the girls wanted to date him, but his heart eventually went to someone else. Oddly enough, I can still remember the first time I kissed him, at one of those parties famous in Big Piney where everyone pretty much kissed everyone before the night was through so the chances of your getting kissed were pretty good.
The county where we grew up has seen a lot of boom and bust with the petroleum industry in the half century that Bardy and I have been alive. I was reading an interesting article a couple of years ago on that subject in The Washington Post, "Gas is Both Boom, Bane for Wyoming County," when the first four words immediately jumped off the page at me.
Sheriff Wayne "Bardy" Bardin.
"Sheriff Wayne "Bardy" Bardin, who sweeps up criminal fallout from the hottest energy boom in the Rockies, has noticed something new and nasty on barroom floors in his county."
That Bardy had become sheriff of the county, now residing in its somewhat larger (by Wyoming standards) county seat, Pinedale, was not terribly surprising, I suppose. He could have gone on to become a roughneck in the oil fields, and progressed up the ranks of a local energy company, or been a cowboy on one of the local ranches, maybe even had his own, but now he presides over the law enforcement activities in a part of America that is both untamed wild and woolly west and key to the energy resources of our nation and the world. As a result, he ends up in places like The Washington Post.
A more somber headline appeared a couple of weeks ago, when in late June a young Pinedale man, just 24, went missing. A massive search and rescue operation was mounted to search for him, Garrett Wayne Bardin, Bardy's son. The sheriff's department was doing the searching, and the object of the search, sadly, was the sheriff's son. His silver Lincoln Mark LT pick-up truck had been discovered abandoned near Muddy Ridge in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Days later, a body was found, in a remote area overlooking the Big Sandy River, and later identified as Garrett Bardin. He was laid to rest on July 9, 2008, after a memorial service at the Pinedale Auditorium, with over 500 people attending.