Thursday, May 28, 2009

Truman G. Madsen

As Mormonism goes, there are some names outside the general leadership that resonate profoundly, with such recognition as to be assured immortality within the ranks of the membership, names whispered in church, in homes, on street corners across the globe, with a certain reverence.

Truman Madsen's name was just such a name.

I was a far too young honors student at BYU when I found myself seated in his Philosophy of Religious Language seminar. I can still picture the classroom in vivid detail, somewhere in the Joseph F. Smith building, and where I sat, and even what he was wearing on the day he said he believed we'd all be likely naked in the Celestial Kingdom. It was one of those esoteric discussions that came seemingly out of nowhere, and of course, the first thing I did was notice how he was dressed.

No one grew up in Mormonism a stranger to Truman Madsen, the man and legend, a scholar and philosopher, teacher, early motivational speaker. To come to a point in my own life where I was actually studying at his feet--it might as well have been Aristotle by reputation, but I was something of a giggly skeptic, wondering why we were speculating on dress codes in the hereafter. I'd done the foundational Philosophy course under David Paulsen when barely seventeen, and later went on to study under several others, including Existentialism with James Faulcouner, as part of my journey through the liberal arts offerings at BYU, but Truman Madsen was the most unusual and memorable of all the faculty members with whom I studied philosophy.

Like many of the courses I took at the time, the subject matter came to be far more profound in my later life than I ever imagined then. For me, then, Religious Language seemed to be as foreign, and superfluous, as Polish. The Philosophy of it? I couldn't imagine any particular relevance in my own young life in a religious tradition that didn't seem to focus on liturgy or language.

I was sad to see, this morning, that the great legend that was Truman Madsen was stilled, when he lost his recent battle with cancer.

It calls to mind another personal story he shared with the class, that of a young student and his wife who went off to Harvard and were counseled not to postpone having a family. They had that family, when young, and some few years later his wife had an unexpected hysterectomy. It was a poignant tale. He clearly treasured that wife, and those children.

Funny those are the things I remember, when my mind wanders back to days on the green grass of Provo, in front of the Harold B. Lee Library, walking across the quad, to a class, sitting half awake in a semi-circular classroom watching a legend at the podium discuss religious language and the esoteric speculation of the active mind.

Truman G. Madsen.

Truman G. Madsen, grandson of early LDS Church president Heber J. Grant, was emeritus professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University and held the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Studies at BYU. He completed his education at Harvard University and authored many volumes on religion and philosophy. During his tenure at BYU he was instrumental in bringing members of several non-LDS faiths to campus for interreligious dialogue. He had been director of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near-Eastern Studies, and was guest lecturer at Haifa University, Northeastern University and the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. He was an individual of great stature, chiseled Charleton Heston good looks and sonic boom presence.

His influence is widely felt in the community that nurtured his faith, for countless have bought his popular books like "Eternal Man," listened to his audiotapes, attended his lectures, and will continue to hold his name in measured reverence in humble homes and hallowed halls.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Robert and Patricia Cronin

I'll never forget the first time I met Bob and Pat Cronin, one cold November evening in Chicago at a Victorian mansion that had been transformed into an elegant restaurant. I was newly engaged, and they were long-time friends of my fiancé. As I made my entrance in a slightly abbreviated blue velvet dress that can only be described as bridging the gap between royal, navy and cobalt, they might have been dismissive, but they were gracious, warm and engaging, setting the tone for many convivial times together that followed.

In fact, in my entire life I never met any two people more gracious, refined, or elegant in their simplicity and warmth.

I can still hear Bob Cronin's laugh. Irish. A hearty and well founded chuckle, that arose from a place of knowing, the kind that mellows in dusty libraries rimmed with leather and crystal glasses filled with Irish whiskey.

Bob had attended college with my husband Larry at St. Mary's College in Winona, Minnesota. A fellow Chicago native, their fathers had gone to De La Salle Institute at the same time, then a Catholic preparatory high school for young men only. While Bob never attended De La Salle himself, he later served as President of their Board of Directors. It was a particularly easy choice for many Lasallians to follow the trail blazed by the Christian Brothers from Chicago to Winona and complete their education at St. Mary's. After graduation, Bob went on to study law and returned to Chicago, where he practiced initially as part of the firm Isham, Lincoln & Beale before going to Sidley & Austin in 1988.

It was his work with Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Chicago for which he is best known. He became a member of their board of advisors in 1958 and served as president from 1984-86. In 2001 he was awarded their Compassion in Action award for his work finding homes for the 'Peter Pan' children from Cuba and reuniting them with their families. He donated his legal services free of charge to Catholic Charities for over fifty years, participating in many adoption cases.

It was in Chicago's Catholic Charities that Bob met his bride, Patricia, after many years as a confirmed bachelor happily trotting the globe with fellow classmate James Casella. Bob and Jim both did the Hope and Crosby road-to-wherever tour for years before finally meeting the women of their dreams in Pat and Eleanor, both working at Catholic Charities, when Bob was nearly forty.

Patricia Cronin is well known in Chicago and beyond in her own right. A respected social scientist, Pat Cronin is renowned for creating texts and curricula in Catholic education, and for her studies on adolescent behavior particularly. More fascinating, however, is another high profile role she played on the American stage. When Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was presiding over the Archdiocese of Chicago, he created a groundbreaking oversight committee for investigating claims of sexual abuse in the clergy. Patricia Cronin served as chair of that committee for over nine years until her retirement from that position a few years ago. Ironically, it was that same committee Cardinal Bernardin created and Pat Cronin headed that was in place to oversee and investigate when claims were brought against Cardinal Bernardin himself.

Prior to the death of Cardinal Bernardin in the mid-1990's, I joined Bob and Pat Cronin and four other couples, including good friends Gene and Peggy Figliulo, several Decembers in a row as the Cardinal hosted the Catholic Charities Ball in grand Chicago venues like the Field Museum and Navy Pier. We'd snuggle amid the dinosaur skeletons and towering columns, dancing to grand orchestras by candlelight as the winter wind whipped outside.

Dinner in the company of Bob and Pat was never dull. As couples we took turns hosting dinners in places like the Four Seasons or the Drake, as eight of us assembled to enjoy good food, good drink, and good conversation on topics ranging from the Bell Curve to Louis Farrakhan. Occasionally it was just the four of us, and we'd trek out in the Chicago bluster to dinner and back to their home just up from the Drake Hotel on Walton Street, laughing all along the way.

They were lovely. There were as lovely as they had been when they came to our wedding. Patricia proclaimed it to be the most beautiful wedding she'd ever seen. I knew she meant every word. She was a forthright and fast friend.

Bob was elegant, and refined, knowledgable, personable, gracious, the perfect gentleman. He was, and always will be, an Irishman in the heart of Chicago, a servant of the people, who helped many. I never saw the Irish wolfhounds he walked for years on the Chicago sidewalks, but they were legend, and I could picture him out there, in trenchcoat, clutching one hand onto his Irish cap, walking a dog bigger than life.

Over the last several years, the place I most often saw Bob was at the Club International at the Drake, where he and Pat hosted us for dinner on many occasions. In recent years he had suffered the ravages of squamous cell carcinoma which had taken part of his face as well as an eye, but he never relinquished his optimism or his dignity. He continued to work long past retirement doing pro bono services, walked or took the bus to his office daily for many years, and regularly went to mass at the Cathedral or St. Peter's.

As we were hurrying to his hospital bedside in late October 2008, Robert Edmund Cronin finally succumbed to the disease he had so bravely fought for years, and was laid to rest a few days later following a suitable, and very Irish, mass at Holy Name Cathedral. In his lifetime he'd touched countless parents and children, friends and neighbors, students and teachers, and many lives are irretrievably altered by his presence, including my own. He set the bar as high as one can set it.

Robert Edmund Cronin. Patricia Cronin.

John Baptist de la Salle
Live Jesus in our hearts

Photograph of the Club International, Drake Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where Bob and Pat Cronin graciously hosted many memorable meals.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Michael J. Lynch

As priests go, Michael was fairly unconventional.

Even before I moved to our community in northern Wisconsin, I'd heard about this Catholic priest, chaplain of the local hospital who caused something of a stir when he played the role of Professor Harold Hill in a community theater production of "The Music Man," which necessitated a kiss with the actress playing Marian. The Librarian.

Michael was filled with life. As a houseguest or travelling companion, he was gracious and entertaining. Many years he came on the mid-January wind to our home in Florida on his annual scuba diving excursion, arriving dapper and tanned, flowers in hand, the perfect houseguest. We'd whisk off to dinners, or the theater, or both, and he'd delight in being incognito in street clothing, no one the wiser that he was anything other than a bon vivant. He'd charm waitresses with his personable manner, greeting them by name, savoring every course. I recall well the night I asked him whether he'd prefer to go to the finest restaurant on Sanibel Island or see a live theatrical production of Funny Girl; without hesitation, his response was "Both!" even though the venues were over 45 minutes apart. And so we went.

That was Michael.

I travelled with him and his brother, also a priest, to Ireland, along with a group of thirty or so pilgrims, and he was equally enmeshed in the living of life on those journeys. Whether we were in Dublin or Galway, the Giant's Causeway or the Cliffs of Moher, he was there, conducting the band. When our ragtag group found itself at the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Michael and I snuck off to do some sampling, sans group, finding a way to successfully bypass the regular tour in order to do so.

He didn't want to miss anything. Anything.

As a host he was equally gracious. He opened his home on the lake many times a year, particularly during the summer months, to those who'd travelled with him, those who'd volunteered at the hospital under his direction, and those who'd become his close personal friends. The table was always well spread, the larder full, and the pontoon boat docked and ready for excursions on the lake. More than once we went with him on his "last cruise of the season" before putting that beloved boat away.

On a few occasions, we joined Michael and his family for holiday dinners, beautiful tables, great conversation, happy memories, that would always include his brother Denny, a priest in a neighboring community a half-hour south. Dennis was the contemplative, serious one, a foil for Michael's flamboyance, but we loved them equally, as well as Sister Sandy, a long-time friend who was always part of that extended family.

My memories will never lose the late afternoon we were in Galway looking for an older Irish priest, Tom Mannion, whom Michael and Denny had known in Wisconsin. As a youth, Tom had been very ill and told he couldn't be a priest, but ended up being taken under the wing of an American bishop and given a place and a parish, where he served happily in rural western Wisconsin for many years. Not long before our visit, he had retired and returned to the west of Ireland to live out his years with his nephew and family. He made annual pilgrimages to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock nearby to give thanks to Our Lady for what he unfailingly proclaimed was her intercession in his illness and miraculous healing, allowing him to survive more than seven decades to be the strong and vigorous white-haired late septugenarian he was, once the kindly priest, now the kindly uncle, always laughing, bright eyed.

We were walking the streets of Galway that Irish afternoon wondering how we'd find Father Mannion, as Michael and Denny were invited to dinner at his nephew's, and oddly enough had made no arrangements for connecting with him except to "meet at the Cathedral later in the day." Vague enough. But there we were, crossing the street, my husband and I, Michael and Dennis, and were almost hit by a black Mercedes. . .driven by Father Mannion's nephew, and carrying the man himself. In a moment of characteristic spontaneity they invited us to join them, and quite literally, I rode sitting on the laps of Michael and Dennis those many miles through County Galway to the lovely modest home of the Mannions for a beautiful kitchen meal, salmon, potatoes, and I don't remember what else, nicely done by the nephew's wife while children were told to stay in their rooms, as Tom Mannion regaled us with tales of his youth in Ireland, and of his devotion to Our Lady of Knock.

It was a charming, magical evening. Crunched into a little Mercedes built only comfortably for four with a load of six, me atop two priests, brought no end of giggles. It was only because I knew both Lynch brothers so well that it was managed with grace and ease.

Michael was long the chaplain of the local hospital, and for many years I volunteered under his direction, visiting the sick and ministering to them, something I treasured. Occasionally we'd go to the mass he held at the tiny chapel there, just down the hill from our home, sitting in a small circle of chairs, and meet perhaps a lonely family member who was there because their loved one was dying of cancer, or had been in a tragic car accident. More than once we needed Michael in that hospital, when a loved one of ours was sick, or dying. He was always there with dignity and ministerial intercession, performing the rites of the sick, a calm and healing presence.

Many years earlier, my husband accompanied the Fathers Lynch to Egypt and the Holy Land, during which time he was making a prayerful journey to contemplate marriage. I received daily long-distance calls from Cairo, Jerusalem, Rome, wherever they were, while he was sharing board with the two priests. Seven months later we were all standing at an altar, where Michael and Dennis were two of the four priests happily concelebrating our marriage. It was a glorious occasion, with the entire group who travelled to Egypt and the Holy Land in attendance, and Michael's charming elderly father, a last minute addition to the celebration.

Michael J. Lynch.

I have many treasured memories of Michael, sitting up late into the evening in bathrobes and talking, with glasses of wine, and chocolates, or working together at the hospital, travelling across Ireland, sharing in a meal, Eucharistic or otherwise, but none more painful than hearing three years ago this month that he'd died tragically at home after falling down a flight of stairs, and had been alone there some time before anyone found him. A mutual friend called from Wisconsin to tell me the difficult news, and we both understood the weight of it, a young man in his early sixties, full of life, gone. I recalled the last time I had spoken to him, a month or so earlier, to tell him of the likewise tragic death of our parish priest who'd been killed in a central Wisconsin car accident upon returning home from the La Crosse funeral of our former bishop, John J. Paul. Michael took the news badly. It was a difficult conversation.

Father Michael J. Lynch, a son of Galway, minister to the sick, friend to many, was best known in his lifetime as a leading advocate for organ donation, a cause he championed. In 1999 he was given the National Gift of Sight Award by the Eye Bank Association of America for his efforts in ensuring that lives lost were not lives gone.

Photograph: interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas, commonly known as Galway Cathedral, Galway, Ireland.


The Rev. Michael J. Lynch

RIB MOUNTAIN, Wis. — The Rev. Michael J. Lynch, 61, of Rib Mountain, longtime hospital chaplain in Wausau, Wis., died Tuesday, May 16, 2006, after an accidental fall at home.

Father Michael was born Feb. 27, 1945, the son of the late Edward and Irene (Knapik) Lynch. He was ordained in 1971 for the Diocese of La Crosse, and except for an initial three-year parish ministry assignment in La Crosse, he served the church in Wausau for 28 years.

Father Michael’s greatest legacy will be the untold number of people to whom he ministered to as a hospital chaplain. His was a leading voice and presence in the development of hospice care and organ and tissue donation locally, statewide and nationally. But his pastoral care is best remembered and treasured by the countless numbers of patients and their families who were touched by his comforting presence. Because of a visit, a prayer, an anointing, an embrace or a story from him, pain was lessened and the future more hope-filled. Father Michael certainly was not able to remember all to whom he ministered, they will remember him with gratitude.

His family, Mary Lu (James) Flynn, Middleton, Ohio; Thomas (Reni) Lynch, Oshkosh, Wis.; Father Dennis Lynch, Stevens Point, Wis.; John (Katie) Lynch, Milwaukee; and Ann Lynch, Seattle; 10 nieces and nephews and their families, are all deeply saddened by his death and will deeply miss his wonderful spirit of hospitality and loving presence. Over the years, his home was the meeting place for family gatherings. Indeed, his home was always available to provide a welcome to both friend and stranger.

The funeral Mass will be at noon Wednesday, May 24, at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, Wausau. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to the time of Mass at the church. Those who can are invited to join Father Michael’s family at St. Anne’s Parish for prayer, storytelling and nourishment, all essential components of hospitality. For those who cannot join the family Wednesday, please join them in prayer from wherever you may be. Burial will at a later date with immediate family.

In keeping with Father Michael’s ministry, the family asks that memorials be given directly to any of the following: Organ Donation Education Fund of Wisconsin; Hospice Ministry; Guest House, Rochester, Minn.; or HIV-AIDS Ministry of Catholic Charities.

Hayden-Buettgen Funeral Home, Schofield, Wis., assisted the family with arrangements.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Harold Isbell

At that particular junction in the history of the settling of the American West where stockgrowing and finance meet, there came to the dusty windswept plains north of Denver three brothers from Burlington, Vermont, who in the waning days of the nineteenth century managed to set up the largest sheepgrowing operation in the state of Wyoming. About 1882, the two older brothers, John and Tom, started a herd with some seed money they'd saved running a freight line into Denver and soon built it into a vast empire running sheep on empty expanses of land spanning several states. By 1890 their brother James joined them in their sweeping enterprise, which by then had moved from early encampment with Mexican foreman Adriana Apadaca near Fort Steele, Wyoming, to headquarters closer to Rawlins.

While their sheep ranged much of the Wyoming landscape, their enterprising spirit began to do the same, as they established nearly fifty trading posts dotting the sparsely populated map. They made their first tiptoe into the waters of banking in Salt Lake City, purchasing the Commercial National Bank in 1903 and changing its name to the Continental National, which became lead bank for a chain of twenty-seven banking locations spread throughout the Rocky Mountains from the dusty roads of Idaho to the glistening streets of Denver, pioneering the concept of the chain bank in the Intermountain West.

By 1910 the herd had grown to 125,000 head and the Cosgriff Sheep Company had established itself has the preeminent sheep ranching operation in that corner of the blossoming Western new world, when the family decided to break up its partnership, leaving James E. Cosgriff the only brother remaining in the enterprise. Prior to that, the largest single shipment of wool ever had been sent out by Cosgriff Sheep Company from Fort Steele, Wyoming, to Boston, Massachusetts, a trainload of 800,000 pounds at 8 cents per pound in 1905. The Cosgriffs had established themselves as stockgrowers, landowners, businessmen and financiers. In the history of wool growing in Wyoming, there was no peer. Those sheep they didn't own personally they financed for other sheep outfits, large and small, supporting the sheepmen in four states--Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado.

Tom passed away in 1915, and John in 1917, both before reaching the age of sixty, but brother James stayed on to tend to the industry the brothers had started with that little bit of seed money all those years earlier in Denver, growing the Continental Bank and Trust Company a state away in Salt Lake City amid a banking industry dominated by the financial interests of the Mormon Church, who had introduced banking and currency to the area after Brigham Young ended his pioneering trek westward in 1847 to determine that the barren valley was indeed "the right place."

It was the right place for J. E. Cosgriff, his family and his business interests, which like the valley began to blossom like a rose. James' son Walter continued the banking business, and by 1947 the bank's assets were in excess of $34 million, and helped to finance Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's new Flamingo Hotel in a bootstrap Las Vegas. Walter purchased a stake in the Bank of Las Vegas in 1954, and sent one of his employees, E. Parry Thomas, to Nevada to see firsthand if the struggling Vegas bank needed to be closed. The bank was not closed, but flourished, and Thomas, who was promoted to President of the bank on the death of Walter Cosgriff in 1961, became one of the pre-eminent bankers financing and influencing the casino industry of Nevada, confidant of Howard Hughes and ultimately mentor to Steve Wynn. The Thomas Mack Arena in Las Vegas bears his name. The little Las Vegas bank that Walter Cosgriff invested in went from equity of $250,000 in 1954 to over $400 million at the time of its purchase by Bank of America in 1992.

Walter and Enid Cosgriff, meanwhile, became known in the Salt Lake City area not only for their industry but for their generous philanthropy, which extended from the Catholic schools and hospitals to the University of Utah, and notably, to the arts. Ballet West and the ballet program at the University of Utah both owe their existence largely to the generosity of the Cosgriff family and Mrs. Enid Cosgriff particularly, who in addition to giving patronage to the arts became, at the untimely death of her husband in an auto accident, the owner and general manager of the Salt Lake Bees baseball team, the first woman in professional baseball to do so. The family established the J. E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School and endowed funds and scholarships in the Diocese of Salt Lake and elsewhere. After her husband's death, Enid Cosgriff was invested as a Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, an honor bestowed by the late Pope John Paul II in 1988. She passed away in Salt Lake City in 1997 at the age of 84. Walter, called by TIME Magazine in 1950 "a Republican who thinks like a Democrat," had mingled with presidents and served as a member of the RFC.

Half a country away on the banks of the Mississippi River, a son of Dubuque, Iowa, who thought he might become a priest left Loras College and continued on to Notre Dame to further his studies, where he became Writer in Residence after completing his Master of Arts and joining the English faculty of St. Mary's College. It was there in the 1960's he met the daughter of Walter and Enid Cosgriff of Salt Lake City, Utah, and was married to her in Salt Lake's historic Cathedral of the Madeleine. Instead of becoming a priest, he became a banker, starting on the ground floor as a teller in his father-in-law's Continental Bank in Salt Lake City, rising ultimately to the position of Vice-President of the bank at which his mother-in-law, Enid Cosgriff, was director following her husband's death.

Like his in-laws, Harold Isbell with his wife Lyn became actively involved in supporting charitable causes and the arts in Utah, raising four children in the state before the Continental Bank interests were eventually sold and the couple moved to San Francisco, where they continue to be actively involved in philanthropic efforts.

I knew Harold Isbell as my roommate's cousin when I was living in Salt Lake City. I adored his parents, Max and Marcella Isbell, who lived near the Mississippi locks in Bellevue, Iowa, not far from the antique shops and the Maid-Rite. After Max's death, Marcy moved to Dubuque where she lived quite independently for many years, passing away in recent months at the age of 97. She was, quite literally, the little old lady from Dubuque, who read the Mayo Clinic Health Letter and The New Yorker with equal enthusiasm.

Harold M. Isbell.

Harold Isbell is best known in recent years as editor and translator for a number of Latin classics for Penguin Books, including Heroides by Ovid and The Last Poets of Imperial Rome.

It is, perhaps, lightyears away from the three brothers in Denver who started a small herd of sheep after leaving Vermont, lightyears away from the commerce and industry of stockgrowing in Wyoming, lightyears away from the bright lights of Las Vegas and the building of a banking empire in Salt Lake City, lightyears away from Dubuque.

Photograph of Continental Bank Building in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, now the Hotel Monaco.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Timothy Dolan

I received many letters of love and concern during my husband's protracted and complicated hospitalization at Mayo Clinic in the last half of 2004, but none more touching or meaningful than one which arrived in early December of that year. As summer gave way to fall, and fall to winter, the march of months seemed incomprehensible, otherworldly, an enormous weight, as we fought for a life worth saving in our frozen corner of southeastern Minnesota.

The Christmas holidays were fast approaching when someone a state away, across the rugged and beautiful Mississippi River, chose to sit down and and pen a note of unconditional prayerful support on the Feast of Juan Diego, while attending a board meeting that my husband was missing on the bluffs overlooking La Crosse. As pen to paper, it was priceless, personal, and will be forever treasured for its ability to lift my spirits at a time of enormous adversity.

Opening that letter meant the world to me. Someone out there who wasn't compelled to write the note was moved to do so, actually cared, and was reaching out, straight to the heart of our difficult battle.

That person was Tim Dolan.

Timothy Michael Dolan was born February 6, 1950, in Saint Louis, Missouri, the first of five children. He studied at Saint Louis Preparatory Seminary and Cardinal Glennon College, where he studied philosophy. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts, he ventured across the sea to Rome to continue his studies at Pontifical North American College and the Angelicum.

In June 1976, he was ordained to the priesthood, and three years later began doctoral work at Catholic University of America. He has served as secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., Vice-Rector of Cardinal Glennon Seminary, Adjunct Professor of Theology at St. Louis University, Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and teacher at Pontifical Gregorian University and the Angelicum.

He received his episcopal ordination on August 15, 2001, from Archbishop Justin Rigali in Saint Louis, after being appointed by Pope John Paul II to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Louis.

On June 25, 2002, he became the Tenth Archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a position he has held honorably these past seven years as a man of courage, conviction and compassion.

A week from today, on Easter Wednesday, April 15, 2009, Timothy Michael Dolan, firstborn son of Robert and Shirley Radcliffe Dolan, will be installed in Saint Patrick's Cathedral as Tenth Archbishop of New York.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Never underestimate the power of a written note.

Ad Quem Ibimus. Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.- John 6:68

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Arthur Henry King

At the top of the hill overlooking the Smith Fieldhouse at Brigham Young University is a little faculty office building known as, well, of course, the Faculty Office Building, or FOB, a unique little building where every office has an outside view. Many students might pass by it on their way down the steep steps to the Fieldhouse to work out in the early morning hours. They might bicycle past it on their way to yet another class. If they blinked twice, they missed it.

I had the great privilege of having an office in it.

One of the singular experiences of my college life was having an assistantship with Dr. Marion J. Bentley, a well respected and very talented theater and drama professor at Brigham Young. I'd first become aware of him as one of the directors of the BYU Honors Program, in which I participated, but at the time I came to work for him, he was Dean of General Education and Honors, or as we casually called it, "GE." At that time Dr. Bentley also taught Honors Seminars in Theater, periodically directed operas and plays for the Fine Arts Department, was writing a book on period costuming, all while crafting and fine-tuning a newly devised set of General Education requirements for the university.

Down the hall from my office was the office of a snowy haired wise owl of a man, a Shakespearean scholar who'd been recruited to help in the General Education re-envisioning process. He seemed out of place, both in GE and in Utah, but certainly wouldn't have been in the enchanted halls of Cambridge. He seemed dressing for a grander stage, his own quirky version of Innocents Abroad. He was, as people are wont to say, a character. A character larger than life who in many ways shrunk to life, he made his quiet way down the hall, despite a quick wit and a golden tongue. He was articulated, measured.

One would have to wonder, really, what he was doing there. I found him quite enchanting. Like Arthur's Merlin. Luke's Yoda.

Arthur Henry King.

Dr. Arthur Henry King grew up far from the provincial campuses of Provo, in the town of Gosford, Hampshire, England, son of Quaker parents. The Society of Friends was quick to come to his aid after his father died when Arthur was only nine, making sure he got the education he might not have otherwise. As World War II was raging across the European continent, Arthur was studying in Sweden, after completing his studies at Cambridge, and was awarded his doctorate of Literature in stylistics in Lund, Sweden, before the end of the war. For his involvement in writing anti-Nazi material, he was blacklisted, yet was able to continue teaching in Sweden.

In 1966, a widowed Dr. King married a second cousin, Patricia, who happened to be of a different faith, and persuaded him to convert to hers, Mormonism, a religion as unique to America as jazz and Dixieland that reached across Atlantic shores to attract converts from the British Isles and Scandinavia in its formative years in order to populate the American West with those for a yearning for a new and different Zion amid the seagulls and sagebrush.

Eventually, it pulled him, too, and in 1971 he left an esteemed job as Assistant Director of the British Council in charge of Education, a position that had taken him throughout Europe, Persia and Pakistan in order to accept a teaching position in the English department of the LDS Church's flagship university named after Mormon prophet Brigham Young, an hour south of Salt Lake City in Provo, Utah. There he became an icon, an institution, a singular scholar in Shakespeare, a legend of linguistics.

He was twice decorated by the Queen of England for his service to crown and country, as Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and Commander of the British Empire (CBE). He was a published poet of some considerable renown, whose primary influences were claimed to include Eliot, Yeats, and primarily, Andrew Marvell. He distingished himself as a leader instituting programs teaching English as a second language abroad. He was a founding member of the Vetenkaps Society in Sweden and longtime member of the British Atheneum Club.

I think of him in his little office down the hall from mine, quoting Shakespeare. An owl in his tree.

Dr. Arthur Henry King retired from teaching at Brigham Young University in 1997 due to increasing ill health from Parkinson's disease. He died in 2000 at the age of 89.

Painting of Arthur Henry King by Nathan Florence, oil on canvas, hangs in the Humanities Reference Department, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rachel Anderson Scherbel

There are places I go in my dreams, when I can't get there in real life. If I close my eyes, I can leave the home of my childhood in the tiny little town of 500 people, cattle and oil, in southwest Wyoming, and wander two blocks up the street to the corner where the drug and hardware store were, turn left down the main street, past the post office and library, the florist, and the old Gaiety Theater, and turn right at the grocery store, Burney & Company. The main street, the only paved road in my childhood, makes a couple of switch turns until it comes to the place where I went to high school.

And right across the street, was the Scherbel home.

The Scherbel home was the first home I remember being in as a child, other than my own, and my grandparents' next door, growing up in Big Piney, Wyoming. Paul Scherbel was the County Surveyor, and he and his wife, Rachel, had four children, a son Paul A., daughter Annette, and two sons Scott and Marlowe who were closer to my age. Rachel and my mother took turns babysitting for each other when I was younger, and I would go over and stay and play with Marlowe in their enormously warm, comforting and fascinating home, central to which was a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. It was the first wood/coal-burning cooking device I'd ever seen in a kitchen, since we cooked with gas. There was a comfy banquette in the corner of the room near the stove, and conspicuously absent from the home was a television, any television. As children we knew that the Scherbels didn't eat cold cereal like lots of other kids did, and they didn't watch, or own, a television. But somehow we didn't really feel sorry for them, because they were extraordinary kids. The boys were all Eagle Scouts, exemplary in the community, and leaders in school. The home was well furnished in rust-colored wool carpeting, built-in woodboxes in the livingroom, board games and books and puzzles, things to keep us occupied well into the night when the youth would gather for the end of a progressive dinner over the holidays. They had a wonderful oversized swingset in the backyard, and Annette would push me and Marlowe higher and higher in the swing, overlooking river, and cottonwoods in my mind's eye, ladybugs everywhere. Across the lawn, just steps away, was the surveying office, filled with maps and charts, the smell of mimeograph ink and work, to delight a child's imagination.

In the kitchen were peanut butter and honey sandwiches, glasses of milk, tomato soup, stepstools to be pushed when no one was looking, corners to explore in a child's free time.

The Scherbels are firmly fixed in that childhood memory, from birth through college, swimming trips to Jackson Hole and the Hoback, church trips to Salt Lake City, sitting between Paul and Rachel in the front of their car, dozing off, on the way back from Utah, or riding with Scott on the way home for the weekend from college, hitting a steer on open range on the Cumberland Flat late at night in a Ford Torino, wrapping chains on tires going up Emigration Canyon in the snow, having lunch in Jackson, ending up with Scott in a hospital with tick fever, riding on the back of their tandem bicycle, watching Scott play chess at Scout Camp near New Fork Lake, singing with Marlowe in church about the hills of Tennessee when he returned from his mission there, making homemade ice cream with rock salt in their ice cream freezer, waiting on the steps of the church for Mutual, or getting up at the crack of dawn for early morning Seminary. Which their mother taught.

There was a funeral earlier this week in my hometown of Big Piney, Wyoming, which I wanted to get to, but couldn't, so I'm going there in my dreams.

That funeral was for Rachel.

Rachel Anderson Scherbel.

As much as anyone growing up, Rachel was enormously good to me. Of course, like most children, it took me years to fully appreciate it. As a Seminary teacher she was extraordinary, knew her material, and every morning just after six o'clock. we were all huddled together in the chilly linoleum floored meetinghouse to study it. Now that I think of it, we should have had Seminary in their home; more kids would have attended. But the handful of us high school students who did attend learned a lot from Rachel, more than Scripture Chase, more than the history or theology of the church of our pioneer ancestors.

I think of Rachel always with her fashionable wing-tip heels and pumps, far too fashion forward for rural Wyoming, and her crisp suits, her Katherine Hepburn/Annette Bening good looks, and her New England sensibility. She'd occasionally substitute in the schools when one of our regular teachers was sick. I remember her being a frequent fill-in for my English teacher Harvey Graham. She knew her stuff. She knew how to keep a classroom in order. She commanded respect with her copper well coifed hair, her striking features, her presence.

I knew she had a brother who was a physician in Salt Lake. I'd visited their home once with Scott when for some reason we couldn't get anywhere else. I knew Rachel was well educated, had studied and taught outside the area, places like Cornell, the University of Vermont and the University of Utah, and had a view that extended beyond Big Piney, where her husband Paul N. was frequently mayor, or Sublette County, where they were both well respected, or even the western slice of Wyoming, where their hands and tools had touched much of the landscape, measured and charted it. Other people we knew had worked for Surveyor Scherbel, people like Rulon 'Shrimp' Woffinden and Maurice Zardus. When Annette married, her husband Bob Priddis came to work for Surveyor Scherbel, and later, Scott and Marlowe returned to work with their father as well. Now everyone is gathered back in the area, from Star Valley to Big Piney, continuing the legacy, a legacy that at last count includes 32 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren, who combined can speak over 17 languages, and who came to a little church in southwest Wyoming earlier this week to honor her.

I will miss Rachel. And I must pay tribute to her. I don't think of her as much older than I am now, a woman permanently frozen in my mind between her thirties and her fifties, striding confidently into church, well groomed, head held high. Paul N. always made sure everyone found a seat in our little hodgepodge of cold metal folding chairs and hymnbooks, then took his place comfortably in the rear to survey the congregation.

When I was younger, Rachel showed me books to read, and gave me odd jobs, like cataloguing them at the church library, to make extra money in a family where money was a more precious commodity than I at that time realized. She'd come frequently to my grandfather's house to borrow the odd book from him that had been acquired at Sam Weller's Bookstore in Salt Lake, or pick his brain. She'd send me notes of encouragement growing up to help me stay focused on what was important. She gave me a copy of 'W' magazine that had the most obscure article on "Quality" in it, and the notion and meaning of quality as it related to aesthetics. That single act had a more profound influence on me than most people will ever know or appreciate, as it came at a time in my own formative consciousness where being able to discern things of quality, and sharpen a critical eye, was important. Wool carpet. Parquet floor.

Rachel was a person of quality, a force of nature, a beloved wife, a revered mother, a cherished grandmother, a treasured friend, mentor and teacher. She will always remain in that place in my dreams, making ice cream, and sandwiches, walking into church, or school, arms around us all.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Suzanne Stensaas

When I think of Suzanne Stensaas, I picture her with a brain bucket.

Every Friday around lunchtime during the years I worked at the University of Utah, the staff, residents and medical students in the Neurology Department of which I was a part would gather up their lunches and head to brain cutting--literally--where various interesting brains from (yes) dead patients would be sliced for viewing and scientific research.

Suzanne was the neuroanatomist in the department. Brains were her thing. Neurologists thought nothing of doing this over lunch.

Parkinsons brains. Alzheimers brains. Brains with bleeds. Normal brains. Abby Normal brains.

Suzanne was well known as an enthusiastic, larger than life character, extremely proficient in her field.

Suzanne Stensaas.

In 1986, a few years after I knew her, Suzanne gave up scientific research for teaching, and in 1990, she left the University of Utah, where she had been since 1969, and headed to New York City to teach at Cornell. She served on the medical college faculty at Cornell University until 1999, when she returned to the University of Utah to direct the neuroscience block in what was then the new curriculum of the medical school. She has remained in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah Medical Center since.

Suzanne was instrumental in the creation of the Slice-of-Life project, a multimedia medical education and information sharing project spearheaded at the University of Utah, and for over twenty years travelled the globe giving Slice-of-Life workshops to multimedia developers and medical science educators. She is also on the board of directors of the Health Assets Education Library (HEAL).

Over the years she has published numerous articles in medical journals on neuroanatomy, neuropathology, medical education and multimedia, and is well known and respected internationally as an authority, educator and speaker on the same. She has made an enormous contribution to the University of Utah health care system and neurological education, as well as the use of multimedia in the health care sciences.

Me, I always think of her at lunch. On Fridays.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adriel N. Williams

In the rural countryside of southwest England lies an airfield, long abandoned, where decades ago rows and rows of C-47 Dakotas lined up for parts unknown.

There's little left to mark the spot. A few of the original buildings are still there. The Jaquet Weston Plant memorializes those who previously called it home. A local pub fills pints and bellies not far away.

One of the great honors of my life was to be the dinner companion of a handsome, well spoken gentleman at a celebration in St. Louis, Missouri, a dozen or so years ago in the company of several hundred others. The ballroom of the hotel was filled with round tables of eight as far as the eye could wander in any direction, men and women in their finery gathered together in common purpose.

That gentleman, my dinner companion, was guest of honor.

The men in that room had all served under his command, fifty years earlier, in the fields of England and France in World War II. Men like Hal Read, and Marty Wolfe. Bill Elmendorf. Gale Ammerman, and Larry Riordan.

Adriel N. Williams.

Born in Shelby County, Kentucky, in 1916, Adriel Newton Williams went directly into pilot training following his high school graduation, received his wings in 1939, became an officer, and in 1942, assumed command of the 436th Troop Carrier Squadron (79th, 80th, 81st and 82nd Squadrons) of the Army Air Corps, a position he held through the end of World War II.

Primarily towing gliders and dropping paratroopers into combat in battlefields of England and France, the 436th TCG participated in major operations of the European theater, including the Invasion of Normandy (D-Day), Operation Market Garden (Nijmegen-Eindhoven), resupply of the 101st in Bastogne, and crossing the Rhine.

Following the end of the war in Europe, then Lieutenant Colonel Williams returned with the 436th Troop Carrier Group to the United States awaiting reassignment to the Pacific, but during their time back in the States the war happily ended, and the 436th was inactivated.

Colonel Williams subsequently attended the Air War College, graduating in 1953, and the National War College, graduating in 1959, assuming command along the way of several assignments, stateside and in Japan. In 1961 he was promoted to Brigadier General and served from that time at the Pentagon, rising to the position of Director of Transportation, U.S. Air Force Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1966.

Brigadier General Williams was decorated during his military service with the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant, Thailand.

He was witness to some of the most moving and profound events in recent human history. He was there for D-Day. He was there for Market Garden, when the eyes of Dutch schoolchildren turned upward to witness a sky filled with Allied paratroopers floating earthward. He was there for V-E Day. He was there for hundreds of young men to lead them into dangerous missions far away from the warmth of home and hearth, in the cold hills of southwest England, huddled in tents in France. Membury. Melun. Paris was a whispered promise away, on liberty, with bottles of champagne and daredevil pilots, French farmers who'd trade eggs for rationed cigarettes.

I am happy for the life of General Williams, happier still that he was there for those men of the Second World War, and happiest of all that a half-century later I had the great honor of becoming acquainted with him, sharing his stories, and seeing him be rightly honored by the men of the 436th--pilots, navigators, radio officers, businessmen, husbands, fathers, grandfathers--who paid tribute on that memorable autumn evening in a glittering ballroom in St. Louis.

For further reading about the 436th Troop Carrier Group, I can highly recommend two books written by members of the 81st Squadron:

First, from Martin Wolfe, a radio operator during WWII: "Green Light: A Troop Carrier Squadron's War from Normandy to the Rhine," 1993, Center for Air Force History (U.S), and

Second, from Gale Ammerman, a glider pilot during WWII: "An American Glider Pilot's Story," Merriam Press, Military Monograph MM65.

Monday, March 16, 2009

William Kent

When I knew Bill Kent, he was a Safety Officer aboard Princess Cruises. Somewhere on board the Pacific Princess in Tahiti, I first remember him standing in dress uniform in one of the ship's bars regaling others with tales from cruising and a life at sea. I remember him recasting anecdotes--misbegotten burials at sea that involved sacks of potatoes, ships' propellers, and the inevitable persons-who-go-missing-from-ships-and-are-never-seen-again. As a Safety Officer, he was in a position to have seen and experienced just about everything there was to experience at sea. Somewhere between French Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands there was Valentine's Day, a luminous full moon, and the requisite Crossing the Line ceremonies when we passed over the Equator.

The last time I saw him, it was Alaska aboard Sky Princess in the last days of summer 1992. We spent an evening in a bar in Juneau together after the ship's two senior officers, David Lumb and Roger Knight, couldn't agree on something. On a rainy Juneau night, Bill escorted me into town and we had a lovely evening standing up at a downtown tavern watching others shoot pool. Bill was first class company and a lot of fun. I remember him trying to protect me from the rain as I clip-clopped my way back to the ship in blue suede heels, magnificently inappropriate footwear for the Juneau rain.

William Kent.

William (Bill) Kent, of Lincolnshire, England, joined P&O (Peninsular & Orient), Princess Cruises' original parent company, in 1974 as a deck cadet, and served on a number of P&O/Princess ships over the years following. After training in Liverpool, he was promoted to the rank of Third Officer, and moved up the chain of command from there. As Safety Officer, he was in charge of passenger and crew safety drills, abandon ship procedures, crew safety training, and supervision of ships' tenders.

Since 2004, he has been elevated to the position of Captain aboard Princess Cruises, taking his first command aboard the Regal Princess. He holds the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve, specializing in amphibious operations and surface warfare. Currently, Captain William Kent has command of the Royal Princess as she does her 2009 World Cruise.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Caroline S. Mark

If you wander halfway up the globe from the Equator, then a quarter way around the globe from the Prime Meridian, 45' N 90' W, you find yourself nestled in the pines of north central Wisconsin in a community that might be a million miles from anywhere, a place where lumber barons established empires and insurance companies dot the landscape, where dairy farmers mingle with industrialists.

Wausau. The faraway place.

It was in that faraway place, on a quiet street atop a hillside overlooking the city, that I became familiar with a tall, stately woman who would change the landscape of the community forever.

Caroline Schumann Mark.

Caroline could be unassuming, but she was compassionate, powerful, a force of nature, a force for good. She was the widow at the end of the street, and we frequently enjoyed her company for cocktails with mutual friends, now gone. There, perched above the twinkling lights of the city in little jewel boxes, we'd talk about times past, people past, ice in cocktail glasses on crocheted coasters, little bowls of nuts. Deer grazed beneath picture windows. Spring gave way to fall.

Sadly, Caroline is also now gone. But her legacy in the community is permanent.

Caroline Schumann Mark was born to Florence Ford Schumann and John J. Schumann, Jr. of Montclair, New Jersey. Her father was president of General Motors Acceptance Corporation, and her mother's father was one of the founders of IBM. Together, her parents formed The Florence and John J. Schumann Foundation (now the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy), whose primary stated purpose is to renew the democratic process through cooperative acts of citizenship. One of the directors of that foundation has been journalist Bill Moyers, who has served as its President. Caroline graduated from The Madeira School for Girls in Maclean, Virginia, in 1936.

Like her parents, Caroline's legacy is one of committed philanthrophy, unparalleled in the community. Along with her late husband, William (Bill) Mark, they worked tirelessly for the local Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club, and countless other organizations in Wausau and elsewhere. The Wausau Conservatory of Music, the Performing Arts Foundation, and the Community Foundation were all enriched by her generosity. There's a Caroline S. Mark Recital Hall at the Conservatory, a Caroline S. Mark Gallery of Art at the Grand Theater, and a Caroline S. Mark Center for Students with Disabilities at Northcentral Technical College.

In the shadow of Rib Mountain, at the confluence of rivers, a community will never be the same because of one woman, whose name is literally everywhere, and whose memory, hopefully, will never be forgotten.

Caroline Schumann Mark, 1918-2002.

(Special thanks to the Wausau Daily Herald for the Caroline Mark photograph.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mary Kay Stout

It's amazing the number of places a person can live in during college days. . .dorm rooms with six people, dorm rooms with two, apartments off-campus, hanging off of hillsides or just around the bend, basement apartments in old brick homes, and nice duplexes a drive away.

I did all of that, at one time or another, harvesting a number of fascinating roommates.

I won't soon forget the first day I met Mary K. Stout. She was living already in an apartment where I moved in, sort of a basement for five, six if you really pushed it.

She had a room filled with shoes. Imelda Marcos truly had nothing on her. And she had a yellow duvet cover on her twin-sized bed, with butterflies on it. The room smelled of shoes and duvet. She seemed an unlikely candidate for any particular fame, but she was clearly a lovely person, a few years older than I, working on an advanced degree in organizational behavior and business.

I didn't take much particular notice until another roommate told me that I should pay attention to Mary Kay's purse.

Her purse?

It was a Coach bag. I'd never seen one before, being a neophyte from the sticks of Wyoming, where I'm sure at that time Coach bags were a fairly endangered species. Wait. To be endangered they'd have to have been there at all. Pretty sure that wasn't the case. Wyoming was then a Coach-free zone, I can almost with surety swear.

Anyway, roommate #2 said Mary Kay's father had been someone famous, part-owner of the California Angels, a famous attorney, and Mary Kay was reasonably well heeled.

I wouldn't have known it. I was lost in a maze of shoes and duvet.

But, as I said, Mary Kay was lovely, salt of the earth. Would take her shirt off for you if you were cold. Would pay for an airline ticket for you if your father was dying, and not expect repayment.

Yes, Mary Kay. I haven't forgotten.

Mary Kay never really seemed Provo. She was really all East Coast meets California, but not the places in-between. Washington, D.C.? Yes. LA? Yes. But not Provo.

Well, I had a lot of adventures with Mary Kay, and she was very much like a big sister to me for the time I knew her. But that was a lifetime ago. I learned a lot observing her. She wrote the numbers on her own checks, so not to pay a monthly service charge. She was the first person I knew who had a money market account. She knew who was consulting for Mars, and how they were paying for their homes. She had a brother-in-law on the Anthropology Department faculty at BYU, for whom she frequently housesat. And paid bills in their absence. She worked on handicapped accessibility for businesses. She was a good friend to those who knew her.

Mary Kathryn Stout.

There's a scene from the movie "About a Boy" that always reminds me, in the oddest of ways, of Mary Kay. It's the scene where Hugh Grant's character admits that his claim to fame, and his means of support, is that his father wrote a very famous Christmas song, "Santa's Super Sleigh."

I randomly associate that fictitious anecdote with Gene Autry, who was for all practical purposes Mary Kay's godfather, since her father, attorney Clair Stout, was Gene Autry's personal attorney and business partner, famous in both D.C. and L.A. at one time or another, vice-president of The Autry Foundation.

Mary Kay disappeared from my life. Last I knew she was in L.A., doing consulting. Her mom had built a huge new home.

But perusing the pages of a Salt Lake City newspaper some months ago, I came across this article, about a woman, celebrating her 100th birthday: "Spry, Stout Lady Marks Milestone." The story was later picked up by USA Today.

It was my Mary Kay's mother, Iris Stout. Mary Kay, if you're out there, I wonder, like I do about the star, where you are. I'm here. And I'm okay.

Oh, and I know a lot more about Coach bags now. A lot more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lisa Orme Bickmore

When I knew Lisa, she was part of a set.

A newlywed. Lisa Bickmore. Part of Steve and Lisa Bickmore. Salt and pepper shakers.

Part of a set.


One never saw the one without the other. One never thought of the one without the other.

Of all the people who made up that wild assemblage of characters I loosely refer to as the "Fifth Floor Study Group" from my college days in the late '70's, Steve and Lisa were the only couple we thought of entirely in the singular.

Lisa was married to my roommate's cousin. Although they were both studying English, they seemed an unlikely pair. Lisa was far more bohemian, and Steve was all about Vegas.

The most notable thing about Lisa was always her irreverence. For the time and place, it was striking.

I still have a very vivid image stuck forever in my mind of her telling all of us what her new favorite word was, a four-letter word that was very out-of-place for the the university in which she'd chosen to study. To hear it now in the wider universe might not be as jarring, but there, in the late 1970s, in Utah County, Utah, it was a pistol shot. It wasn't The Big Lebowski. It was Provo. She was audacious, and amazing.

I remember the last time I saw Lisa, with her Steve. I had one piece of a mystery, and they had been given the other, by the same person. Apparently, the person who shared half-a-gossip with them didn't count on them running into me with the other half-a-piece. Mystery solved. Was that cryptic enough for you? I hope so. There were baby carriages, and state fairs, and literature, and stories.

Lisa's personality seemed to me far too large for the salt-and-pepper set, far too large even for the corner of the omniverse she inhabited. She should have been in the Village during the Beat Generation, or San Francisco in the Summer of Love, Paris as an expatriate.

She left the set. But not the name.

Lisa Orme Bickmore.

Lisa Orme Bickmore is a published poet, especially well known for her collection of poems published as "Haste" in 1994 by Signature Books. Her works have appeared in scholarly and literary publications, including Quarterly West and Mudfish. She is a professor of English in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lovely bohemian. Lovely Lisa.

I still remember your favorite word.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sterling Jenson

Less than three short weeks after my seventeenth birthday, I gave the valedictory address at my high school graduation in Wyoming.

Two weeks later, I was off to college four hours away, as a very young freshman studying Interior Design and Philosophy at BYU, green, naive, impressionable, and very wide-eyed about being on a campus of 25,000 students when I had just graduated top in a class of 29.

I was a last-minute addition to summer term that year, having been awarded a scholarship to come early, in addition to the Presidential Scholarship they had already given me (at the time, the top scholarship, historically named after the current LDS Church President, was offered only to men, much to the chagrin of my father).

On the recommendation of a friend, I moved into an apartment at Campus Plaza for the summer, just off campus, where six of us, two from Boston, two from Salt Lake, an Arizonian and I, were crammed together in a very small space, with four beds in one bedroom and two in the other. One of my roommates, somewhat older, had graduated from Hillcrest High School in Salt Lake City, and thought it would be a splendid idea if I'd write to a friend and former classmate of hers from high school who was at the time serving as a missionary in in upstate New York, Rochester and Palmyra.

She pulled out her yearbook and showed me a picture. He seemed nice enough, with strong, chiseled features and piercing eyes; her description of him as a friend was equally persuasive, and I was happy to oblige.

I enjoyed the letters exchanged for the next few months. Sterling was a gifted writer and a faithful correspondent, and clearly had leadership skills. He was at the time assistant to the president of the mission, and when then LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball made a visit to the mission, Sterling had much to do with the arrangements. I still recall his words from that time.

Sterling returned to BYU after his mission and completed his studies, active in student government. He went on to get a master's degree in business and entered the world of finance.

Sterling Jenson.

In his lifetime, Sterling has been a financial analyst for Ford Motor Company and Portfolio Manager for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Investment Department, in addition to managing trusts and investments for various other firms. He is currently Regional Managing Director for Wells Capital Management, a division of Wells Fargo & Company, responsible for over $4 billion in combined assets under management. He is recognized as a leading investment and finance authority in the Intermountain West.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

LaVell Edwards

At the corner of US Highway 189 and the main street in my hometown of Big Piney, Wyoming, there's a garage that opened in 1912 or thereabouts, when only two motorcars had even made their way to that particular corner of the sagebrush, A. W. Smith's Pierce Arrow and Gull Whitman's Ford.

In its strategic location at the corner of the two most important roads in the community, it served a growing population of those who'd given up four-legged transportation for that powered by the treasured fossil fuels under their feet.

Along the way, one of the proprietors of the Big Piney Garage was Irwin Covey, who'd taken over from Walter Yose, Sr. after he'd taken over from the original owners, Lawrence Bess and Gull Whitman. Along with his wife Louise, he ran what we all affectionately called "Covey's" at 101 Front Street.

At some point, he offered his son-in-law the chance to join him in his business, but his daughter Patti's husband decided to take a teaching job instead in a Utah school district, and the rest, as they say, is history.

La Vell Edwards.

Saying the name "LaVell Edwards" in Utah is like saying the name "Vince Lombardi" in Wisconsin. In 1972 he was offered the head coaching position at BYU football, a role he filled until 2000. At the time of his retirement, the team ranked sixth in all-time victories. He moved the BYU Cougar football program into a passing-dominated game, and had such notable quarterbacks as Jim McMahon and Steve Young under his wing. He completed the 1984 season 13-0, and was named National Coach of the Year that year after he led the Cougars to a National Championship. Prior to his final game in 2000, the BYU football stadium was renamed LaVell Edwards Stadium in his honor.

LaVell could have joined his father-in-law at the garage in Big Piney. But he chose a different path. College football will never be the same.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Johnny Whitaker

Mention the name Johnny Whitaker to most people, and they recall fondly the television series "Family Affair" from the 1960's, a warm and fuzzy show headed by Brian Keith as a bachelor uncle who ends up raising two nieces and a nephew after they're unexpectedly orphaned.

Johnny Whitaker was 'Jody' of 'Buffy and Jody' on that show, a smiling, freckled, tousle-headed boy who charmed his way into the hearts of millions.

Prior to that show's run on network television from 1966 to 1971, Johnny had appeared in a couple of small roles, including as a very young Scotty Baldwin on the ABC soap opera, "General Hospital." During his time on "Family Affair," he had a memorable appearance as "The Littlest Angel" in the made-for-television special of the book, and after the end of his on-screen life as Jody, he famously appeared in the 1972 film "Napoleon and Samantha," co-starring a likewise young Jodie Foster. He teamed with Foster again in the starring roles of the 1973 musical version of "Tom Sawyer," which was nominated for three Academy Awards. It was from Jodie Foster that he got his first on-screen kiss.

Johnny appeared in numerous television shows and films over the next several years, including guest appearances on network shows like "Gunsmoke," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "Bewitched" and "Green Acres." In 1973 he starred in the Sid and Marty Krofft series, "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" as Johnny Stuart.

After graduation from high school in southern California, Johnny came to Utah to study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and prepare to leave on a mission for the LDS Church, which is where I met him in the late 1970s. Like all young prospective missionaries then, Johnny needed to take the MLAT (Modern Language Aptitude Test), which at the time I administered weekly as part of my responsibilities at the Missionary Training Center, a place where missionaries came to spend several weeks doing intensive language and missionary training prior to departing for various corners of the world, domestic and foreign. One's performance on that particular test generally was a significant factor in determining where the missionary would ultimately be sent (those who did better on the test generally, but not always, tended to be sent to locations where language was more difficult). Afterward, I would score those tests and send them to the appropriate authorities for screening.

Johnny came up and visited with me for a while after the test, concerned about how he did. Happily, he did well, evidenced by the fact that he was sent to Portugal for two years on his mission.

Johnny and I enjoyed talking about the fact that at the time we both drove the same car. In fact, I'm fairly certain we had the only two Renault 5 ("Le Car") GTLs in the area. To have a chic little French car in Provo was, well, fairly unique. Mine was brown with a gold stripe and a sunroof, and had "Voulez vous Le Car Avec Moi" displayed prominently in the tiny rear window. Nice little car, that. 54 mpg. Long gone.

He was a really great kid, and I met him at a very interesting juncture in his life. It was not long after the horribly tragic death of his beloved "Family Affair" co-star, Anissa Jones, who played Buffy and had struggled with the challenges of surviving child stardom.

Two roads diverged.

Johnny came back from his mission and completed his studies at BYU, got a degree in communications, then formed his own computer consulting firm and worked in a Los Angeles talent agency, Whitaker Entertainment. He teamed in later years with psychiatrist Dr. Ron Zodkevich for a radio talk show, "The Dr. Zod and Johnny Show" broadcast on the Cable Radio Network. He has been actively involved in issues involving addiction and child stardom, and is a certified addiction counselor. He is President and Founder of Paso Por Paso, an organization whose primary focus is helping Spanish-speaking addicts receive treatment and enter recovery.

Like many child stars, John had his bumps in the road, but he's happily still with us.

Johnny Whitaker.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Enid Greene

Back in the day when people still did that sort of thing, I met a young Enid Greene at an airport seeing off a mutual friend.

A few years later, she was married and elected to Congress as Representative from the State of Utah, only the third woman to ever achieve that distinction, and the first to do it as a Republican. Suddenly, she was splashed all over the newspapers.

Her campaign was accused of violating finance violations, and her husband, Joe Waldoltz, disappeared. When he suddenly surfaced, it became apparent that he had embezzled several million dollars of campaign funds. During his disappearance, she held a press conference to announce she was suing for divorce and custody of their daughter, and returning to use of her maiden name.

Her ex-husband pleaded guilty to federal charges and went off to prison. Enid rehabilitated herself in the Utah Republican Party.

Enid Greene.

After divorcing Joe Waldholtz and returning to her maiden name, Enid Greene agreed not to run again for Congress, and worked her way back up in the Republican Party in Utah, becoming Vice-Chair of the Utah Republican Party in 2003. In 2004, she unsuccessfully ran on the Republican ticket for Lieutenant Governor of Utah. She has remarried, and has her own radio show on a KSL radio. Her story is chronicled in the book "Blind Trust" by Lee Benson.

She is now Chair of the Republican Party of the State of Utah, and one of that state's electors.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Generose Gervais

About a month into my husband's complicated and difficult hospitalization in the fall of 2004, some good friends, Stewart and Kathy Laird of Minneapolis, came to visit us at St. Mary's Hospital of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where Larry was in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.

Stew, a former hospital administrator in Wisconsin and Minnesota, wanted to visit a friend of his who lived at the hospital, a Franciscan nun, and he and I set out to find her while Kathy stayed behind in Larry's room to pray.

We wandered down the halls of the Mary Brigh Building to the corridors of the older Domitilla Building, until we were past the main visitors' cafeteria and just outside the sisters' dining room, where we came upon an older woman in hairnet and apron putting jars of homemade pickles on a cart.

"Excuse me," Stew asked. "Do you know where I can find Sister Generose?"

It was Sister Generose.

Despite her unassuming appearance on that particular occasion which might have given rise to any patient, visitor or unknowing staff passing her by, Sister Generose is the life and heart and history of St. Mary's Hospital and the Franciscan alliance with Mayo Clinic.

Not everyone knows that Mayo Clinic, a world class health care institution, came to be because of a tornado in a cornfield in August of 1883, a tornado that wiped out much of the town of Rochester and left many seriously wounded and in need of medical care. The Sisters of St. Francis were called upon by a local physician, Dr. William W. Mayo, to take in the sick and wounded and care for them. The sisters, trained as teachers, not nurses, cared for the patients through the crisis, and when it was over, Mother Alfred Moes, the spiritual leader of the Rochester Franciscans, recognized the need for a local hospital and enlisted Dr. Mayo to help her in creating it. The sisters would work to acquire the land, and open the hospital, and provide nurses for it, she explained, if Dr. Mayo would staff it with doctors.

It was then that St. Mary's Hospital, and Mayo Clinic, were born, and an alliance was formed between the Sisters of Saint Francis in Rochester and the Doctors Mayo, an alliance that continues to this day.

From the time of Mother Alfred Moes, there began an unbroken chain of Franciscan sisters who were administrators of St. Mary's Hospital--Sisters Joseph, Domitilla, Mary Brigh,

and Generose.

Generose Gervais.

Sister Generose Gervais was the last Franciscan administrator of St. Mary's Hospital.

Like the great women who went before her, there is a building a St. Mary's that bears her name, the most recent addition, which houses Mental Health and Addiction Services just across from the main hospital.

There are fewer than two dozen Rochester Franciscans who continue to live in community in the convent at St. Mary's Hospital of Mayo Clinic in Rochester. They wrapped their arms around me during the difficult eight months that we were there for Larry's prolonged hospitalization and fight for his life, took me in, prayed with and for me and him, and gave me strength I would not have had otherwise. Some of these women were at St. Theresa's College in Winona, Minnesota, at the same time my husband Larry was a student at St. Mary's, and some knew him later at a time he served on the boards of both St. Mary's and St. Teresa's. When I needed them, they were there for me, and I will never forget their loving presence, or underestimate the power and strength of the Rochester Franciscans.

Sister Generose Gervais continues to be a larger than life presence in the Mayo/St. Mary's/Rochester community. She works tirelessly for the efforts of the Povarello Foundation, which enables those who are less fortunate to be able to receive health care at Mayo despite an inability to pay.

And she makes world class pickles.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mark Haddock

For most of my childhood, there was only one grocery store in Big Piney. Burney & Company sat at the end of the only paved street in our town, at a curve in the road about a block from the high school, and when I was younger it was dark, with lightbulbs hanging from chains, and a single pot-bellied stove near the center where locals would gather to chew the fat. Thursdays we got produce, lettuce and tomatoes, which we eagerly awaited. Many townspeople charged their groceries for months at a time; the ranchers would come in before snowfall to buy supplies for the winter, and many wouldn't be seen again until spring if things got bad enough. As kids we'd run into Burneys during our school lunch hour and buy candy bars for a nickel and charge them to our parents' accounts.

Then one day, everything changed. The Haddock family moved to town, and decided to open a second grocery store at the other end of the street. There was a community contest to name the new store, and the winning entry became a fixture in our community--Haddock's Food Fair. The Haddocks were from Idaho originally as I recall, and moved into a house just a block down the street from ours toward Highway 189, the main route from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole, the Tetons, and Yellowstone Park. It might as well have been a million miles from anywhere.

For a child growing up across the street from a power plant, barbed wire fences to keep cattle in and dogs and people out, and the occasional stray moose, there was no life except the constant subverted struggle between cattle and oil, the knowledge that the ranching dynasties of the community tolerated, but often resented, the presence of the more transient members of the community who came in by way of the petroleum industry, many of whom lived in subdivisions created by Belco Oil and El Paso Natural Gas for that purpose.

Because my father worked for a small, independent oil and gas company, we lived in town. We were among the fortunate few.

What I saw from that window was not just the sun rising over the Wind Rivers to the east, but the barbed wire fence across the street to the south, the alley way to the north where we burned garbage and played on propane tanks, and lots and lots of gravel roads, the occasional pine tree, and cottonwoods. Lots of cottonwoods.

For the winds of change to bring anyone else into that setting was something of a miracle. It wasn't just that there was competition in the grocery business. It was that change was coming. It was in the air, on the breeze floating like Forrest Gump's feather.

It was there.

Mark Haddock came on that breeze.

Mark was one of two children the Haddocks had with them when they came to town who were just older than I was, a young teenager at the time blossoming out into a world of possibilities. Mark wasn't a dime-a-dozen cowboy, or a roughneck's son, or a football jock. He was everything that world was not.

He was a drummer.

He belonged to that other-world of the interesting and relevant and not at all mundane, people who thought, and cared about political causes, and listened to music other than KMER, and somehow touched that consciousness beyond small town Wyoming. It was the world that only beamed into my bedroom at night after sunset when we could finally get the radio waves from Oklahoma City--KOMA --bringing the Bee Gees, and Carole King, and Rod Stewart into my store of permanent memory. It was the world I watched on television late at night after the rest of my family had gone to sleep, inhabited by the Dick Cavett Show. Mark dared to have longer hair, and be a musician, and think, and read, and hang out with friends he chose. In another place, he might have been a victim of redneck ignorance, but Mark was very popular and extremely well liked. He played the drums in band and stageband, and was the best drummer I'd ever heard. Ludwig drums and Zildian cymbals. He'd practice for hours, sometimes at the Legion Hall across town, with other musician friends who eventually formed a band. One of the greatest escapes in my life was to listen to that. I could escape the small town, and the four walls around me, and be free.

Mark had a John Cusack wit, and a SNL sense of humor. I loved being around that. I hoped my sensibility was sponge enough to soak up some of it, whether in the back of a school bus coming back from a school trip, or hanging out with his sister, Karen, who became a friend.

To this day I remember a lot of conversations I had with Mark, and many situations involving him, flashes of memory tucked away. He had a beautiful Irish Setter named Major, as I recall--Major Danny Boy Fitzpatrick--who'd run down the road in front of our house. Mark also had a motorcycle, a blue Kawasaki. Larry Vickrey had a similar one, different color maybe. Mark ended up dating a girl from Pinedale, but married a local girl, a few years out of high school. He went on to study music, then acquired several advanced degrees in business. Eventually he settled in Colorado, where he has made his home for the last several years, drumsticks still firmly in hand.

Mark became one of the founding members of the band Due West, and is now drummer for the Walker Williams Band.

Mark Haddock.

Mark was one of the most talented and interesting human beings I had the privilege of knowing, growing up in that small Wyoming town. I always knew he could do anything he wanted. And he did.