Tribute to Helen
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Tribute to Helen
Written by her sister, Madge Leavitt Olsen Hyde
January 21, 1909 dawned a cold, sunless, wintry day, but before too many hours passed, sunshine filled the William Israel Leavitt home. Mary Sperry Leavitt had safely delivered her fifth child, a third daughter named Helen. Grandmother Harriet Bowen Leavitt was there at our home, in Provo, Utah to help. Also helping- or hindering- were Alta (age 11), Mont (age 9), Dan (age 7 who also had a twin brother who died at birth), me- Madge (going on 4 years of age).
Helen was a beautiful baby with dark hair and unusually large, round eyes. She had a delightful personality, and she made friends with all who came to our home. Her infancy seemed to pass rapidly and soon we were sharing joys as playmates- singing to our dolls and strolling them down the sidewalk. Helen’s deep love for all children was evident even then. Whenever she would stray away from the family on a shopping trip, we always looked around for the closest baby buggy, and would usually find Helen wistfully gazing at a little baby.
Among the many activities we enjoyed was roller skating. Helen and I also shared a bicycle; this proved to be a problem occasionally because we used it as a mode of travel. Helen was an enthusiastic member of the softball team; she loved and enjoyed this sport. In fact, she enjoyed participating in any kind of outdoor sport. We were fortunate to live close to the foothills and we spent many adventurous days hiking and picnicking.
Close friends of the family were William and Tess Gammon. They were a fun-loving, good natured family. It seems they had children to match all of ours, so we made quite a group. We spent many enjoyable hours together. A typical Saturday night would find us pulling taffy, singing around the piano, or dancing to the lively tunes of the harmonica.
Our father was an electrician. We had a modest home that our father and mother strived to keep neat and orderly. We always had fresh eggs and milk- and delicious vegetables from Papa’s garden. In the summer after our chores were completed, it was always a treat to get to make beds of straw in the hay loft. What fun it was to spend the nights there!
Papa’s income was adequate for our clothing and food, but if it hadn’t been for our sister Alta- who by this time was out of school and employed- we would have grown up without many of the little extras that meant so much to us. Alta would give each of us a dime, then we could spend a golden afternoon at the movies. She generously helped us whenever we needed her.
Helen was gifted with musical ability. Alta and Helen studied the piano under Aleen Simmons, and both became accomplished pianists. Helen was talented in both playing by ear and by note; her music always had her own special touch. Papa encouraged them both to play the piano and me to play the violin. Our home was filed with music. We belonged to the era of the “parlor.” The parlor was a special room kept spic and span for company- and also kept cold because Papa couldn’t see heating a room that wasn’t used. We spent many memorable evenings as a family grouped around Helen at the piano.
Helen became the organist for the Primary at the age of twelve. Her love for music, combined with her love for children, made Primary her lifelong joy.
Helen was a very pretty, popular teenager. Dates were plentiful, and with her flair for making friends, she enlivened any party. After she graduated from high school, Helen worked for several years at the Knight Woolen Mills, a huge factory in Provo which employed many people. She subsequently was employed at the Utah Telephone Company where she worked up to the Assistant Chief Operator before transferring to the Columbia Steel Plant.
Helen was truly blessed in finding her mate. She and Eldon L. Nelson were married September 1, 1932 in the Salt Lake Temple. Their first home- in Garfield- was typical of their other homes where the feel of a relaxed and happy atmosphere was so abundant that family and friends gravitated to their home.
Our companionship seemed to grow as we each experienced the rich joys of marriage and parenthood. We truly appreciated each other and realized the precious gift of being sisters. Our families would gather at our parent’s home on Saturday nights to visit. We helped our aging parents with everything we could.
Our grandmother Leavitt made her home with Helen and Eldon until her death at the age of ninety-eight. Helen was always kind to her, and she genuinely loved having Grandmother in her home.
Eldon moved his family back to Provo from Garfield. Jim, Gene, Mary, David, and Joe soon had the small frame house he had built, bursting at the seams. Construction was soon started on a larger home. Everyone rallied around to help and soon the house- put together with friendships and love- was ready for an open house party. Eldon appropriately sang “Bless This House” while Helen played the piano at this side. Kathy and Robert added up to seven children for the Nelson Family. Bless this house? Indeed, the Lord had.
Helen deeply loved her family, and she took pains to help each of her children individually with their needs. She had an unwavering faith in our Heavenly Father, and she directed her children in paths of righteousness. She took special delight in her children’s musical ability. They also took lessons from Helen’s former teacher, Aleen Simmons.
Music continued to play an important role throughout Helen’s life. She accompanied many soloists and vocal groups, played for funerals’ and played piano for many functions in the ward. She and Eldon were called upon many times to perform.
Helen’s courage and great character came forth at the tragic death of her beloved husband. In 1952, Eldon drowned at Fish Lake (Utah). Being left alone with seven children and the tremendous responsibility of managing a bus business would be challenging for anyone. Helen seemed to meet each obstacle with resilience and renewed determination.
In 1953, we heard the grievous news that Helen had cancer. During her illness she seemed to have a deep resource of more courage and strength to endure the pain and suffering. Helen retained her wonderful attitude to the end- always expressing appreciation for the many kindnesses offered her. She had walked with God while the sun was shining, and she could walk with strength when the shadows came.
If I were asked to ascertain the most outstanding attribute of my sister Helen, I would designate her knack for making friends. She projected a radiant warmth to people- and they responded. She was helpful, always willing to listen and then to help in any way she could. Helen loved life, and she put a lot of living into the forty-seven years of her mortal existence. Helen left us- and this world on 1 June 1956.
I would like to borrow some words from the poetess Florence Steigerwalt to help me express of feelings for Helen- whose life was truly an object lesson for others.
Helen, my dear sister, you were to me like music, low- yet clear
A fire that threw its warm bright glow on me as on each woman, child
And common thing that lay within its rays:
You were like wholesome food that stays the cry of hungry, groping minds;
And like a star- a self-sufficient star-
You made me raise my utmost being to a higher sky.
Memories of Mont
Contributor: SouthPawPhilly Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
In Memory of my Brother, William LaMont Leavitt
By Madge Leavitt Olsen
My brother, Mont- as he was called- was a kindly, rather quiet steadfast man. When young and growing up in our home, we all loved Mont very much. He was a very good boy; obedient to our parents and gentle and kind to all of us- especially his younger sisters. Mont loved to read, even as a young boy I remember he spent many hours reading. He used to read to Helen, my younger sister and me and was also very good at telling stories of the books he had read. Our brother, Dan was just younger than Mont and had a very different personality. He was more outgoing and interested in sports, boxing and out-door activities. My brothers got along fine and had many friends together around our neighborhood and in the ward where we lived.
The Franklin school where we all attended school, was just a block from our home. It is still a very nice school today. Mont’s friends were Henry Clements and Benni Lewis – a close neighbor whose mother was a widow that our father helped out a great deal. Some of the other families and boys that were close to Mont were: The Kopps’, The Vincents’, The Liddiards’, and The Jones’ families. Henry Clements and Mont continued to be good friends throughout their adult life.
Mont’s character was built on honesty, doing good deeds’ to his fellow man, humility and love. Our home was really not too religious in part, but our parents taught us righteousness, respect for each other- and others- and to honor our Father and Mother. Our dad was a very strict person; we all knew this and minded him to the very degree, but underneath the stern exterior, we knew he loved us very much and was strict for our own good. Our mother was a more religious person; she was active in the ward and neighborhood, and our dad respected her very much for this.
As Mont grew up he still had the great desire and urge to read a great deal. His most favorite books were written by Zane Gary- The Purple Sage- being one of his favorites. I remember how he used to relate to us of how Zane Gray lived in Utah, and Mont studied a lot of history- in and around Kanab, Utah where Zane lived. Reading was a great asset to Mont as he matured and he was interested in learning all about our ancestors. Our grandparents- on both sides- having been early pioneers. He accumulated a lot of history about the Leavitt line, which has since been used in our genealogy work. Since Mont’s hobby was reading, he became knowledgeable in many things, due to the time he spent reading and studying various subjects of the past- and also current events.
Our house was a very modest, ordinary home. When our parents were first married they made their home in Eureka, and Silver City where our father worked in the mines there. Alta, Mont, and the twins, Dan and Leon were all born there. Leon having died at the age of 6 months, was buried there. Dad continued to work in the mines for several years and later leased for some company. He was rather successful at it, and provided him the opportunity to save and eventually buy our home in Provo, Utah.
Our home was located at 492 South 700 West in Provo. It was on a very pretty and attractive corner. Our folks moved there in 1905. I, Madge was born there that same year. Grandma Leavitt lived just two blocks East from us at that time, and when I was born she was the mid-wife to my mother- as well as with all the other children that my mother gave birth to. Grandma Leavitt played a very important part in our lives as we were growing up. We had a rather large corner lot with a barn, sheds, fruit trees, chickens, pigs and always- a cow. Dad always grew a large vegetable garden- which was the envy of many in the neighborhood. He raised almost all of our food, and mother would can and store all our needs for winter. Our cellar- as was called in those days- was the storage place for much of our food supply for the coming year.
School in Mont’s time was very much as they are today, with active sports teams and ball games. Mont and Dan, with their friends often played these games. In the spring of the year when Mont was in the 8th grade, he became ill. The illness came on very gradual and as he grew worse, the doctors’ were called in. They gave him very extensive examinations, but they couldn’t determine the cause of his illness.
Mont was eventually hospitalized in the old Aird Hospital in Provo. He had developed a stiffness over his entire body, and as it progressed he also developed lock jaw and was unable to walk or talk or move a muscle. The doctors’ finally diagnosed it as Tetanus blood poisoning. At that time in our history, it was very rare; penicillin was unheard of and there seemed to be nothing to control this type of illness that had consumed his entire body. Through some extensive examinations, they found that earlier in the year, Mont had run a large sliver in his hand around the thumb area and had done nothing about it to ward off infection. Had this been detected earlier, perhaps they could have done something to keep the infection from taking over. After several weeks in the hospital, the doctors’ met with both our parents and told them they could do no more for Mont. The might as well take him home to care for him. So he was transferred home and to their care. They did the best they could, holding little hope for his recovery.
I remember so well of being frightened to go into the room where Mont was. He couldn’t talk, or move his body at all. He drank through a straw because his mouth was so stiff and he couldn’t move his jaw. Our parents would sit up with him at night and the neighbors were wonderful to help us in any way they could. Our Aunt Lil, Margaret’s step-mother was there nearly every night. She would drive in from their farm out near the Springville road in her horse and buggy. She would come at night because Uncle Charles, our father’s brother, was a mail man and he used the horse and buggy to drive all over the Provo Bench- now Orem- to deliver mail. Aunt Lil would hurry home in the morning with the buggy so she could get Charles off to work. As time went on, Mont’s condition changed very slowly, and he gradually recovered. Our family always felt so grateful to all who helped us during this time.
Mont was slowly nursed back to health with faith and prayers, and loving care that was given to him. He slowly regained the use of his arms and legs. For months he had to stand with the help of our dad or someone. He walked on his toes because the muscles in the back of his legs were so stiff his heels wouldn’t come down level with his foot. The doctors’ truly called his recovery a miracle and his case went down in the history of the Aird hospital. They told us they had one other case similar to Mont’s and the Japanese man died.
With the help of Mont’s teachers- and his ability to read and write well while confined to his bed- he was able to graduate with the class from the eighth grade. He walked up to receive his Diploma on his toes, and we were all so proud and grateful for him and his recovery.
Life went along well for Mont; he was very dependable and found work in the area. He worked part-time at Startup Candy company before and after- he was out of school. Later on, my dad went into business for himself in construction of homes; lathing and shingling houses. He contracted with Talboe, and Groneman’s Inc. and did many jobs for them. They spent one summer working at Copperton and other businesses over the years.
We were all very happy when Mont married Thelma Cluff. We enjoyed them very much. They lived near our folks, and we became a very close family. Alta was married several years before Mont, and she & Vic moved up near Logan- they had one son, Paul.
The great depression was approaching at this time: 1929 & 1930. Work was scarce but we struggled on through it. Mont and Thelma were expecting a baby and we were all so excited because we didn’t see Alta and Paul too often, and with Mont and Thelma living near us, we knew that we would be able to see and play with the new baby. Gloria was born 16 January 1928, and Mont was very happy. He used to whistle the tune which was popular at that time: My Blue Heaven. Later, during the depression, Ronald LaMont was born 18 June 1931- on his mother’s birthday. Ron was a healthy, beautiful baby and our parents helped them out a lot during this time. Mont and Thelma were both very happy with their family, and enjoyed their children very much throughout their lives. Their family always came first for them- in everything.
The years sped by. Dan was married by this time. His wife Flava was welcomed into the family and soon they had a baby son, named Gerald. They lived in Payson, Utah and Dan worked on the power lines there. I was going with my future husband by this time, Roy K Olsen and he provided us with transportation since he always had a car. We used to drive over to visit Dan and Flava often and enjoyed their love and friendship a great deal.
Within in a few years, I was married and also Helen our younger sister had married Eldon Nelson when he returned home from his mission in Denmark. Thus, our parents were alone now in the old home- but some of my fondest memories are those when we used to all get together on a Saturday night with the folks. Mont and Thelma still lived close by. Roy and my family would come from Orem. Helen and her family would drive down from Magna (Eldon worked there in the Kennecott for several years before they moved back to Provo). Dan and his family would also on occasions join us. These were wonderful years in that we all stayed close to the family. We would help our parents with anything that needed attention, and our love and friendship grew over the years.
On several occasions we planned our vacations together and drove to California. We went by way of San Francisco one time and all stayed overnight with Roy’s Uncle Rod and Aunt Vera. Uncle Rod was a superintendent of a big lumber mill in Portala, California. They took our whole family over to Reno and showed us the town, and we toured the mill near their home. Roy always used to get along very well with Mont; he was called Ole, by Mont; and Roy called Mont, Levi. We all enjoyed each other’s companionship during this time in our lives. When work was scarce during the depression, they used to help us on our farm: packing fruit, or in the picking of cherries or apples.
Mont’s family was very important to him. Gloria and her husband, Arnold were the proud parents of Mike, Janice and Nancy. They gave so much joy to Mont when they were small. Of course, Jody came along later after Mont was gone, but he truly would have enjoyed her too. By this time, Ron was well on his way to manhood and was soon in the service. Mont and Thelma traveled around several different places to visit Ron while he was in the Air Force. This gave them the travel opportunity they had been looking forward to, and they were very of proud of Ron’s accomplishments in life.
With the name Lamont being a sur-name in our family line. I looked up a little information on this and found that Mary Lamont, was born 29 November 1789 and married Charles Sperry, 26 April 1810. My mother was also named Mary LaMont Sperry and then passed her name on to Mont when he was born. It makes it and interesting story to carry on a family name.
In 1941, when Geneva came to Utah and build their plant near Orem, Mont had the opportunity to seek employment there. He really enjoyed and profited by his employment there for a number of years. He worked in the machine shop and advanced to a very good job there until the time of his death in 1962.
Each lift must touch so many lives
From morn till set of sun
Leave many marks for right or wrong
By things that it has done
Gloria: When you asked me to write a little of Mont’s younger life- and his growing up years in our home, it made me very happy to do this for you. The circumstances this past year have been very sad and difficult for you and your mother. But adversity seems to surface in some form in all our lives. Time does heal- but it does take time. I know, from some of the things I’ve been called upon to bear, that trials have given my strength and courage to go on. I hope and pray things will go well for you, and you will be able to enjoy your lovely family and the things in life that we all have to be thankful for.
Written by Madge Leavitt Olsen Hyde