Tumuaki A. Reed Halversen Family
Contributor: trishkovach Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Memories of the Halversen family by William M. Dale, a missionary who served under President Halversen, as recorded in his autobiography:
I must acknowledge early in this account of my mission the great blessing that was mine in those presiding over the New Zealand Mission: my Mission President A. Reed and Mission Mother Luana Packer Halversen. Surely, much of the love and admiration I and my missionary companions have for the Halversens is the privilege we had of sharing the mission experience with them in New Zealand. But that is not singularly the situation. It took a very special Tumuaki (president) to replace Elder Matthew Cowley. When the Maoris speak of their “Tumuaki” they do so with noticeable respect bordering on reverence. We missionaries gained that same attitude toward our president with that title. Our beloved
Tumuaki A. Reed Halversen was a special leader with a specific assignment given him by President Heber J. Grant, “to find the Saints (after the war) and reorganize the districts and branches.” Reed Halversen had served as a missionary in New Zealand from 1922 to 1926. He learned te reo Maori fluently and taught for part of his mission at the old Maori Agricultural College in Korongata. He served under President Wright who, for health reasons, was required to return home early. Elder Reed Halversen was appointed “acting mission president,” which position he held for four months before a new president (Jenkins) could arrive from Salt Lake City. He continued to serve as “Assistant President” and his mission was extended for a fourth year.
When Elder Reed Halversen returned from his first mission, he delayed marriage because he waited for a very special (and beautiful) girl, Luana Packer; he was twelve years her senior. He was from Smithfield, Utah and she was from Franklin, Idaho (on the Utah/Idaho border). They were married in 1932. In the years preceding their call to preside over the New Zealand Mission, Tumuaki was manager of the California Packing (Del Monte) cannery in Smithfield. He was also Stake President. Sister Halversen told me of an incident in which a man (or men) had passed out deep in a well at the factory. No one knew if it was a toxic gas or lack of oxygen, but Tumuaki, at considerable risk to himself, went down into the well to effect a rescue. At work, as in his church assignments, he had great concern for the welfare of those with whom he worked. For his missionaries, that concern included enabling and helping them mature and become capable of leadership roles.
World War II was at the peak of hostilities when President and Sister Halversen received their call to preside over the New Zealand Mission. Their call came from President Heber J. Grant on August 1, 1944. Because of wartime travel conditions they could have no specific dates for which they could make plans and were told to be ready to leave with only short notice. While Japan had suffered great losses and was driven from many islands at this time, the entire Pacific Ocean was a war zone, and the Japanese fleet was still a major threat to shipping. Many Japanese submarines and floating mines made it very dangerous to cross the seas. The Halversens received instructions to leave Salt Lake in October 1944, and go to San Francisco for further instructions. While in San Francisco, Sister Halversen gave birth to a baby boy they named David. They were in San Francisco until June 1945 when they were instructed to go to New York for ship passage. This trip was by train under wartime conditions, making it very difficult for Sister Halversen and the small children. At that time of upheaval in their lives they had four children: Stan (11), Nita (8), Paul (4) and David (baby). They sailed from New York on June 6, 1945, passed through the Panama Canal and arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on July 24, 1945 (more than six weeks at sea and nearly a year after receiving their call). They took a train from Wellington to Auckland. The Cowleys left the day after the Halversens arrived in Auckland.
From the start, Tumuaki and Sister Halversen were greatly loved by the members in New Zealand, and they loved the members! They occupied the Mission President’s Home at #2 Scotia Place near the south end of Queen Street. It had been the headquarters of the New Zealand Mission for many years. Like the Cowleys before them, the Halversens were without missionaries for most of a year. The first post war missionaries arrived in 1946. The Halversens “inherited” an old (about 1936) Lincoln automobile that had been the president’s car for nine years and would be so until the Halversens were released in 1948. The car was well known throughout the land and Maoris would watch for the car and signal “Tumuaki’s coming!” Sister Halversen met the challenge of establishing a home environment for her family, getting the children in school and giving stability to their young lives. She was active in mission matters, attended conferences and was overseer of the women’s programs, particularly the Relief Society and the Primary (working with the presidents of these organizations). She wrote articles for the monthly mission magazine, TeKarere, and was a counselor to many. She traveled with Tumuaki frequently and was a very good speaker. She loved the Maoris and they loved Sister Halversen. When she could not travel with Tumuaki the members always expressed their disappointment. When the Halversen family arrived on a marae the children disappeared rapidly among the gathered Saints. David (Tewi to the Maoris) would be handed to outstretched arms through the open car window as women yearned to hold the little white haired boy; he was very popular all the time he was there because of his age and snow white hair. On one occasion Sister Halversen was holding Tewi who was crying and miserable because he was teething. Tumuaki took him from Sister Halversen to a Maori sister to give Sister Halversen a “break.” The sister was gone a short time, and when she returned, she had cut Tewi’s gums with a sharp edge of broken glass to release the pressure, an old Maori practice. Sister Halversen felt terrible when she learned about it, but Tewi felt better and never had any problems afterward.
We missionaries loved the Halversen children. One morning about 5:30, I went downstairs and saw Nita standing outside the back door; she was locked out, still in her nightgown. She was pleased someone else was up early to let her in. When I was in Auckland she and I would walk in the early morning down Queen Street to the Quay to see the ships. We became good friends and I felt particularly close to her in years to follow (Lynnette and I named our daughter after Nita Halversen). It was always comfortable to be around the Halversens, at the mission office and elsewhere. They had a special way of saying “you are important” and “thank you for what you are doing.” All the missionaries loved them! We always knew where we stood with them. But it should also be said that Tumuaki Halversen presided with loving authority, informed missionaries where they needed to be corrected, and left no doubts as to who presided in the mission. He had special leadership skills. Not long after I was called as superintendent of the Mission YMMIA I had a problem that bothered me because I didn’t think I knew the right course. I mentioned to Sister Halversen that I thought Tumuaki would know what I should do. She responded in her kindly way that I should not expect him to solve my problems, and it was a policy with him that he would listen to people’s problems and give counsel where appropriate, but he would not make decisions for those who were properly called to manage their own assignments. That was a very good lesson for me; it served me well in the mission, in other church assignments (especially as bishop), and in my professional career.
Matthew Cowley was called “the man of faith.” Tumuaki and Sister Halversen were very much like Elder Cowley with this important spiritual gift. I believe the Halversens and Elder Cowley were “cut from the same mold;” I have never known people of greater faith than these. On one occasion in Korongata, Tumuaki Halversen was there for a brief stop before going back to Auckland and I was to travel with him.
I had been sick for a day or two and felt I should not go. Tumuaki and Elder Robert Parson gave me a blessing and Tumuaki cast the illness from me. I still felt weak when I went to bed, but in the morning I had no indications of the problem. The trip to Auckland was a pleasant and memorable experience, memorable mostly because the gas guage in the Lincoln showed “empty” from Hamilton on, and I watched intently while Tumuaki continued to drive as though the tank were full and bowsers (gas stations) were open (they were not)!
It was my privilege to spend some times at the Mission Office on MIA business. Each visit was special and an opportunity to be with the Halversens in the rich spiritual and very friendly environment they created. For myself and all my companions, the end of Tumuaki Halversen’s administration came too quickly. After several days of farewell activities in Auckland and other branches, the Halversens left New Zealand on August 3, 1948. Hundreds of Maoris came from all over the Mission to see them depart. They sang and performed action songs at the pier, and as the Marine Phoenix was pulled away from the dock, the strains of Po a Ta Ra (Now is the Hour) in the beautiful Maori voices brought out the reality of
Tumuaki and Sister Halversen were “one.” Their relationship with each other epitomized the concept
of man and woman as companions. After our missions, and we missionaries were married and had
families, the Halversens accepted our spouses as though they too had been their missionaries. A very
close feeling exists today even after 50+ years. I have sensed a special relationship to exist between
Lynnette and Sister Halversen; and that has given me much satisfaction. We continue to “keep in touch”