Garth Anderson James Autobiography
Contributor: Nate Created: 11 months ago Updated: 11 months ago
GARTH A. JAMES HISTORY
This history may be some what disjointed because I will just ramble on about things I remember.
To begin with I was born 1 August 1926 in a small two room brick house on the farm of my paternal grandparents. My parents were living there at the time. My father was David Woozley James and my mother Lurline Anderson James. The small red brick home was very old having been built in the late 1800’s. It was made of very soft brick, soft enough that as children we would take a stick and make holes in the brick surface by just turning them around against the brick. The home had two rooms in it with the outside door entering into the kitchen room. Off of this room there was a small pantry and a small closet. A door from the kitchen went into the bed room / living room. It was in this room that I was born.
My memory of that home was not from my birth years but from later childhood memories as we stayed with my grandparents and even later as my brother Bob and his wife, Zoe, as newly weds lived in that home.
There was no running water in the home. Water was obtained from a pump and a well a few feet from the kitchen door. Next to that was a shanty room where coal and wood were stored as well as other things. Behind the house was a root cellar for the storage of bottled fruits and vegetables as well as root products produced on the farm. Back to the south several yards was the outhouse. East of the home was an orchard with fruit trees, with large shade trees to the front (north) of the home. East of the orchard area were corrals, milking shed, hay stacks and Grandpa’s blacksmith shop. East of that was our grandparents home. Theirs was a lovely brick home built in the 1920’s. That home had a well and pressurized water with indoor plumbing, etc. which was unusual for the area and very much up to date for the time. Very few of the homes in the area had any indoor plumbing, in fact several homes were one room log homes with minimal amenities. Behind our grandparents home was the pump house with coal storage and other storage capacities. My memories are very vague on this next point but behind the pump house was a two room log house. It was in this house that my father was born. It faced to the east with one window in each of the two rooms. I remember this home but have no memories of it’s interior. At some point this was torn down and the logs were left in a pile for many years. My paternal grandparents were John Hyrum James, known as J. J. James because there was another John Hyrum James, and Catherine Jane Woozley James. They lived in that lovely brick home and were very much a support to us.
We lived in the small brick home for a year or two after I was born. My brother Bob had been born in Grandpa Anderson’s home in Malad. Grandpa Anderson was John Weber Anderson. My grandmother Anderson, Elizabeth Wycoff Young Anderson, died while my mother was in high school, we later lived with Grandpa Anderson. My later formative years were with Grandpa Anderson as I will discuss later. While we live on the farm my father worked in the local J.C. Penney’s store as well as working in the farm with Grandpa James. The farm was not sufficient to support the two families, it being a sixty acre irrigate farm. Later because of the inadequate income, my parents move us to Salt Lake City where my father acquired ownership of a trade school, training telegraphers and railroad people. Grandpa Anderson had help financially in the purchase of this school. There were contracts with railroads for the employment of the students after their training was complete.
My memories of the first years in Salt Lake City are few. I do have some memory, perhaps more an awareness from pictures I have seen rather than actual memory, of living in an apartment house with an iron fence around the front of this apartment building and can remember a hallway leading to our apartment. Later we moved to a white frame home on the street just west of East High School. I have clear memories of this home and events that occurred there. Bob and I played under the back porch in the dirt and on the driveway in the front. One of my memories of that location was of my father being ill, being home in bed and cared for by Mother. As we were playing out in front of the house with a boy, somewhat older that us, who lived next door, we came across a rather large yellow cricket type of an animal (probably a Mormon cricket although they tend to be of a darker color). That boy told us that our father was sick because he had been bitten by that “California sand spider” and that he was going to die. I remember running into the house crying to mother that Daddy was going to die. She, in her loving way, assured me that was not the case and that he was going to be fine. Just a few years ago, based upon my childhood memories I was able to drive to that house and found it still standing and occupied although some of the other homes in the area that I remember were gone. We left that home the month that I turned five.
Going back a bit, it was while we were living in that apartment house that another brother was born. David has been described as a robust, barrel chested baby. He developed pneumonia when but a few weeks old and died. It was a great sorrow to my parents, particularly to my mother who grieved for this lost little son. He is buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery in a James family plot. A few years ago my brother John and sister Doris and I obtained a headstone for his grave. It had gone all these years without a marker.
It was while we were in Salt Lake City that my sister, Doris, was also born. She was born in one of the hospitals but I do not know for sure which one but I think it was St. Mark’s. So there were the three children in the home by East High. Some of the older children in the neighborhood would go over to the school and bring back black widow spiders in jars. Crazy thing one remembers.
In fall of 1929 the stock market crashed which brought on the great depression. With the resulting economic situation, the employment opportunities for the students from Dad’s school became not existent and therefore the business failed. Just a few memories about that school as I remember being there. There were class rooms but the thing I remember specifically was a large “laboratory” room about the size of a gymnasium. There were railroad track and switch mechanisms etc. all over, up and down and around. The train cars that were there were later some of the toys that we played with. They were a foot or so long and about five inches tall. Perfect little models of the big railroad cars, all painted as miniatures of that which they represented. The students would learn the total railroad and telegraphic operations on these small scale systems. They were much larger that the toy trains that we see in home train sets. We took some of these little train cars with us to Malad and played with them for many years.
The school failed because Dad could not come up with a $500 payment to keep the school open. As a result Grandpa Anderson took a tremendous financial loss also. Prior to the crash my father was living high on his income from the school and was not frugal and not saving for the future. From reports that I have heard, he was not faithful to Mother and was throwing wild, expensive parties. I doubt if Mother was aware of this at the time. She was very naive and trusting and absolutely adored Dad.
When the crash came and the school failed other employment was non- existent and so Dad took us to Malad to Grandpa Anderson’s. He had presented this as just a visit but in actuality he never intended to take us back to Salt Lake City. I remember that trip very well, it was the month that I turned five years old. We were in a Model A Ford or similar car. It had running boards with medal racks along the side of the running boards. Our suit cases were carried in these racks as well as our dog rode there all the way to Malad.
Mother was not aware that this was a permanent move but thought that it was only a visit. It would appear that Dad was less than honest with her on this or perhaps he did have hopes of finding work in Salt Lake and would take us back. I don’t know his thoughts. Anyway, he returned to Salt Lake and continued to seek employment but came to Malad occasionally. On one of those visits Mother became pregnant with my brother John. Dad was unable to find employment and therefore went to California as so many did during the depression years.
Dad did find employment in California but never attempted, as far as I know, to bring us down there to live. He established a liaisons with another woman. This was totally destructive to Mother’s sense of well being and to her self esteem.
That move to Malad was in August 1930. On two or three different occasions, according to my memory, Dad came from California to visit. On one of these visits, I remember he took Bob and me to see some of his friends up on the St. John bench. I remember being around an old granary. He had a pistol and was showing it to the men and they were all shooting it. It was the first time I remember seeing a gun fired. On one trip he took Bob and me up the Gray’s river in the Star Valley on a fishing trip. I guess I was about seven or eight years old at that time. Uncle Bill Anderson, mother’s brother went with us on that trip. We had a wonderful trip of camping and fishing. These are fond memories of a boy with his father. The last trip that he made from California was the summer of my tenth birthday. He took Bob and me and some other person, I think it was Grandpa James but do not recall for sure, to Yellowstone Park. We stopped in the area of Rexburg to see some of my parent’s friends and did some fishing out west of Rexburg. It was a small stream but was full of brook trout. A great experience of fishing. While Dad was setting up the camp Bob and I caught enough fish for our evening meal. I spent my tenth birthday at Madison Junction camp ground in Yellowstone Park. I have often joked about the fact that for breakfast on my tenth birthday I ate a whole pie. Grandma James had made pies for us to take along. She had made for me a small raisin pie about four inches diameter. I ate that whole pie for my birthday breakfast. Dad had given us each a new fly rod fishing pole and a dollar for our personal expenses. I spent fifty cents of that dollar and I kept the remaining fifty cent piece as a memento of my father until many, many years later.
I recall that some time between my fifth and tenth year being in the kitchen of Grandpa Anderson’s home. Grandma and Grandpa James were there for dinner. I was quietly playing under the couch that Grandpa had in the corner of the kitchen. He had difficulty in walking and therefore he had a couch in the kitchen and in the dinning room so he could rest as needed. This couch was one that the sides could be raised up and be made into a bed. I was under there playing and Mother and Grandma James were washing dishes. All of a sudden Mother started to cry. She told Grandma that my Father had asked for a divorce. As I indicated, he was living with some woman in California. Shortly thereafter Grandpa and Grandma James made a trip to California but at that time my father was not one to listen to counsel and I don’t think my grandparents were too forceful in their efforts to have him re-establish his relationship with his family as he should have done. Although at this age I did not fully understand what a divorce was, this was to me a very traumatic thing and I can remember crying by myself on the front porch because my daddy had asked for a divorce from my mother. Mother did not agree to a divorce and therefore it was never realized and my parents remained married although separated until my father’s death.
Through this period my father did not sent money of any significant amount for the support of the family and so we were totally dependent upon the generosity and good graces of Grandpa Anderson. Grandpa James sent milk each day to the local creamery on the milk truck which brought the milk from throughout the valley. He would include a bucket of milk for us which we would go down to pick up. He also occasionally made available, through the creamery, butter and cheese. During this time Mother took in sewing and tried to do what she could to generate some income. She would have people bring cloths to be worked on. These she would totally disassemble, wash the fabric, redesign and make a new garment, whether a coat or a dress for the “great sum” of one dollar or a dollar and a half. She spent days sewing on the treadle sewing machine. Dad had never been sympathetic toward the church, in fact he was very opposed to the church, and mother had not been allowed to pay tithing while we were with Dad but now that she was on her own she vowed to pay an honest tithe. For her first month with this resolve, she paid a tithe of thirty five cents. She had made three dollars and fifty cents that month to support the needs of her and four children. From that time she always lived the law of the tithe and her circumstances steadily improved thereafter.
Mother had taught school before she was married and with that background she was later contacted to teach some adult education classes in the county. She also worked as the librarian in our little city library. After this she was hired as the book keeper and reporter for the local weekly newspaper “The Idaho Enterprise”. After a couple or so years at this job she was approached by the Republican Party to run for the position of county treasurer. The person occupying this position was well entrenched and many thought she couldn’t be defeated, however mother took the challenge and proved them wrong. The lady left with some hard feelings because jobs were not readily available. Mother continued unopposed, except for one other election, in that position for the next twenty eight years. She retired, from the position of county treasurer, after her struggle at these different jobs and all those years of hard work, to realize the joy of her home and flowers.
Perhaps I should mention Grandpa Anderson a bit more. Grandpa was a tremendous individual. As a child I did not have great love and the respect for him that I should have had because of his stern nature and also the fact that I reminded him of my father I didn’t think he liked me at all. I have since realized the great blessing it was to have been with him for those important years in my life.
His home was a lovely home. When we first went there my Aunt Lucile (mother’s sister) was still single and living in the home. She had gone to beauty school in Salt Lake City and had her beauty shop in the home. The ladies came there for permanent waves and other things. The bathroom had a special plumbing system over the sink where she would wash their hair. The front bedroom of the home was where she had her beauty shop. I remember the parties that she had. Particularly I remember a party that she and her friend from across the street had. The entire front yard was made up as a Japanese garden with lanterns hanging all over. It was very festive and beautiful. My first memory of being in church was with Aunt Lucile. I have no memory of ever going to church before being in Malad. I recall that Aunt Lucile had gone on a trip to Alaska from where she had brought some small Eskimo items. I sat in church with her and played with some little carved animals that she brought from her trip. This is my first memory of being in church.
As I said Grandpa Anderson was a wonderful man but I did not have the love and respect for him that I should have had. I say respect, I suppose I respected him but more accurately I think I feared him because he was a stern individual in my boyish view. Mother adored him. I am so grateful for the teachings that he gave me in my youth. He was a man of great dignity having been a very successful person in business and also the mayor of the city. He had been a sheep man, starting out as a youth in Wanship, Utah where he was born. A little bit about his family: He was born on 7 April 1866. His father was Archibald King Anderson and his mother Hannah Acomb. They were pioneers having come across the plains and settling in Salt Lake City where they met and married. The story is that she was very popular and he didn’t like it so he took the family out of the city and went up into the less settled area of the mountains. They were stalwart in their faith and very hard working people. Grandpa was the sixth in a family of thirteen children, the first of the children to be born after to move to Wanship. He was born near the banks of the Weber river and therefore was given the name of John Weber Anderson. Grandpa often told us of early experiences in his life. It was a time when the Indians were still around and he knew Chief Washakie and his people. They often passed the Anderson home. A good relationship existed between the family and the Indians. One time Uncle Arch (grandpa’s brother) was over in a town in Wyoming to sell some horses. He was walking along the boardwalk at night when someone spoke out of the dark of a building and said, “Arch”. It turn out to be an Indian who recognized Arch from his foot steps. He warned Arch to take his stock out of the area they were in because there was to be a raid the next day. Arch took the live stock out onto an island in the river. The next day a raid occurred with others losing their animals, his were saved. Grandpa described how as a boy he was responsible for gathering the cattle from the mountains. His mother would build a big fire on a hill near the farm to guide him home. His mother made the cloths that they wore, even making their straw hats from the straw from the fields. As a youth he started to work for some sheep men but instead of taking money for his wages he took sheep. By this means he build his own herds and became a very successful sheep man while still in Wanship.
As Grandpa grew up there was the family of Ebenezer Russell Young in the area. They had an eldest daughter, Elizabeth Wycoff Young. At a very early age Grandpa started courting her. According to my mothers history, at the age of ten he would pull her to school on his home made sled, she being only six years old. He took her to her first big community dance when she was sixteen and he was twenty. They were married 7 January 1897 in the Salt Lake Temple and made their home in Wanship until 1910. Their children, William, Grant, Lurline and Lucile were all born in Wanship.
Because his sheep operation involved moving the herds from the winter range in Nevada to the summer range near Soda Springs, Idaho in the spring and back in the fall, Grandpa was way from the family a good deal. The trail for the movement went through Malad Valley and so Grandpa moved the family to Malad in 1910 to be more central to the movement of the herds. They rented a home for a short while and then purchased the home on south Main Street that become the family home for so many years. The sheep operation was large enough that Grandpa would charter a whole train to take the sheep to the Chicago market.
During the time when mother was teaching the adult educational program, she attended summer school in Pocatello and in Moscow, Idaho. We children spent some of those summers with Grandpa and Grandma James on the farm in St. John. It was a time of freedom and experiences. Bob and I would go, with other boys from the area, along the streams and ponds and into the hills. Grandma always insisted that we carry a slice of bread with us for our lunch. With our “flippers” we would shot birds, or catch frogs which we would cook over sage bush fires for our meals. We swam in the cold streams and other waters and had memorable times. This was a difficult time for many people in the St. John area because of the depression. There were families living in one room log houses with none of the amenities that we today think are so essential. One family didn’t even have a well for water and were dependent upon a spring near their cabin but although we, as children, recognized these hardships for us it was a happy time.
As I mentioned before, Dad had left us with Grandpa Anderson and had gone to California to find work. He became employed driving a bakery delivery truck in Sacramento. Very early one morning in September of 1936 as he was making his deliveries a drunk man came through a stop sign and broad sided him resulting in his death. I recall early that morning Mother receiving a call from one of Dad’s friends who lived in California but who was from Malad telling her of the accident. At that time Dad was still alive but very critical. Mother called immediately for train reservations to go to him. It was one of the rare occasions that she took us to school in Grandpa’s car. We hadn’t gone but a couple of blocks when Uncle Bill met us and hailed us down to tell us that Dad had died. Knowing of Mother’s delicate health problems the friend in California had called Grandpa James of this news so that someone could be with Mother when she received it. We didn’t go to school that day but Uncle Bill took us with him as he delivered gas and oil to the dry farms in the western part of the county.
The impact of Dad’s death didn’t hit us at that moment because he had been away from us for so long. However that reality came as we had his funeral. As was the custom in those days, the casket was placed in the “parlor” of the home and the room became filled with flowers and visitors. To this day the smell of some flowers brings an instant recollection of those days that he lay in his casket in the home. The impact of the loss of her husband was so traumatic to Mother that she was confined to bed for several days. I recall that a couple of weeks later I was with Grandma and Grandpa James and went into the corner of one of the bedrooms and was crying. Grandma came to see what was wrong and I recall sobbing out, “I want my daddy”. Even though we had little encounter with him for those five years, that time we had with him camping and fishing had established for me a deep longing to be with him. However we were not with him enough for him to be a real father figure nor to have him have an impact on my life comparable to that which Grandpa Anderson had. It is to Grandpa Anderson that I look to as the example of what a man should be. He taught us the work ethic, how a man should respond to ladies, and so many of the qualities that go into what a person is.
In 1938 Grandpa had a stroke which left him paralyzed, unable to speak and bed ridden. He seemed to be improving with some speech returning when a second stroke terminated his life. Having lost Dad only two years earlier, Mother was again very traumatized but her health had improved to where she was able to adjust to her situation more rapidly. Grandpa had deeded the home to Mother so we had the security of a home, garden, fruit trees, etc.. Also her employment situation had developed to where she was able to meet the necessities of life. I marvel at what she was able to accomplish. Some of the things that we now take as essential were not available, for example we did not have a refrigerator. In the pantry was an ice box. Grandpa Anderson had built into the barn an area, insulated with sawdust, that was our ice house. In the winter Grandpa would have big blocks of ice brought from the Crowther Brother’s mill pond. These would be place in the ice house covered with sawdust. They would keep that way into the summer. We would take our little wagon and bring ice to the ice box to keep our food cold. We had no washing machine so Mother did all the washing on a wash board. She made all our bread, canned fruit and vegetables, maintained the home, helped us with our home work from school and did everything possible to make our lives as normal as possible. Even to taking us camping. I recall camping in “Powerhouse Canyon” when we were very small when she would put us all in the back of the tent and she would sleep to the front of the tent to protect us.
Mother had been active in the church but because of work was not able to attend Relief Society. She did serve as president of the YWMIA, taught Sunday school, served on the stake Sunday school board, etc.. However the void in her life was always there. I recall her venting her sadness by playing the piano with such feeling that one could not help but know of her mood by the way she played.
Bob and I were very close, that doesn’t mean that we always got along, we had our fights but nevertheless we were good fiends. About this time Bob was ordained a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. This meant that he would go to meetings that I didn’t. Our very kind and understanding bishop, Bishop Moses Christensen, knowing of my need for masculine companionship invited me to come to priesthood meeting with Bob even though I was only eleven years old. So I started to attend priesthood meetings early and still remember some of the lessons given at those meetings, one in particular on “The Fraternalism of the Priesthood”. It had a profound impact on me as I contemplated then and even now as I think of the brotherhood of the priesthood.
My early teen years were trying on me and on Mother. I tended to withdraw within myself. As I reflect on it now, I suppose it was the frustration of not having a father figure. Mother referred to it as my “great northern silence”. This passed and I developed a great number of friends in the school and church. As I reached the age for dances and dating I became very socially involved. Dancing was one of our main activities. There was the La Grand Dance Hall in Malad where dances were held every Saturday night and also dances in the church. We danced a variety of dances including the Fox Trot, Waltz, Jitter Bug, etc.. I considered myself a pretty good dancer and had no hesitation to ask any girl to join me on the floor.
Because of the economics of the time I started working at a very early age. From about the age of ten or eleven I worked in hay fields for several individuals. During my 6th and 7th grades in school I had a paper route, delivering the Deseret News paper. The route was in town and out a ways from town. In the winter this could only be accomplished on horse back. It was so cold I would put my hands under the saddle next to the horse’s back to keep warm. Mother taught me a great lesson about responsibility while I was delivering papers. The papers came to Malad from Salt Lake City on the Greyhound bus. They were not always on time. On one occasion I had been invited to a birthday party for one of the more popular girls in our class. That night the bus was very late. As I waited for the bus to come and as the time for the party came, I called Mother and ask if Bob could come and take my papers so I could go to the party. She said that Bob had his chores to do and that “Business comes before pleasure” and that I must take care of my responsibilities. So I waited for the papers, made my deliveries and arrived at the party just as it was ending. I was very saddened because I really liked that girl but in retrospect I learned the importance of meeting my obligations.
When I was in the 8th grade I got a job managing an ice cream store. I ordered the needed supplies, ran the ice cream counter, opened and closed the store with only an occasional overseeing by the owners. It was a great learning experience. After the ice cream season ended I substituted as a delivery boy on my bicycle, delivering groceries for Smith’s Market to people’s homes. I tried to do the best job I could and when the boy (he was a year older than me) whose place I was taking come back from his trip, Steve Smith the owner offered me a job of shelf stocking and clerking. The other boy was less that pleased that I moved to a better job than he had. As occasion allowed I would also help the butcher and quickly learned to cut and display meat. A year or so later when the meat cutter went on vacation I was put in charge of the meat counter, again ordering the meat, cutting it, displaying it and selling the prepared cuts. At that time the meat shops got the beef in quarters and pigs as whole pigs so it was fortunate that I had developed enough muscle to handle these big hunks of meat. I continued to be employed in this store as it moved locations and expanded floor space by fourfold. At times we also did the killing and dressing of calves and chickens for the store so it was an all around learning period.
Working as I did I never had the time to participate in any sports nor many other activities in the school. Our little school did not have an ROTC program but in the early part of WW II the school organized a “Victory Corp” where we had a semblance of uniforms with insignia, etc.. We drilled and practices manual of arms. I was the colonel for the corp. This experience later was very valuable as I entered the Navy. I didn’t participate in the sport activities in high school and I suppose that is why sports have always had a very low priority in my life. However I did maintain a very active social life of dating. In the fall of my senior year in high school, while at a church dance I took a dare to ask one of the new teachers to dance. She accepted and that started a dating pattern for the rest of my time in high school. Me, as a high school student, dating a teacher became somewhat of a scandal in the town. I think she was a good teacher but her contract was not renewed the next year, probably because of our dating.
There were three of us boys who were very close, Dean Smith Kelly, Winston Dean Briggs and myself. We were always a threesome. There had been a great loss of life among officers in the services. So during our junior year in high school the government offered an examination to juniors and seniors, which if they passed successfully, would guarantee a position in an officer candidate program. Fortunately I had been a good student, taking four years of English, two years of Spanish, four years of mathematics, and all the courses in physics and chemistry that were available. There were four of us in the school who passed the examination. Dean Kelly, Dean Briggs and I were among them. So we all enlisted in the Navy V-12 program. Dean Kelly and I went to Bremerton Navel Yard in Washington for enlistment and our physicals. This was in the winter of 1943-44. We left Malad on the old puddle jumper train, transferred in Ogden for Seattle. I vividly recall that trip, my first on a train. We left Malad on a very cold winter day, as we went down along the Columbia River toward Portland the weather became mild and pleasant. Going north to Seattle we saw such luxuriant growth of plants, even beautiful ferns. Mother, who was very good with plants, had tried to grow a fern in the house. It was small and did not do very well, and now here were these ferns the size of a bushel basket growing up in the cinders beside the railroad track. I immediately fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. We crossed on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton after spending a little time in Seattle.
By this time we had completed all the requirements for graduation from high school although we didn’t actually graduate until the next spring. After coming home from our enlistment Dean Kelly and I were assigned to the V-12 unit at Peru State Teachers College in Nebraska. Again, on a cold winter day the two Deans and I left Malad on the train for our assigned units. Dean Briggs had been sent to Purdue University so we were never again together in the service. Dean Kelly and I remained together on all of our assignments and were discharged together in Bremerton, Washington after serving 21 months.
We took the train to Denver where we transferred to another train to Lincoln, Nebraska. In Lincoln we transferred to a bus. This bus had a rest stop in Nebraska City where we ate our first meal in Nebraska. Peru State is known as The Campus of a Thousand Oaks which describes it very well. Peru as a town isn’t very much but the people were very kind and treated the servicemen very well. The academic course work was rigorous, with physical training and military drills added on. We marched in military formation to meals and some other activities but were on our own to get to our classes. At this time all service personnel were never allowed to be in civilian cloths so it was strictly uniforms. We were quartered in a dormitory building, “Delzell Hall” which was affectionately known as “The Ship”. We had a lot of fellows from California in our company. Both of my room mates were Californians, Rudy Jacuzzi and Dick Jespersen. We got along very well.
Shortly after our arrival two men came to my room, one a cadet like myself and the other an older civilian. They identified themselves as members of the church. The civilian and his wife were students at the college. The cadet (Bowman) was identified as the group leader for the local LDS group, the civilian couple were the only members in the town other than the few in the Navy. As with the church everywhere we were immediately sought out and made part of the group. A sacrament meeting was held each Sunday in the Ship. We were told that there was an LDS branch in Lincoln and also in Omaha. Some time later when we had a free weekend we hitchhiked to Lincoln to the branch there but had difficult finding the meeting place and arrived just as the meetings were over. Our next attempt, some time later, to find the church was to hitchhike to Omaha. We had the address of the church there and found it without difficulty. The church was a white frame-stucco building on north 30th street in the Florence area. It had a nice chapel, class rooms, and a fair sized cultural hall where dances and other socials were held. We went to Omaha as often as possible and became very acquainted with the dear saints. They were always warm and friendly. We dated some of the girls at dances, at dinners in their homes, on picnics, etc.. Years later when we moved to Nebraska, I was able to make contact with some of those families who still lived in the area. Dean and I frequently served at the sacrament table as there was not an abundance of priesthood.
After we had been at Peru State for three or four months we had a leave. I didn’t tell Mother but contacted Bob to meet us at the train in Ogden. We arrived there in the middle of the night. We dropped Dean off at his home and went to St. John to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for me to clean up after many hours on the train. Bob was then living with the grandparents and running the farm and so he wasn’t missed by our mother. After cleaning up Bob and I went back to Malad just as Mother was getting up. She happened to look out the window as we were getting out of the car and came running out with her arms open and we met with great joy. We were home for about a week. I should mention that Dean Briggs had leave at the same time, so we were all interviewed by our bishop and stake president and were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood to the office of Elder. I was still seventeen at the time.
Our group leader, Elder Bowman, had been transferred at the time we left for leave. Upon returning back to Peru from our leave I was contacted by a Brother Clark from Omaha who came to our group meeting and set me apart as a Servicemen’s Group Leader to preside over our little group. This setting apart carried with it church authorization to conduct sacrament meeting not only for our group in Peru but wherever I was stationed with the approval of the military chaplain or other military authority of the base.
I recently read in a church history book that there were one thousand of us in all the service branches that were set apart for this calling.
While at Peru Dean Kelly and I both qualified for the “crack rifle squad”. I am sure that our past experience in the Victory Corp in high school was a help in our qualifying for this select group. We did the Queen Ann’s rifle drills as well as special marching maneuvers and were assigned to perform in several civilian activities in the area as well as for our V-12 unit.
After 12 months at Peru State those of us who could qualify were give the choice of continuing in the V-12 or transferring to V-12A (also known as V-5). V-5 was a program to train pilots. Being young and foolish and wanting to get into the action, both Dean and I opted for the V-5 program. As an orientation and also to await an opening in the pre-flight schools, we were sent to the Naval air station at Olathe, Kansas for what was called “tarmac duty”. Here we had the opportunity to become acquainted with aircraft, work on some maintenance projects and get general orientation to the flight program. It was here that I had the opportunity to take my first plane flight as I went up on a test flight of a plane I had helped to work on. I was hooked!
While in Olathe we occasionally had liberty and went into Kansas City, here we attended church whenever able but I do not recall where the meetings were held.
After several months at Olathe we got assigned to pre-flight school in Iowa City, Iowa. Up until now we had been uniformed as seaman in the regular “gobby” uniforms. I was always proud of the privilege of wearing this uniform but as we went to pre-flight school we were issued cadet officer uniforms. They were beautiful and we felt like we were really making progress. Pre-flight was again very rigorous with a great deal of emphasis on physical training as well as the academic. We had the infamous obstacle courses to face regularly, boxing (which I hated), football and other such things that I had never before been involved with. We were further trained in the use of fire arms and had to qualify in hand guns from 22’s up to the old 45 automatic. We also qualified on the rifle range with the 30-06’s and the great WW II 30 caliber carbine, a great gun that was not allowed on the civilian market after the war. Another interesting course taken there was a course in relaxation. The theory was that we should learn to relax and take advantage of even a few minutes to be prepared for whatever came next. If one were to come back from a flight and only had an hour before going back, you should be able to sleep for fifty minutes of that hour. I was finally able to go to sleep in one minute from the time I got into position.
Shortly before we finished our pre-flight program we were given the opportunity to put into practice the survival skill that we had been taught. They had taught us how to survive if we were ever downed at sea or land. We were taken out into a forested area along a river and issued half a pup tent, a sleeping bag, a canteen, a mess kit, a knife and one days rations and told that they would be back in a week and pick us up. It was a wonderfully relaxing time after all the stress of the program. We made fishing line from tree bark and hooks from the keys from our K-rations, ate cat-tail roots, snakes, fish, turtles, a few edible plants, etc.. It was a great experience and I gained two pounds in the process.
I was able to handle all the pre-flight program well except for code. We had to qualify to send and receive Morris code at specified speeds. I had great difficulty in hearing the code but could send all right. I spent every free moment in the code lab and finally was able to qualify but only by the skin of my teeth and just in time to pass pre-flight.
There was no LDS church in Iowa City at that time and so I organized a group. We were allowed to leave our area for two hour for church services each Sunday. I arranged for a room in a Protestant church where we could meet. We found one LDS family in the area but because of gas rationing they were only able to meet with us once. As elsewhere we had very few members and at times the meeting would consist of Dean and myself.
Just as we were completing our time in Iowa City and were assigned to primary flight our nation dropped the atomic bomb and the war ended. If we had been in the service long enough, we were given the option of either staying in to complete flight training or take an inactive duty release from the service or return back to what ever our rates were before entering the program. We were informed that the wash out rate would be very high because of the decreased need for pilots with the war over. I elected to take the release to inactive duty. Dean and I were sent back to Bremerton for discharge early in November 1945. I remained on inactive duty for several years and later applied for and received a commission in the Medical Service Corp as a bacteriologist attaining the rank of Lieutenant j.g.. While in dental school I did not have the time to attend the required meetings and therefore resigned my commission.
Upon returning to Malad I was able to get a job with the county agent as a supervisor of labor forces for the fall harvest. This was just a short term job until I could get into college. Dean and I entered Utah State Agricultural College in Logan on 2 January 1946. He entered the college of engineering and I started a course in pre-med. We were fortunate to have had enough time on active duty to qualify for the “GI bill” and so were able to go to school with all our expenses being met by the government as well as a small allowance for person needs.
My intent was to get through school as rapidly as possible and so I continued classes into the summer term. To supplement my income I found a part time job as a meat cutter for a small mom and pop grocery store “Felix Market”. It was on first east and forth north in Logan. Dean and I had moved from the place we were first living in when we started school into a university owned trailer east of the campus and so we needed a little more money. In this little market I would cut the meat and prepare the display counter each morning and then go to school with the owners selling the meat until I could come back from classes. I attended the counter as much as possible. One day as I was at the counter the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on came in to buy some lamb chops. I didn’t have any lamb but sold her some pork chops. As we visited there was immediate electricity. Over the next few weeks she became a regular in the store and we had many opportunities to interact. She told me that she was married but separated from her husband and had a little boy. She was in the process of moving back to her parents in Hyrum. Despite the fact that she was married I ask her for a date which she accepted. We went dancing in the local dance hall where the big bands played. It was as though we had danced together for years. She was a fabulous dancer. From then on we were a team. We dated all that next school year and into the next summer when I finished my degree. After moving back with her parents she started working as a nurses aid in the Cache Valley hospital in Logan. It was located just east of the Logan Tabernacle but no longer exists. In the fall of that year (1947) my dear Norma entered Nursing School in Ogden at the St. Benedicts Hospital.
As I was completing my pre-med program I applied to medical schools but was not accepted and so sought a teaching position. There was a shortage of science teachers and so although I had taken no classes to prepare for teaching, I was able to get an appointment to teach in the Malad school district. I had been given the understanding that I would be teaching math and science in the high school but very shortly before the fall term started the school superintendent contacted me and told me that because I had graduated from that high school only three years earlier the school board did not feel it wise for me to be in the high school but would like me to start teaching in the junior high. It was to close to the starting of the school year to find another position so I accepted the assignment to teach the sixth grade class. It proved to be a wonderful experience. I loved the children and although I was ill prepared to teach I fit right in and we all had a good experience. Shortly before Christmas the man who had the position that I thought I would have in the high school was jailed in another town as a drunk. The superintendent came to me (with humility) and asked if I would come teach the classes in the high school. Although I enjoyed the students in the sixth grade, I had some difficulty in relating to their educational level after the advanced upper division classes that I had just completed in the college, and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be at a more intellectual level.
There were some significant challenges to face in the high school. I taught general science, biology and algebra. My brother John and some cousins were in my classes and so I had to immediately establish a teacher-student relationship. I feel that this was accomplished without too much trauma to any of us. I loved the students and feel that I was an effective teacher. I had excellent rapport with the other teachers in the school district and in my second year of teaching was elected president of the district teachers association.
Norma had sought a cancellation of her temple sealing after her divorce was finalized but this had not been approved by the prophet. We had wanted to be married but wanted only a temple marriage. As the months of waiting went by we became more and more desirous of being together and more and more frustrated by the delay. Finally we come to the conclusion that if we were to remain temple worthy we must get married and so we eloped to Preston, Idaho and were married by a justice of the peace on 26 December 1947. We didn’t tell anyone because at that time nursing students were not allowed to be married. She returned to Ogden to her school and I continued to teach in Malad. We saw each other a often as possible.
We hadn’t been married but a couple of months when she found that she was expecting. She dropped out of nursing training and we informed Mother and her parents. They were wonderfully supportive. We never had a reception or any such thing. Norma’s father, Daddy Fred, gave us fifty dollars and Mother let us stay with her until we were able to locate an apartment. During the time Norma was in nursing training Brent had been staying with his Grandma Harris. As soon as we were together he came to be with us. We located a small two bedroom apartment in Malad while I was still in my first year of teaching. We had no furniture but started to acquire the necessities. We bought a used bed, table and chairs and a lamp in Logan. Daddy Fred and Gammy gave us another bed for Brent. I made a dressing table for Norma from orange crates and Mother and Norma covered it. There was an old couch, covered with straw and dirt, in a barn in Hyrum that we acquired, repaired and covered with a slip cover. We located an old ice box. Thus we set up our first home.
As the time for the baby to be born approached, Norma went to stay with the folks in Hyrum because her doctor was in Logan. She called to tell me that labor had started and I borrowed Mother’s car and dashed to be with her. David Garth arrived, healthy and strong and on schedule (4 November 1948). We returned to Malad where I was in my second year of teaching.
We had continued to appeal to the prophet for a cancellation of Norma’s sealing. Finally we were invited to met with Brother Joseph Anderson, the prophet’s secretary. It was a very emotional meeting and as he saw our circumstance a report was given to President George Albert Smith. In a letter dated 26 April 1949 President Smith granted the cancellation. On 2 June 1949 we went to the Logan Temple and were sealed with David being sealed to us. I was later able to adopt Brent as my legal son and he was sealed to us in the Idaho Falls Temple. We were finally an eternal family.
In the spring of my first year of teaching I had again applied to medical schools with no success. Norma, unbeknown to me, wrote the president of the United States complaining about the inequity in the selection of medical students. Someone in Washington responded to the letter and advised that there were other careers in the health and science field that one could pursue. When she showed me this letter we talked of other careers and decided to apply for graduate studies in bacteriology at Utah State.
The application was accepted. In June 1949 we left Malad and moved to Logan to start graduate school. We moved into the “pre-fabs”, World War II buildings that had been converted into student apartments. We had a front room-kitchen combination, one bed room, a bathroom and small closet. We lived there for the next two years while I completed my masters degree. In the second year in Logan our beautiful daughter Eva Kristine was born (October 1, 1950)
Dr. W. Whitney Smith, chairman of the Department of Bacteriology took me under his wing. I had never had a class in bacteriology so signed up for Elementary Bacteriology in the summer session in 1949. Dr. Smith gave me a key to the department, a lab manual and said to go into the laboratory and learn laboratory bacteriology. It was a great expression of confidence on his part and a great learning experience for me. After that summer he gave me a faculty appointment as Instructor in Bacteriology which I held throughout the next two years. So I was a part time student and a part time teacher.
One day Dr. Smith told me that the Budge Clinic (a major medical group) was looking for someone to head their diagnostic laboratory and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing it part time. I had never worked in the field but had had courses in biochemistry and with a degree in Medical Zoology and now courses in bacteriology he though I could handle it. I met with the director of the clinic and was hired. I spent the week end teaching myself how to do urinalysis, blood counts, etc. and started the next week as head of the laboratory. It was a growing experience. I read and studied all I could about laboratory diagnosis of diseases. One day one of the doctors came to me and ask me to draw blood from a man and to determine what was the problem. I drew the blood, made the usual tests and a smear. As I studies the smear and read in the classic text on hematology I concluded that the man had acute myelogenous leukemia. I reported this to the doctor who was somewhat doubtful and wanted confirmation. So we sent the slide to the medical school where the author of the text was on the faculty. The report came back exactly as I had determined. From then on I was never questioned about my diagnosis and developed a great deal of respect among all the doctors.
In as much as I was interested in the medical aspects of bacteriology I undertook, under Dr. Smiths direction , a research project on a disease of turkeys that was an ongoing program in the college. I completed my masters degree thesis on the transmission of staphylococci in turkeys. The title being “Evidence Against Transovarian Transmission of Staphycoccal Synovitis in Turkeys”. The thesis was accepted by my graduate committee and I received the degree in June of 1951. Knowing the importance of more advanced training I applied for and was accepted in a doctoral program at the University of Utah.
In June Norma and the children went to say with Mother while I went to Salt Lake City to start school and to look for an apartment for us. I stayed in a boarding house for a couple of weeks until I located an upstairs apartment in a private home in the Sugarhouse area. It was very small, so much so that one couldn’t sit up straight in bath tub because of the slope of the roof but we managed. I worked a few hours a week doing research in the pharmacology department in the medical college, at a very low wage. I also was able to get a job (referred by a friend Niel Holbrook) with the church. I worked first as a janitor and then was assigned to be the night watchman for the temple and Temple Square. This was a choice experience but it involved working until about 2:00 am and still with inadequate income for our needs. Our financial situation became more and more stressed. To feed the family I would go to the grocery store and ask for dog bones. With these and discarded vegetables from the grocery store, Norma would make soup. In my work at the school we use rabbits in our research. When these were killed I would take them home as food. They had been injected with a drug that when heated would turn bright red so when cooked we had bright red rabbit meat. Norma was very careful to stretch our resources as far as possible.
One day the ward bishop came to see us and told us that he know of our desperate situation and offered to help us with welfare. He did so with love and understanding but after he left I told Norma that if I couldn’t take care of my family I would leave school and go to work. Norma was now expecting again. I immediately made application for jobs in bacteriology. I was offered positions in research in Montana, in Arizona and in California. Norma’s sister Billy and her family lived in California and the position seemed to be the most attractive so I flew to California for an interview and was offered and accepted a position on the research staff at the University of California Berkeley.
While in my second year of teach in Malad we bought our first car, a 1935 Ford sedan. It had deteriorated over the years before we had it and since we owned it. The floor boards had rusted out to the point that one could look down and see the road going by, it burned about three quarts of oil every 50 miles (I would go to the service stations and get their used oil to use). I couldn’t afford to put antifreeze in it but in the winter would fill it with water and drain it out after each trip to prevent freezing. It was missing a window and had no heater but it still gave us transportation. When I left for the interview in California I told Norma that if she used the car she must put in water and then drain it out after each use. When I got off the plane from my trip she met me at the airport in a different car. When ask why she said that our car wasn’t working right and had borrowed this one to come get me. Upon investigation I found that she had left water in the engine and it had frozen and broken the block. With effort I was able to get it going but it didn’t run right. I had it checked and the mechanic said that the only treatment was a new block which was out of the question.
Norm’s doctor didn’t feel it was wise for her to make the trip to California because she was so near to delivery so it was decided that she and the children would go to Mother’s until after the baby was born while I would go to my job in California. It was December and our landlord was very unhappy that we were leaving in the winter when he would have trouble renting the apartment. As a result he wouldn’t help in any way in our move. I had to carry all of our things out of the apartment, down the stairs by myself. This included carrying our refrigerator on my back. It was after dark when we got on our way to Malad. We hadn’t gone but a few blocks when the car started to make a terrible noise and steam was coming out all over. I drove into a station that had a mechanic on duty to have him check it. He checked it out and found that the block was so broken that he could pour water in the radiator and it would run out the oil pan. He indicated that this car wasn’t going any place. I told him that we had no choice and to put it back together. With difficulty I got it started again and with all the noise and steam still present started up the road. After a few minutes I could see that we were never going to make it the hundred plus miles to Malad. I pulled over to the side of the street and told the family that we were in a terrible situation and could only depend upon the Lord. We all bowed our heads and told the Lord of our situation and pleaded with him for help. After praying I stepped on the starter and the engine roared into action and sounded fine, no more noise nor steam. We went on our way without needing oil nor water all the way to Malad. We had seen a miracle.
We borrowed some money and bought a different car. After Christmas I left the family with mother and I drove to California to start my new job. Again I lived in a boarding house and spent weekends with Glen and Billy and their family. They were so very good to me. I located a new tract home in San Leandro, and with borrowed money for a down payment and with a GI guaranteed loan, I bought our first home. It was a very comfortable and in a very nice neighborhood of young families. I moved into it alone until it was time for the baby to come. I took a week off from work and drove to Idaho. I was there a day and a half when Fred Miller James was born (11 March 1952). He was the first of our babies that I was in the room when he was born. As Norma was in labor she told the doctor (a good personal friend) that the baby was coming. He examined her and said that she had some time to go but she insisted that the baby was coming. He indicated that he would go and alert the nurses that we had some time but to be ready. He hadn’t even got down the hall when Norma said to me “It’s coming” and out popped this perfect little body. I called down the hall for the doctor to get back here and he came running. He was very embarrassed to have doubted her but gave her very good care from then on and didn’t charge us for the delivery.
Just before I left to return to California, Brent came down with rheumatic fever. I had no choice but to go back to work. As soon as Norma was recovered from the delivery and Brent was able to travel I made arrangements for them to have a compartment on the train to come to me. She didn’t feel that she wanted to bring all the children on a plane. Her folks took them to Ogden and got them on her way. They had fixed her a lunch to take with her but she forgot it and before the train pulled out she got off the train to get it. She just got on again before the train started to move. The children thought she had missed the train and that they were alone. She said that they were howling loudly when she got back to them. They arrived without any further complications and we settled into our new home. Brent was bed ridden for several months. We enjoyed California and the closeness to family members. This was our first home that we bought. With borrowing money for the car and the down payment for the home we were very strapped as far as finances were concerned. As a result we were unable to do much improvement on the outside of the home. We did have enough furniture to be very comfortable. We were in the Hayward Ward and were well accepted there. Fred was blessed in that ward.
My work at the university was in full time research on a navy contract. Because of security the laboratories were on the Oakland Naval Supply Station with some facilities at the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. Top secret security was required for the job. As I was awaiting security clearance I was put in charge of the experimental animals both at the lab and at the hospital. We had guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, rats and monkeys with the breeding of rats and mice in our own facilities. The others were purchased. We would have several hundred of the rodents types and seventy five to a hundred fifty monkeys. It was an interesting few weeks working with them.
After getting security clearance I was assigned to work on a project to determine how we could spread disease to populations in a biological warfare situation. The work was very challenging. I had the opportunity to work with some very brilliant people and was learning a great deal as well as hopefully making some contribution to the project. However the idea of causing disease in people was most disturbing to me. In a telephone conversation with Whit Smith at Utah State I expressed this concern. Shortly there after he contacted me and offered me a teaching/research position in his department with the opportunity to continue further graduate studies. I had made a commitment to the people with whom I worked but when I explained the new opportunity to the director of the program he was most understanding and encouraged me to accept the offer. So we moved back to Logan that next August.
Utah State Agricultural College had a metal house that was rented to new faculty members until they could locate other accommodations. We were fortunate to arrange for this. It was affectionately known as the “Tin House” and was located on the campus. It was while we were living in the “Tin House” that Richard Norris James was born on August 11 1953.
We had lived there for a little over a year when Dr. Evelyn Greaves contacted me and offered to sell her home to us. She was the dean of the School of Home Economics and the widow of Dr. Joseph Greaves. Dr. Greaves had been the Chairman of the Department of Bacteriology before Dr. Whitney Smith. During my two years as a graduate student in that department I shared office space with Dr. Greaves and became very close to the Greaves’. Dean Greaves told me they had wanted their home to go to a family who would appreciate it. It was a lovely brick home with three bed rooms, living / dining room, formal study, a lovely kitchen and an apartment in the basement. The yard was a half a block deep with a building lot adjacent to the home for the garden. There was a pasture, barn and chicken coop. It was all one could ever hope for. Mrs. Greaves was very fair in the price, asking only what the appraised value was. She also left several furniture items in the home and so we moved into a wonderful situation. She moved across the street into a duplex that she owned. I was able to be of some help to her there until she died. While we lived in this lovely home Jon Sydney James was born on June 5, 1955.
With all that we had, we were able to have chickens, rabbits, a cow, a large garden, mushroom beds, bee hives, etc.. We were very happy and contented with our home and my work at the university was very fulfilling. I continued to do research on the disease of turkeys, developing a vaccine that produced a very high titer of antibodies and was marginally effective in the control of the disease. I taught all the advanced course in medical microbiology, immunology-serology, medical technology as well as occasional elementary bacteriology and some public health classes. I feel that I was an effective teacher.
Medicine had always been my desired career but my Uncle Grant (Mother’s brother) who was a physician always said, “Don’t go into medicine, go into dentistry”. What I had seen of dentistry was less than interesting and so did not follow his advice. Both of his sons became dentists.
Being an officer in the Navy I went on two week active duty each summer.
In the summer of 1955 I was sent to a course for medical officers, dental officers and medical service corp officers. About half the programs were presented by dental officers. As I listened to their reports of their profession and the research that was being done, for the first time I saw dentistry as more than the filling of a hole, the extraction of teeth and the making of dentures. I went home and started to investigate. I visited with friends who where dentists and became more and more interested in the profession. After a great deal of investigation I went home from school one day and said to Norma, “What would you think about leaving the university and going to dental school”. With the six children around the table she said, “Fine when do you want to go”. What support!! The Dental Aptitude Test was scheduled a few weeks later. I rushed off an application to take the test and took it with practically no preparation. I immediately sent out applications for admission to dental schools and was accepted to all the schools I applied to except those who did not accept out of state students. I decides to go to either the University of Washington or the University of Nebraska. I made a trip to Seattle to visit the school and check up on living conditions. The school was excellent but the potential of housing was not acceptable for my children to be in for four years. Having been stationed in Nebraska in the navy I knew what the area and people were like and knew that it would be a wholesome environment for the children and so accepted that school.
When I let Whit Smith know of my intentions he said that it couldn’t be done. One could not go to dental school with the family I had. I felt that I could with the wonderful support of Norma. He still discouraged the idea. A few weeks later I received a call from the secretary to the dean of the College of Arts and Science asking me to meet with the Dean. In that meeting the Dean (a very good friend) asked about my intentions and said that he didn’t want me to leave the college and that my teaching and research was outstanding and that I was in line to be the next chairman of the department. I thanked him but said that I would be leaving. Shortly thereafter I received a call from the secretary to the president of the university, asking me to meet with President Chase. This meeting was a repeat of the one with the Dean. President Chase expressed the university’s satisfaction with my work and the hope that I would remain with the school. He indicated that not only did they have me in mind for the next chairman of the department but also that I was future dean material. I thanked him for his kind words but indicated that we were planning to move on to dentistry.
With all these expressions I began to wonder at the wisdom of my decision. I was the elders quorum president at this time in the ward. We were scheduled for a stake conference with a general authority. Elder Mark E. Peterson was our visitor. I ask if we could have a visit with him. He kindly granted the request for Norma and me to spend a few minutes with him. I told him of our situation, my position as assistant professor at the university, the size of our family, our home, our financial situation, etc.. He listened and then said, “Usually when I am ask questions such as this I like to go and have a prayer before responding, but I feel to tell you that this is exactly what you should do.” He then gave us counsel, to keep the Sabbath day holy, to never study on the Sabbath, to spend that day in church and with the family, to be prudent in accepting church callings. He said that there would be situations when I would be called to a major church calling but that I should not take on more than a calling to teach or that type, that this should be a time of preparation and that if I devoted myself to my studies, the time would come when I could make greater contributions to the church. He said that the church was no longer a church of the mountains but was becoming a worldwide church and that we would be able to help in the work of the kingdom after dental school. With this type of counsel from an apostle of the Lord, we were again determined that this course was the one that we should take.
We started immediately to prepare for leaving the next year. Norma collected cloths for the children that would be needed for the next few years and in every way possible we tried to get our selves ready for this new adventure. I contacted a distant cousin who was a physician in Oregon and made arrangements to borrow a thousand dollars from him. Also I made arrangements with Mr. Lawrence Jones at the bank in Malad to have money available as it may be needed.
My brother John had been in the Navy for four years but had come back to school and was living in our apartment. I arranged for him to continue to live in the basement and we rented the main house with him looking out for our property.
I made a trip to Lincoln to locate a place to live and to look for some work. I caught a military flight from Hill Air Base to Denver and then hitchhiked to Lincoln. I found housing in Huskerville, a part of the World War II air base hospital that had been converted into low income housing. It was about 8 miles west of Lincoln. As I was making contact for possible employment I learned that Dr. Ed Zeeman was coming to be the pathologist in St. Elizabeth Hospital. Dr. Zeeman had been the pathologist in the Dee Hospital in Ogden with whom I had worked very closely in the training of my medical technology students. I left word for Dr. Zeeman that I would be in town and wanted to see him. This opened the door for a job for my entire time in dental school. I set up the bacteriology diagnostic laboratory for the hospital and headed that section of the laboratory for the next four years. I also made contact with the Department of Microbiology at the university and obtained part-time work in polio research with Dr. Warren Engelhard. I hitchhiked back to Logan.
On that trip I had an interesting experience. I caught a ride to the outskirts of Lincoln but then was passed by many cars with no ride offered. Finally I was picked up and made it to Grand Island. Again I waited for some time before being given a ride. This time it was by a young man in a very fast car. I notices that in the back seat were some bags with the name of a bank on them and one on the front seat. Under the one on the front seat I could see the end of a pistol. As we were going along a few cars passed us and I commented that one of them had passed me both in Lincoln and in Grand Island and hadn’t offered me a ride. With that he gave an oath and pressed on the gas and said they won’t pass you again. Down the highway we went. It was a two lane road at that time and we got side by side with this other car. That driver took the challenge and we went neck and neck down the road. The speedometer in the car I was in had a mark at 100 mph. We were past that mark. This went on mile after mile for what seemed to be a half an hour. Finally way up ahead there were the flashing red lights of police cars. We were stopped and ordered out of the cars. The officers said that other officers had tried to stop us but couldn’t catch us so the road block was set up. The driver in the car I was in told the officers that I was a hitch hiker and had nothing to do with the situation and should be allowed to go my way. The officers checked my identification and questioned me and sent me on my way. I was so glad to get away from the whole thing. I have always wondered about those bank bags and the gun. I was then picked up by a fellow going to California with whom I was able to trade off driving and made it to Salt Lake City without another stop. I took a bus back to Logan.
In June 1956 we closed our home and made arrangements for a moving company to move our things to Lincoln. We packed all we could into our little 1949 Ford and with Norma expecting our seventh child we set out for Nebraska. Eight people in that little car was crowded but we made it with only having to replace one tire on the way. We arrived in Lincoln on the 10th of June 1956 on a very hot day. Our little apartment in Huskerville had a combined living room kitchen, two bed rooms with small closets, and a bathroom with shower only. Our furniture was scheduled to arrive one day after we did, however it didn’t come on schedule and after several phone calls to the Salt Lake office of the moving company it finally arrived three weeks later. In the meantime we bought some throw rugs and a used hid-a-bed. The hid-a-bed was placed in the living room area and without sheets or blankets we slept on this and on the floor for the three weeks. To add to our situation the children came down with mumps and were quite sick. We did the best we could as far as food preparations were concerned because, except for a couple of pans we had brought with us, we were without our usual kitchen equipment. When the furniture finally arrived we set up two bunk beds in one bedroom and a bunk bed and crib in the other for the children so that each child would have his or her own bed. Norma and I slept on the hide-a-bed in the living room. The summer was extremely hot and with no fans or air conditioning and the poor insulation of the building we endured a very uncomfortable summer. But we were happy and made friends with other people in Huskerville.
We located the church and became very active in all the branch functions. The first chapel in Lincoln had been build a couple of years earlier when Lysle Cahoon was the branch president. It was on 26th and D Street next to the “Sunken Garden”, a lovely park area. We made many dear friends in the branch and enjoyed the feeling of family that the church offered. At that time the church in Nebraska was still very small. Lincoln had one branch, there was a branch in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs. Otherwise there were a few members in other areas such as Nebraska City. A good deal of the membership in Lincoln was made up of Air Force people at the Lincoln Air Base. There were also a couple of dental students and other university students in the branch. The branch was very active as far as the usual meetings but also because of the generally young nature of the members there were many wonderful social activities. Dances and dinners were frequently held with everyone participating. Later when we graduated and moved to Seward we continued to attend all meetings and social events. The New Years Eve dinner dance was always very special. On one occasion after we had been established in Seward, Norma bought a beautiful new formal dress with matching colored shoes for the New Years dinner dance. At the dinner the young sister who was serving us accidentally poured hot chocolate over Norma’s dress and shoes. We had to leave and go home. While we were driving to Seward Norma took the dress off. She was never able to get the dress or shoes cleaned to be useable again. Even with such unfortunate events we had a glorious time with the saints there in the branch.
The first summer in Lincoln was spent working in my various jobs and getting settled into the life of the city. We explored the area and found Lincoln to be a city of parks, good schools and in general a good place to be for the next four years. We learned to adapt to our living conditions which were vastly different from what we had left in our lovely home in Utah.
When school started in the fall I found that there were three other LDS students in my dental class, Lee Atkins, Fred Lundin and Dan Moss. They were good active members and we established a very close friendship. I entered school with a mixture of confidence and trepidation. As I approached the first major test I felt that I had prepared adequately but found that I didn’t ace it which I thought I would. This showed me that I must be much more exact in my preparation from then on, which became my pattern thereafter. I enjoyed the challenge of learning and developing the skills of the profession.
As stated before, Norma was expecting a baby. We were fortunate to locate, at the suggestion of some of the sisters in the branch, a fine doctor for her care, Dr. Sam Thierstein. Norman Whitney James was born 10 January 1957 in St. Elizabeth Hospital. He had a lot of black hair and looked like a native papoose. When I went home to tell the children that the baby had been born and that it was another boy, Kristine, who had desperately wanted a sister, burst into tears and said “I don’t want him, take him back.” Her fillings were short lived and when mother and babe came home she demonstrated the maternal feelings that have been so much a part of her all of her life.
Norma had had the children rather rapidly and the doctor recommended that because of the complications of her organs that she have a hysterectomy. This was done later that year. She was able to go through this without surgical complications but afterwards she developed some emotional problems. Brent was having some difficulties in school and therefore was referred to the Child Guidance Center. Part of the program there was that the parents had to be evaluated as well as the child. I met with the psychiatrist at the university several times. He concluded that I as normal as could be. Norma met with a social worker at the Child Guidance Center. This person opened up in Norma emotional issues but didn’t have the skill to deal with them. This combined with the hormone imbalance from her hysterectomy threw her into an emotional turmoil that would last for several years.
In the spring of my freshman year while in a dental lab session there came over the radio the announcement that a tornado had hit Milford and was heading toward Huskerville and the air base. I quickly put my work away and told the instructor that my family was in the path of the tornado and I rushed out. As I drove west on “O” street I could see the storm coming. I arrived at Huskerville to find Norma and the children standing outside, not knowing what to do because I had the car. I quickly got them into the car and we headed north and then east. As we started east other cars had stopped and blocked the road. We all got our of the car into a ditch and I covered the family with a large piece of burlap that was in the car. Brent was on one end and me on the other end with Norma, the baby and the others under. The epicenter of the storm passed about a quarter of a mile from us on a hill. The noise was terrible, the wind ferocious and the rain pounded upon us but none of us were hurt in any way. The storm did a great deal of damage in the air base but our place in Huskerville was undamaged except for some shingles off the roof and debris was blown all over.
In our second summer in Nebraska Norma called me at the school to tell me that David was having great difficulties in breathing. I rushed home to find him in a very bad state, already turning blue. We dashed to the hospital here he was given immediate care but it was several days before we were sure he would live. There never was a diagnosis as to the cause of his problem.
The first year in dental school passed without school complications and on into the second year. I loved learning and Norma would stay up late at night drilling me on the things that I needed to learn. She was a great support in every effort. I was able to make enough money to meet our daily expenses but we borrowed some money for tuition, etc.
Our apartment in Huskerville was very small and so we looked for a larger living arrangement. We were able to buy a small frame house in Lincoln from John Price, a church member, who was being transferred. The property included a lot next to the home. We tried to raise a garden there but without success because I just didn’t have time to take care of it. We lived there until graduation.
While living there, Whitney (about eighteen months old) ran out into the street and was hit by a car resulting in a skull fracture and a broken leg. He recovered without complications. I opened up a section of the attic to make more bedroom space for the boys so we ended up with five bedrooms. This house, although old and lacking some conveniences, worked out fine for us. We lived there for the remainder of our school years.
One Saturday morning in the spring of my second year of school, as I was getting ready to go to my work in the hospital a knock came on the door. As I opened it, there stood a young girl with a little suit case. We knew her, she was a church member. She said, “My mommy told me to come live with you”. We took her in and contacted her mother. As it turned out she was with us until I graduated. We took care of her and her medical needs, etc. and had a second daughter. We would have adopted her as our own but her mother wouldn’t give permission for us to do so, nor to take her out of Lincoln. With many tears on her part and ours we had to send her back to her mother when we left Lincoln. Susan’s life since then has been a tragedy. I no longer know where she is nor what she is doing except that her life has been anything but good.
In my sophomore year I was asked by a professors to give a lecture to one of the upper classes on the viral etiology of malignancies. At Utah State I had published some articles on bacterophage and similar subjects which were of interest to the professor. When in my junior year the dean approached me about joining the faculty when I graduated. During the summer term between the junior and senior years I took every opportunity to do as much clinical work as possible, particularly in surgery and endodontics. As I result I had met the graduation requirement in both areas before the senior year started. Because of that I was able to do much more advanced surgery during the senior year. Endodontics at that time was strictly done by apicoectomy at the school, but I did a couple of non-surgical cases as well. The instructors in surgery were aware of my potential of joining the faculty and afforded me many considerations not otherwise given to students.
At the completion of the senior year in 1960 I was elected to OKU, the national dental honorary society, having graduated second in the class. Mother came out to Nebraska for my graduation. I had enjoyed the learning experience of dental school and the many friendships that we had developed. As the senior year progressed I was approached by several dentists about joining them in practice or to buy their practices. After much consideration we decided to go into a general practice with Dr. Robert Green in Seward, Nebraska. I had accepted a part time appointment to the faculty and this location would allow me to be in practice and still fulfill my obligations at the school.
We sold our home in Utah and the home in Lincoln and bought a large home in Seward. We had three good years in this home. The practice developed beyond our wildest expectations. We were able to furnish our home, buy a different car and begin to enjoy the fruits of our labor and sacrifices.
Norma’s emotional condition continued to be a serious problem. She was under the care of a psychiatrist in Lincoln and had undergone shock therapy and other treatments to no avail. It was determined that she should be hospitalized for treatment so she was admitted to the Nebraska Psychiatric Hospital in Omaha under the care of an excellent psychiatrist who had trained in Utah and had understanding of Mormon philosophies. Finally after several years of emotional illness she was able to get the help that she needed. Because Whitney was only four years old and not in school, I couldn’t take care of him, work and take care of the other children while Norma was in Omaha. So we sent him to Mother in Idaho. He was with her for a couple of months while Norma was hospitalized. Once again my dear mother came to our rescue.
In order for Brent to attend seminary while we lived in Seward I paid out of city tuition for him to go to high school in Lincoln. Each day he drove the 25 miles into school. We were the only church members in the county. I don’t think there had every been missionaries in Seward. I contacted the mission president and ask for missionaries to be sent to us. This request was not granted so Norma and I made a trip to Kansas City to meet with the president in person. After this visit he stationed two excellent missionaries in Seward. They were very faithful in their efforts and contacted every house in the town but except for the meetings that we had in our home not one meeting was materialized. Seward was a town of very good church going people but they were not interested in changing their faiths. Earlier one of the ministers in town had made a survey and found that over 95% of the people had active church participation. We were well accepted by the people in Seward as individuals but we were never able to bring the gospel to any of them.
The church was growing in the district. District conferences were held in the branch meeting house on north 30th street in Omaha. Meetings were split into a morning session and an afternoon session. with a break between the meetings for lunch. With so many of the members coming from some distance it was common for families to bring a packed lunch to be eaten in the culture hall of the building between the sessions.. We usually took fried chicken, potato salad, a jello dish and a cake. At that time, conferences were attended by various authorities sent from Salt Lake City. At one for these lunch breaks we noticed that the stake presidency and the visiting authorities were not eating, apparently someone had failed to make the arrangements for their lunch. We invited them to come join with us in our meal. As usual Norma had prepared the amount that we as a family would normally eat but we determined to share what we had. Our invitation was graciously accepted so we added eight extra people to join us. Everyone eat to their satisfaction and after the meal we collected the left over food only to find that we had more left over that we would normally have to take home. We again observed a miracle from the Lord in the feeding of a multitude of people with very little food and with an abundance left over.
On another occasion at a district conference held in the winter a report came at the close of the morning meeting that a major storm was coming. Our branch president counsel those of us from the Lincoln to leave at once and to return to our homes. We followed that advice and arrived home just as a severe winter storm struck. One brother from Lincoln said, “Where is your faith, we should stay for the afternoon meeting.” He and his family chose to disregard the branch presidents advice. He stayed for the afternoon meeting and left for home just before the storm hit. This was before there was the interstate highway and so the road was only two lanes through the farm land. This family made it about a third of the way to Lincoln when the roads were blocked by snow to the point that all traffic was stopped. They left their car and made their way to a farm house where the owners welcomed them in, along with a number of other stranded people. One of the stranded vehicles was a bakery delivery truck. For the next two days the bakery goods on that truck sustained all of the stranded people. Our good brother admitted that he should have listened to our leader, the branch president. We cannot go wrong in listening to our church leaders.
During the three years in Seward and while I was teaching endodontics
at the school I attended the annual meetings of the American Association of Endodontics. As I did so I could see that endodontics, as we were teaching it at the University of Nebraska, was very much in need of upgrading. I handled the entire endodontic program, lecture, laboratory and clinic as a day and a half faculty member. I talked to the Dean about this and told him that there should be a full time professor for the subject. He ask me if I would take the position. I indicated that my practice was going very well and that I would not be interested. Later he contacted me to see what salary it would take for me to come full time. I told him that I could not take less that I was making in my practice and I gave him a figure. He said that the university couldn’t meet that. The subject was dropped. Some time later he again came to me and said that the university administration had approved my figure. So although I had just bought two rooms of dental equipment, I took the loss on this and went full time with the college. There were several advantages to be had, i.e. paid vacation time, retirement programs, etc..
My dear friend, Dr. W. Wallace Webster, Chairman of the Department of Oral Surgery, invited me to use his private practice office to establish a practice of endodontics. It was the first practice of endodontics in the state of Nebraska. While practicing in Seward I had had endodontic cases referred to me so I had some base to start from. The practice went well. I was given the choice as to what department I wished to be associated with in the school. I elected to be in the Oral Surgery department because it was the only area of the school where strict sterile procedures were observed. So I became a assistant professor of Oral Surgery. I continued under that administration until I was able to establish the first Department of Endodontics in the school and state.
After the establishment of the American Board of Endodontics in 1964 I saw the need for a graduate program. A residency program was therefore established offering both the certificate and a masters degree option. Our program was approved by the Council on Education of the American Dental Association. I chaired that department as Professor and Chairman and director of the residency program until my retirement in 1988. We were fortunate to have outstanding graduate students who were a great stimulus to be constantly learning and advancing.
During our years in school the church had been gaining great strength in the Winter Quarters District. In 1960 the Winter Quarters Stake was organized. New chapels had been built in Omaha and Council Bluffs with two wards being established in both Omaha and Lincoln, a ward in Council Bluffs and branches in other cities. A new chapel was underway in Lincoln on north 56th street. Brent worked on this chapel for several weeks before he left on his mission to California in 1963.
It was in 1963 that we moved back to Lincoln to be full-time on the faculty and to start the Endodontic practice. In my practice in Seward I was booked six months ahead with patients. So after we moved to Lincoln I continued that practice part time for a couple of months to take care of my patients. We moved in August so that the children could start school in the Lincoln schools.
As we were planning the move, there was the need to locate a home. We had been working with a real estate agent who has shown us several houses. During a lunch hour he took me to see a house which looked good on the outside. As we entered the front door into the foyer, a spirit of peace filled me in a most unusual manner. I stood there without even seeing the rest of the house and said to him, “I think you have sold a house”. My feelings were confirmed as we inspected the rest of the house. The next day I brought Norma to see it and she too felt very good about it. We made the financial arrangements to buy the home which had been the parish home for the minister of a large church. The home on 2400 Lake Street became the James home for the next twenty five years. Over the years we made many changes in the home and yard; enclosed the back yard with a wall, totally remodeled the kitchen, added another bathroom, put iron work on the windows, built a potting shed, and put concrete on a patio in the back yard, painted the outside, totally redid the interior decor, expanded the library with a deck above it, etc.. After we had been in the home a couple of weeks and we had the opportunity to look at the yard a little more carefully, I discovered behind the garage a patch of pure marijuana. It was obviously a cultivated patch. I called the police department, identified myself as Doctor James, the new owner of the property and ask them what should be done. I didn’t want to be found with this on my property. They told me that many people wouldn’t even know what it was and to cut it a little at a time and put it in the garbage. I did so and cleaned out the mess but it took several years before killing the plants completely. I have often wondered what the minister, the former resident, was doing. This was the time of the 1960’s when so much drug activity was starting.
We became more socially involved in the church because of the closeness to members. Many dinners and other social activities were held in our home. The children were growing up and were involved in school, church and working. Norma seemed very happy to be with church people and was active in Relief Society and all other activities but she had never lost her desire to go back west. It was a great concern to her and the subject of many discussions. I didn’t feel that we could make that change because everything was going so well for us professionally, financially and in the church. Her parents and my mother came to visit us with some frequency and we made regular trips to the west but she never got over that draw back to the mountains.
While we were in Seward we started to take vacations after the years in school. This continued after we returned to Lincoln. Our travels were always camping experiences. We made several trips to Nauvoo, camped in the various areas of Nebraska and Iowa, extensive trips to the west to Colorado, New Mexico, California, Texas, Padre Island, Mexico, etc.. We made several trips to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we relaxed, swam in the lake and enjoyed our canoe.
After Art, my sister Doris’ husband died, she and her daughter Caroline came out to visit. To help her in her recovery from grief we took them on a camping trip to the Black Hills. The camp area that we always used had no shower facilities so we would bath in the lake. On Saturday evening to be ready for church on Sunday the boys and I would take a swim. Norma and Doris wanted to bath but didn’t want to just get in the water but wanted to really get clean so I convinced them that they would be safe from view in a cove across the lake. I took they across the lake in the canoe to this isolated cove where I left them to bath while I returned to get someone else. They stripped down to bath but because there was some moss in the water near the shore they didn’t get into the water. All of a sudden a motor boat came into the cove. Rather than jump in the water where their nakedness would be covered they ran up the hill for cover among the trees. When I returned I had two angry ladies to contend with. All of our camping trips were wonderful adventures whether at the Lake of Three Fires or Wabonsie State park in Iowa or on a multi-week trip across many states. I am sure that these experience have helped to bring the family closer together and has continued to bring us together as we have continued with family reunions.
One of my unfulfilled desires has been to be able to play the piano. While in Seward Norma bought a lovely parlor grand piano so that the children could take lessons. I decided that this was also my opportunity to learn so I contacted a music professor at the college in Seward to teach me. He though it would be an interesting challenge to teach an older person and so he took me on as a student. I had taken two or three lessons when I was called to be a stake missionary. With this call plus my practice and teaching I couldn’t find any time to practice and so stopped the lessons. The children continued on with their lessons in Seward and again when we returned to Lincoln. They all were given the opportunity to learn but as with all things some took advantage of the opportunity and others found other things more to their liking. As adults there are some who still play the piano with great skill and feeling, much to the joy of their father. As so often is the case we can gain some fulfillment of our own failings in the accomplishments of our children.
While is Seward we continued to be active in the church. At that time there was Priesthood, Relief Society and Sunday School meetings in the morning and Sacrament meeting in the evening. We would go into Lincoln for morning meetings then home until evening when we would again go to Lincoln for Sacrament meeting. It involve over 150 miles each Sunday. Then, as I indicated earlier Brent drove to Lincoln every morning to attend seminary. So church activity demanded a sincere effort but we loved the opportunity to be with the saints. Our move to Lincoln made church activity so very much easier. We were within a mile of the church in our new home.
I continued my work as a stake missionary and was ordained a seventy. For this ordination we had to go to Salt Lake City where Elder Antoine R. Ivins of the First Quorum of Seventy ordained me in his apartment. I was called to be in the presidency of the stake Seventy Quorum and with the normal attrition of others, later became the senior president of the quorum. In January 1966 we had a stake conference in Omaha. At that conference I as interviewed by the presiding apostle Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and called to be the bishop of the Lincoln 2nd Ward. He ordained me a high priest and a bishop. I had always held the calling of Bishop in high respect and was overwhelmed by the calling but took it as a call from the Lord. Norma and the children were all very supportive.
I was just starting to get a feel of the calling when at the next stake conference in June 1966, after the afternoon meeting, I was called into a meeting with the presiding apostle, Elder Delbert L. Stapley and his companion Elder Theodore M. Burton. Elder Burton had been my organic chemistry teacher at Utah State. The Lincoln Air base was closing and we therefore were losing a lot of our members. The brethren wanted to know what I felt should be done with the two wards in Lincoln. I indicated that they should be combined into one good ward rather that two very weak units. After this discussion I was dismissed. Rather than to return to Lincoln before the evening session I was in the foyer of the chapel reading when I was again summonsed to meet with the visiting brethren. Elder Burton interviewed me as to worthiness and then
Elder Stapley called me to be the stake president of the Winter Quarters Stake. This was a complete shock to me, I had only been a bishop for five months. I explained to the brethren that I lived in Lincoln some sixty miles from the stake head quarters which were in Omaha. They indicated that this wouldn’t be a problem. Elder Stapley set me apart to the calling and gave specific instructions to close the second ward in Lincoln, to “straighten out the Council Bluffs situation”, and other special needs that existed in the stake. Some time later Roy C. Cochran, the first councilor in the former stake presidency told me that he and Elder Stapley were in the front of the chapel when I came into the back of the room. He said that Elder Stapley stopped what he was saying as they saw me come in and indicating me, ask President Cochran who that was. Brother Cochran told him that I was Bishop James from Lincoln. Elders Stapley said “Fine then I will be meeting with him.” President Cochran indicated to me that from that point on the new stake president was known to this wonderful Apostle of the Lord.
With this new calling our lives changed. Norma said that she knew that I now belonged to the stake and that she would have the major responsibility for the family. She met this challenge without ever complaining in any way even though I would be gone so very much of the time at work and in Omaha. I regret that I missed so many of the activities of the children when I should have been with them, to see them swim, dive, sing, compete in school activities, etc.. I tried to be supportive but I now recognize that I should have been with them more but then, we only have so much time and strength. I hope they will forgive me.
While serving as a bishop and as stake president, Norma and I tried to attend all the general conferences in Salt Lake City. As we were returning from one such conference, driving across Wyoming, we talked about the fact that the children were leaving home. Brent was home from his mission, David was on his mission, Kristine was away at school at BYU. We felt that we had room in our home and hearts and our means to take a young person into our home and help them. We had had many situations where young people had been in our home for days, for weeks, or years as indicated earlier. So as we got home we gave prayer to the matter. At this time Fred was working in a theater. He had mentioned a young girl who also worked there who was very much in need, being out on her own because of an intolerable situation in her home. We invited her to our home and told her of our intent to take a person into our lives and home. We felt impressed to invite her to be with us for a trial period of a few months. If it worked out fine, if not she would leave. She accepted this situation and so Sandy Traut became our second daughter. The boys at home accepted her wonderfully but I have since found out that they gave her some hard times with their teasing. She had lacked a good father figure and was very insecure. When I was at home she would come home from some activity and jump into my lap and curl up in almost a fetal position. We tried to extend to her the love and support that she needed. She later joined the church and graduated from high school. Norma took her out to Rexburg to attend Ricks College. She worked hard to help support herself in school and was able to graduate from Ricks and then from BYU and then started to teach school in Orem, Utah. Kristine, in her wonderful loving way, accepted Sandy without hesitation and continues to this day to do so.
While at BYU Sandy had several marriage proposals, some from very fine young men. I think that she was hesitant to accept some of these because of the background from which she had come but she finally accepted a proposal from a returned missionary, Dan Fry. They were married in the Provo Temple. Dan withdrew from BYU and took Sandy to California. There he didn’t provide for her as we would have hoped. Children were born and they later moved back to Lincoln where other children were born but still without his providing as he should have. After five little girls he let it be known that he was a homosexual. They were divorced and he was excommunicated from the church. Sandy has continued to struggle with her life because of this and all the other problems that she has faced.
While talking about the children I should mention that while Brent was about sixteen he met a girl, DeeNise Becker, at the skating rink who caught his eye. He was able to teach her and her family the gospel and later baptized her and her brother. I baptized her parents. When Brent went on his mission he left her with the understanding that she was to date around and not necessarily wait for him. She did so and brought another young man into the church by her efforts. A few weeks before his return she stopped dating and went with us to meet him at the airport. He came off the plane and greeted Norma and me and the siblings with a loving embrace, then extended his hand to DeeNise and said, “And how are you Sister Becker?” She looked crestfallen but maintained her composure. Within hours he was in Omaha to meet with the stake president and as soon as he was released from his mission all the reserve was gone. Brent later went to Logan to attend Utah State University, living with Norma’s father who was by now alone. DeeNise had taken training as a cosmetologist while in high school. She soon followed Brent to Logan. They were ultimately married in the Logan Temple. They have blessed us with six grandsons and two granddaughters, all of whom are increasing the family with great grandchildren.
David was called to serve in the Sydney Australia mission. Upon his return he was at home for a while before he entered Ricks college where he met Ronda Lee. It was a whirlwind courtship. Within a few weeks they were engaged. They were married in the Idaho Falls Temple. They lived in Rexburg for a while and then came to Lincoln. They have always been so very giving of themselves to others. Any individual in need has been accepted into their home where love and support has been unselfishly given. They have been blessed with a son and two daughters. They also became foster parents to two children, a boy and girl, brother and sister. The foster children were later adopted and sealed to them. Their natural children have been faithful in the church and have continued to be a joy to David and Ronda but the adopted children have not fulfilled the hopes of the parents. Grandchildren have brought a great deal of happiness to David and Ronda. They are very close as a family and meet as a large family on a regular schedule.
We frequently had the missionaries in our home. One year we had a couple of missionaries in with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kristine was a senior in high school at that time. When she graduated, she went to school in BYU. There she met one of the missionaries, Steven D. Harrop. who had been with us for the those holidays. They dated a few times but she couldn’t separate Elder Harrop from Steve Harrop so nothing developed that year. The next year they once again met and dated. I was coming to Salt Lake City to give some lectures to the dental society. Kristine called and said that Steve wanted to pick me up at the airport and take me to my hotel. I said that this wasn’t necessary, that I would take a cab in to town. She insisted that Steve really wanted to pick me up, so I consented. As we were driving into town Steve said, “President, you know I have been seeing Kristine and President, I like her very much. President, I love her”. By now we were at the hotel. I invited him to join me with a piece of pie. As we sat, enjoying our pie, he ask me for permission to ask Kristine to be his wife and said, “Before you answer let me tell you how I will take care of her and what my plans are”. He proceeded to outline exactly what he visualized as his future and how he would take care of my daughter. After he had done so in great detail, I told him that I was favorably impressed with Him and that he had my blessing. He has fulfilled very expectation and more. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the proud parents of three sons and four daughters and are making contributions to our wonderful group of great grandchildren.
After finishing his mission in England Fred attended Ricks College where he met Reesa Petersen. Reesa was from Brigham City, Utah but grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is very talented, being a concert pianist, an artist, and great crafter. They were married in the Ogden Temple. Fred transferred to BYU where he received his bachelors degree. I have already told of Fred’s accident, it was while they were in Provo at BYU that this occurred. Fred was in a pre-dental program at the time but part of his post accident care was by a podiatrist. This doctor was very professional and as a result Fred became interested in this field. He was accepted into The Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. They came to Lincoln in preparation for going to Ohio. We took them to Cleveland to look for a place to stay but could not find any suitable rental units and so after a couple of days looking we decided to buy a duplex. They lived here until he had finished his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree and during a year of surgical residency. After finishing the residency they returned to Lincoln for practice. They have three sons and three daughters and are moving forward with the wonderful roll of grandparents.
Richard, my gentle--lion hearted son, was very athletic in high school. He Fred and Syd were all in gymnastics but he excelled in diving being third in the state in the state diving competition. Richard was always a dedicated church person and served a mission in Perth, Australia. While in high school he dated Marsh Mar, a choice daughter of Our Father in Heaven who was of Chinese heritage. Richard taught her and several of her family the gospel while yet in high school. While he was on his mission she attended BYU where he also attended after his mission. They were married in the Logan Temple. Richard graduated with a degree in business and obtained employment in a bank in Lincoln. This was not satisfying to him and he saw that Fred was enjoying his medical schooling, so he took the required classes to also be admitted to The Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. They moved into the other half of the duplex where Fred and Reesa
were living. He completed his medical training and entered a residency program in Vancouver, British Colombia. After his residency they stayed in Canada to practice for a couple of years, then returned to the US and located in Winfield, Kansas. Richard has been the bishop in the ward there. His practice was in a multi-specialty clinic until it closed, after which he established a private practice. They have two sons and five daughters. They too are adding to our wonderful great grandchildren.
Jon Sydney was born while we lived in Logan, June 5, 1955. He had the lightest colored hair of any of the children. From the very first he was a pleasant little fellow. He was just a year old when we moved to Lincoln. As he grew up he always had many friends. In high school he was involved in gymnastics and other activities. He started out to play football but I discouraged this. There are too many injuries in that sport. Syd was never one to back away from anything. He had several encounters with other boys that he was always able to handle to his advantage. For example when the boys, Fred, Richard and he were attending Ricks College; he was crossing the campus and saw a conflict going on where one individual was being assaulted by three others. He thought that the one being set upon was Fred. He rushed over and took on all three of the others and beat them all. As he looked the situation over more closely he realized that the person wasn’t Fred after all. He then explained the mistaken identity and went on his was. He has always been strong in body and spirit. Syd served his mission in Mexico City and when the mission was divided he helped open the Guadalajara mission where he was assistant to the mission president. He still retains excellent proficiency in the Spanish language and has the opportunity to use it in the many trips that they have made to Mexico.
After his mission Syd took undergraduate training at BYU and the University of Nebraska. While at BYU he met Susan Lorraine Erickson. They were married in the Provo Temple. He applied for admission to the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine and the College of Dentistry at the University of Nebraska and was accepted to both. He chose to pursue dentistry. This was very much to my liking because of what the profession had given to me. As expected he excelled in his freshman year but as the second year stared he came to my office one evening and said that he didn’t enjoy the detailed minute of dentistry. I told him that he had given it a fair trial and that he should do something else. That very night he called his brothers in Ohio to see if he could be admitted to the school where he had been accepted the year before. Fred and Richard went to see the Dean the next day on his behalf. The Dean ask the secretary to bring in Syd’s file. After seeing the excellent credentials that were there he told the boys that Syd could come right into the class that was just starting. Syd left immediately for Cleveland. I had to withdraw him from dental school and then move Susan and their things to Ohio. As expected Syd finished at the top of his class when he graduated. He did a surgical residency in Salt Lake City. By then Fred was in practice in Lincoln. Syd came to associate with Fred for a couple of weeks but there wasn’t enough practice for them both and for Fred’s associate so Syd established a practice in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was very successful there but after three or so years he relocated in Las Vegas, Nevada where he became associated with the Sierra Medical group. He has since headed his department and has developed it into one of the top podiatric practices in the nation.
Syd and Susan were not able to have children so after several years, while in his third year in medical school, they were able to adopt a baby boy through the church social services program. They were over joyed with this sweet little spirit. When Jacob was 11 months old they got up one morning to find that he had died during the night. This was traumatic beyond words to describe but they had some very comforting spiritual experiences that helped them through those days. After an appropriate period they were able to adopt another baby boy, Jared and then later a baby girl, Rachael. These children have brought joy and contentment to their parents.
As indicated earlier Whitney was born while I was a freshman in dental school. He was always a very good boy with a fun loving nature but also very serious. While in high school he had good social encounters as well as participating in gymnastics. When the other children went to school in the west or on missions he was left alone with just Norma and me. He missed his siblings terribly. He would spend hours in his room reading the scriptures. He wanted to go to be with his brothers at Ricks College so we were able to let him finish high school early and he was off to college. While he was at Ricks the time came for Fred and Reesa to be married so Whit went to the temple to receive his endowment so he could attend the wedding. With that behind him and with his very spiritual nature he was able to be a veil worker in the Idaho Falls Temple while as student at Ricks and even before he served his mission.
He received a mission call to Peru but was unable to get a visa clearance when he finished at the Mission Training Center. Therefore he was assigned to a Spanish speaking mission in San Diego, California. After a couple of months there his mission call was changed to Chile. Like the other boys he finished an honorable mission.
Upon return from his mission he entered BYU, staying with Fred and Reesa. He took a young lady to general conference where he met a girl that he had casually know at Ricks before his mission. He excused himself from his date and spoke to the girl from Ricks. Right then, without even knowing her last name he ask her to marry him. Without knowing any thing about him she accepted. Cheryl Herbst became his wife in the Salt Lake temple. They were truly meant for each other. After they were married they moved to Lincoln where he finished his pre-dentistry courses and entered the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry. Because of my position in university he had extra pressure upon him and some faculty took out their hostilities for me on him. However he was able to withstand all the pressures and graduated. He took a general practice residency with the Veterans Administration in St. Louis, Missouri. Upon completing this he accepted a commission in the Public Health Service. This took them to Barrow Alaska, Juneau, Alaska and Cortez, Colorado. While in Colorado Whit was selected to be trained in oral-maxillo ****** surgery. This was taken at the Medical Center of the University of Oregon in Portland, Oregon. While in this program he gained great respect from his mentors for his integrity when some ethical issues came up. He was offered a faculty position at the University of Oregon but because of his commitments to the Public Health Service was unable to accept this offer. He was next stationed at the PHS hospital in Shiprock, New Mexico.
Whit and Cheryl have two sons and four daughters. The last two were identical twins born in Anchorage, Alaska while the family was in Juneau.
A great deal of space and time could be spent on a history of the grandchildren and great grandchildren but that will have to be written in the histories of others.
With the children all away from the home, Norma started to work in my office as the front desk receptionist. She has previously worked for a short time in the city library where they ask her to be the head librarian in one of the libraries. She declined that offer but worked in my private practice office. One day after lunch I had left the office to go back to the university I received a call from the hospital to inform me that Norma had been in an accident. As she was leaving the office and crossing the street, a car struck her. I ask what the condition was and they said it was serious and that I should come immediately. I found that she had a fractured leg and wrist, head injuries, severe damage to her eye, etc.. Her injuries were very major in nature. She was hospitalized for several days during which time she had an after life experience wherein a personage appeared to her and with great expression of love told that she would be all right. While she was in surgery Brent and Syd who were with me told me that Fred had had an accident in Provo. His father in law had given him a motorcycle to help him with transportation while he was in school at BYU. When he heard of Norma’s accident he rode the motorcycle down to the park on Utah Lake to pray and plead with the Lord in behalf of her. As he was returning home he hit some ice on the road and crashed, going through a wire fence and down into a sewage canal. He suffered a compound fracture of the leg and other severe injuries. He crawled up onto the road and tried to get help from passing cars. Several passed him by without stopping. Finally a car of “hippies” picked him up and took him to the hospital. He spent many weeks in the hospital because of the infection in the bone of his leg. The doctors wanted to amputate the leg but he refused to allow it. He ultimately recovered but continued for the rest of his life to suffer from the shortened leg.
Norma recovered from the surgery that she had and was able to come home. Once again my dear Mother came out to help take care of her during her recovery. The doctors told us that she might need to use a cane for the rest of her life but she regained full function of her broken leg but the injury to her brain left her with a loss of some aspects of memory.
I will now return to my narrative from the time of my being
called as stake president of the Winter Quarters Stake. During the years as stake president I had a number of wonderful councilors. Transfers of employment and other such factors necessitated my having six different councilors over the seven years I was in that position. The same situation existed in the stake high council. I had the privilege of working with a number of outstanding men.
During my time as stake president I continued to be very professionally active at the university as well as conducting a very active private practice. It was normal procedure for me to go to the office to see a few patients about 6:00 am then rush to the university at 8:00 am. Then back to the office to see patients during the noon hour, back to the university from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. If patients needed to be seen I would stop at the office on my way home. Norma would have dinner on the table when I arrived home. Several days each week I would quickly eat dinner before leaving for Omaha. After the various meetings in Omaha I would arrive back home at about eleven or twelve that night and be ready to start the same routine the next day. It was only by the blessings of the Lord that I was able to keep up this schedule.
In September 1972 my gastric ulcers which had been a bother since about 1962 started to bleed severely. I was taken to the hospital where after several hours of efforts by the doctors the bleeding was brought under control. The loss of blood left me very weak. I spent a few days in the hospital. This was just the week before general conference in Salt Lake City. I had an appointment on that Saturday to meet with Elder Mark E. Peterson to discuss some stake matters. Being in the hospital, I ask Norma to call Elder Peterson to cancel the appointment. In that conversation he ask Norma if she thought it was time for me to be released as the stake president. She indicated that she thought it would be best to do so. We had a stake conference scheduled about six weeks later. As preparations were being made for this conference I was informed by Elder Peterson that I would be released. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was assigned to preside at this conference accompanied by Elder Anderson (later president of the Provo Temple). My strength has improved greatly by the time of the stake conference. The usual procedures for calling a new stake president were followed with interviews of potential individuals on that Saturday afternoon and evening. As I was taking the brethren to their lodging that evening Elder Hinckley said to me that they would be calling me as a stake patriarch the next day. There was no formal interview, just the statement that it would be done. My response to him was that I had been aware of that possibility since the previous Wednesday, that the spirit had indicated to me that this would occur. Brother Anderson responded something to the affect, “Elder Hinckley, you are right on”. To which I ask, “What do you mean?” Elder Hinckley said, “I have never called a man to be a patriarch but what he has know of the call before it was issued. It is a confirmation of the correctness of the call”. Needless to say I was greatly humbled by this discussion. The next day I was released as stake president and ordained a patriarch. My dear friend and one of my former councilors in the stake presidency, William R. Hinckley was called as the new stake president. Bill and I had been stake missionaries together and had served together in the presidency of the stake seventies quorum.
As instructed by Elder Hinckley I tried to prepare myself before giving the first patriarchal blessing one month later. He had told me to not wait until I felt ready because if I did so I would never give a blessing but to wait about a month for preparation before scheduling a blessing.
My trips to Omaha were no longer as frequent as before but the practice and university work continued. As always Norma was so very supportive of all that I tried to do.
The years that followed were good years with the children all going their various way, missions, school, marriages, grandchildren, etc..
One Christmas while everyone was away at various schools (some of the boys were in school in Cleveland at this time), they all made the effort to be home for Christmas. As always there was great joy in the gathering of the clan. After the presents were all opened, the family ask Norma and me to sit in front of the fireplace with them all gathered around. Brent was the spokesman for the group and said that we had done so much for all of them and now they wanted to do something for us that we wouldn’t have done for ourselves. They had been working on this project for the past year. They had all made contributions to this endeavor, including the girls doing extra baby sitting, the boys working extra hours and Fred having sold the camp trailer we had given him. Brent then handed me a wrapped present in which I could feel a picture frame. I thought, “They have had a family picture taken for us”. When it was opened we found a gift certificate for a trip to the Holy Lands and to Egypt with the BYU study program. Needless to say we were overwhelmed. Everyone said “We will never get over there so take lots of pictures and come back and tell us all about it.
Arrangements were made for the trip with an extension to Rome Italy. We made the trip as scheduled, meeting our group in New Your City. While in the airport in New York waiting for our flight to Paris France we visited with members of the group. One of the sisters mentioned to someone that she had been to Israel six months earlier. I ask her if this was true and if so why was she going again. Her response was very meaningful. She said, “You haven’t been there have you?” I responded, “No”. She then said, “Until you have been there you can’t understand. After you have been there, you will understand.” And that is very true.
We had a wonderful trip. One day as we were traveling from Tel Dan, through the Hula valley, I told Norma that there is not way we could take this back to the children, how can we give them the smells, the feelings, the spirit of this land? We must bring them over here.
Upon our return home we scheduled a day when as many as could would be at our home. We served them what we had learned to be an Israeli breakfast, with fish, eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.. Then we presented to them the slides we had taken of Egypt, Israel and Italy. We then told them that we could not possibly give them the true feeling of the lands, the people and cultures that we had experienced, but we wanted them to have these experiences and therefore we wanted them each to plan to be in New York City the next June on a date yet to be determined and we would take them all on a trip like the one they had given us. We felt that they should make the effort to get themselves to New York and we would cover the expenses thereafter.
I told them that we had never counseled against having children but we hoped that the girls would not be pregnant next June. That fall Kristine announced that she was expecting but that babies are born every day in Egypt and Israel and that if her baby was born there it would be just fine. She made the trip in her eight month of pregnancy with no complications.
Norma and I went to Provo to BYU and made the arrangements for Dr. Donell Peterson to be our tour guide (he had been our tour director on the earlier trip). We modified the itinerary to exclude Italy but to include Greece.
I had some money (about 50 thousand dollars) deposited with a company in Lincoln, Commonwealth Savings and Loan. I had been saving money to provide for the trip. I felt impressed to withdraw the money sometime before the payment to BYU was required. We were blessed in that action because one week after I closed the account with Commonwealth they were closed by the state because of fraud and misappropriations of funds. Many people lost their life savings or at best were able to get a few cents on the dollar after years of waiting for the court proceedings. We were so blessed to have taken out our money just one week before all this happened. If we had not done so we could not have made the trip with the children.
When it became known that we were planning this trip, our bishop, Bob Justice, and several of his family joined us, as well as our dear friends Roy and Kathleen Sneedon, also our dear friend Dorene Sherman who was doing the typing for the patriarchal blessings and a professional colleague, Harlo McKinty and his wife. We held several meetings with those who were going on the trip to help prepare us all to be able to maximize our knowledge of what we were to see. Dorene’s husband who was Jewish was a great help in these endeavors.
This trip with the family and our friends proved to be an experience of a lifetime. Our memories of the family interactions we had and that which we saw will forever be precious.
In about December of 1985 my dear brother, Bob, was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. I made a trip to Utah to see him. He was very ill and it brought great sorrow to me to see this noble man, one who had done so much for others, in the terrible state in which I found him. He ask for a blessing which I gave him. Not a blessing of healing but a blessing of comfort. He also ask me to dedicate his home for him, which I did. Three months after his diagnosis he left this mortal frame to go on to a better realm. Bob had always been a faithful church man, serving on high councils, etc.. He was one who gave of himself freely to the blessing of others. No one will ever know how many families in need would find a sack of potatoes or other produce on their doorstep. Although our paths took different directions, his to the farm, mine to the university, we stayed close in the love of brothers. Although physical distance kept us from frequent contact we remained close and as with those that we love and lose, the void that is felt is never quite filled.
On December 23, 1986 as we were preparing for Christmas, we were watching the movie “The Christmas Carol”. Mother was with us and Fred and his family. We had enjoyed a outstanding dinner that Norma had prepared. As we watched the movie I became distressed in my stomach and excused myself. In the bathroom I threw up massive amounts of blood as well as passing blood rectally. I passed out. I aroused enough to weakly call Norma. Syd was called and he and Fred gave me a blessing before I was rushed to the hospital. At the hospital it was determined that I had lost a great deal of blood, with a hemoglobin of only 7 where normally I had 14.5. It was determined that surgery was necessary. I recall the anesthesiologist telling me that because of my weakened condition he would have to intubate me with out any pre-medication. I said to do what you have to do. That is the last that I remember until I awakened in the recovery room. The surgeon did a hemigastrectomy, partial duodenectomy, pylorectomy, a jejunal-gastric anastamosis and a vagectomy. Recovery was slow by steady. It was several weeks before I could return to work and other activities. Norma and Mother were very attentive to my needs and the Lord blessed me with a restoration of function much beyond that which others have had with this type of surgery.
In 1987 I had been approached by the stake president about serving a mission. I ask that it be deferred for a year to complete professional commitments I had made. I had just started my term as president of the America Board of Endodontists. Later that year Norma and I received the call, as missionaries, to go to the Chicago Temple as ordinances workers. When I talked to the dean of the college about the possibility of my retiring he told me to put nothing in writing and not to discuss this with others until he could get back to me. As it turned out there was a early retirement program being developed that allowed tenured individuals to take early retirement with the university buying their tenure in exchange for a years salary to be paid over a three year period. This was ideal for us. As a result I retired from the university affective August 1, 1988 but with my accrued vacation time left the university in May. I closed my practice, sold the equipment and made arrangements for a young couple to live in our home for the time we would be in Chicago. The first call was for twelve months but before we left we were ask if it could be for eighteen months. This was fine.
The people of the ward and stake were wonderful to us. A beautiful quilt was made with a replica of the Chicago Temple in the middle and was presented to us by sisters in the ward. The love and respect of the saints is very humbling.
We packed up what we though we would need, left our home and were off to this new adventure. We moved into a one bedroom apartment across the street from the temple. Most of the missionary couples live in these apartments so we quickly made friendships with these good people. After being set apart to the callings we started to learn the ordinances. Because of her accident and injury to the brain, Norma was very concerned about learning what she had to know. She struggled to perfectly master all that was needed but was having great difficulty. Many prayers were offered in her attempts to remember everything. After we had been there for some weeks, one afternoon in frustration for her inability to remember, she left the temple and went to our apartment. She described going to sleep and in a dream she saw the words of the ordinances as though they were being typed on a page. She awoke and from that point on she knew the ordinances and was able to function very effectively in her calling as an ordinance worker and in the later callings that would come. Once again we had experienced the blessings of the Lord in those areas where the blessings were needed and where humble prayer and our efforts were extended.
We enjoyed our time in the temple and the association with the workers and the patrons. One day in early July as I was in the foyer area, just inside the recommend desk I observed a man looking around very much like he had questions. I spoke to him and ask if I could be of any help to introduce him to the temple. He indicated that he was just looking things over. I went about my duties. An hour or so later I was ask to come to President Lysle Cahoon’s office. There with the president was this man and his wife. They was introduced as the new temple president, Edwin B. Jones and his wife Mildred. I was somewhat embarrassed because of my previous attempt to introduce him to the temple but they were most gracious. He ask me about myself, my background in both professional and church activities. President Cahoon apparently had discussed me with them before I was called into the office. After some time of visiting, I was dismissed and returned to my usual activities. After a few hours I was again call to the presidents office where President Jones explained that it was up to the First Presidency to call temple presidencies but if they approved, would I serve as a counselor in the temple presidency. Of course, I told him that I would serve in any way that I was ask. We parted with warm feelings. About two weeks later I received a call from the secretary to the First Presidency asking me to be available within the next few hours for a call from President Hinckley. This call was received and the call to be the second counselor was extended. I told President Hinckley that I would serve in any way I could. His response was, “You always have”. The temple presidency was changed in September. The new presidency and their wives and John Dietrich, the temple recorder, and his wife Sue, met on October 4, 1988 in the church office building in Salt Lake City. I invited my beloved mother to be with us on that occasion. Lavon Fife who had been second counselor in the previous presidency had been ask to stay on as first counselor to help President Jones get things started. President Thomas Monson set us apart as a presidency and our wives as matron and assistant matrons. In doing so he “conferred upon him the sealing powers to be exercised in the Chicago Illinois Temple in behalf of both the living and the dead.” It was a glorious and humbling experience.
The Chicago Temple had been dedicated in 1985. It was recognized at once that it was too small, so as the presidency was changed the temple was closed for major renovations. President Hinckley told President Jones that there was no need for him to move from Utah to Chicago while the temple was closed and in as much as we had already left our home, to leave President James in charge of the temple during the closed period. Because the Jones’ would not be moving, we moved into the temple president’s home from our apartment. During this period of closure President and Sister Jones came out periodically to see how things were going and to hold presidency meetings. We hosted them in the presidency home on those visits and developed a deep and loving relationship with them.
During this period I went to the temple everyday and worked very closely with Brother Dietrich in overseeing the renovations. Because the Boise and Dallas Temples had been build exactly like the Chicago Temple and had already undergone the necessary renovations, Norma and I made trips to these temples to see what changes had been made and to see if there were things that we could learn for our temple. In the Dallas temple I was told that one change they wish they had made was to establish a direct access to the baptistery from the outside with its own recommend desk to avoid the regular recommend desk. Upon returning to Chicago I talked to the building supervisor, the interior decorator, etc. about opening a door to accomplish this. All said that it wasn’t in the plans and couldn’t be done. I communicated my ideas to President Jones when he came. He thought it was a good idea but he too was unable to get past the previous plans. At his next visit Elder Grant Bangeter, the head of the temple department, also came to inspect the progress of the work. President Jones ask me to tell Elder Bangeter my idea of the needed door. He listened to my explanation, took a small card from his pocket, made a note and within a week directives came from Salt Lake to place the door and baptistery recommend desk where I had suggested. So I feel that we had some input in the project.
Norma and I also visited the Boise Temple. President Claire Johnson was very gracious to us. He showed us through the temple and we had a lovely lunch together. We then met in his office to discuss our observations. I had known President Johnson before, for we had been graduate students at Utah State at the same time and also we had met at the Philmont Boy Scout camp a few years earlier. So we had a friendly, personal visit. He said to us, “Garth, I have always loved the temple. When I received my own temple blessings I was deeply impressed. As a bishop nothing gave me more pleasure that to issue temple recommends to our members, As a high counselor I literally drove the bus to Idaho Falls to take people to the temple. As a stake president, again, nothing was more fulfilling that to issue temple recommends. As a regional representative I took every available opportunity to speak about the temple but with all that background I didn’t know what was in the temple until I came here full time.”
During our time in the presidents home, we had the opportunity to host some people for visits. Syd and Susan, Brent, and other family members came to visit us. Charlene Wisbey and Marie Hoxie and others spent time with us. We enjoyed these visits and usually took these people to the Art Museum, The Museum of Science and Industries, etc.. These were places that we also visited regularly and enjoyed very much. We enjoyed the comforts of the president’s home but of course when the time came for the reopening of the temple, President and Sister Jones came to preside over the temple so we moved back to an apartment across the street from the temple.
After about two months President Lavon Fife, the first counselor and his wife left and moved to Provo. He had been the second counselor in the first presidency. I was now called to be the first counselor. President Jones was wonderful to work with and our next two years in the temple were wonderful beyond description.
On the occasions when the temple was closed for the semiannual cleaning we took the opportunity to visit family and to try to make some plans for our future. Norma had always wanted to return to the west. Many people had told us of the advantages of St. George as a retirement location. As we were in the west we made four trips to St. George and even looked at property there but it didn’t seem right. During the December 1990 temple closure we came to Utah to look for a future location. We had already established some criteria for a location, i.e. near a temple, near a university, good medical facilities, if possible near family, etc.. We considered Logan, Provo, St. George, and Las Vegas. On this trip friends in Logan were very gracious in hosting us to a lovely dinner and evening of reflection, even to asking us to come to their neighborhoods. However with Norma’s asthma condition which had been diagnosed as being precipitated by cold and exercise it did not seem wise to be in the cold of Cache Valley. We had previously ruled out St. George and were not pleased with the size and spirit of La Vegas. We spent some time in Provo looking at homes and other factors. For the week end we went to Malad to see Mother and while there decided that members of the family would be coming to school at BYU and we would see more of them there than any other location. We had looked at several homes one of which was a large 7 bedroom home with 4 bathrooms but in need of considerable upgrading. We returned to Provo and made an offer on this home. Our offer was accepted and we now had a large home in Provo and still had our home in Lincoln. Our lovely home in Lincoln was sold rather quickly. Arrangements were made for a contractor to make the needed renovations in the Provo home. We returned back to Chicago but came to Provo during weekends several times in the next months to oversee the work on the home. As that was completed we took a few days off from the temple and had everything from Lincoln moved to Provo. We spent time in the home to get things settled before returning to complete our assignments in Chicago. Upon our release from the temple in September 1991 we moved to Provo.
We found that we had been directed by the spirit in the selection of our Prove location because we were close to the Provo Temple and in the most wonderful ward and stake. We quickly adjusted to our circumstances and were welcomed by our neighbors and ward members with warmth and love. I was very soon activated as a stake patriarch and as a sealer in the temple.
The move to Provo proved to be right. With the grandchildren coming to BYU or other schools in Utah we have been able to have many wonderful encounters with them and with all others of the family. However Norma’s asthma was activated by the cold and on the advice of her doctor to be out of the cold of the winter, we selected a location in the St, George area. We bought a park model in the Winter Haven RV park in Washington. We have so enjoyed the people there and the warmer temperatures in the winter. We added onto the basic unit to give us more room with a “family room” and a wash room. Later further additions were made to give us a dining room also.
Being free from professional and full time church responsibilities we have had the opportunity to enjoy many great travel opportunities.
Our dear friends across the street, Spencer and Shirley Palmer invited us to visit them in China where Spencer was presenting the first formal course in religion since the takeover by the communist government. We had a wonderful trip to see them and toured China, Hong Kong and Korea.
My cousin Gordon Gibbs and his wife were visiting us and told us they were going on a trip to Russia with a Ricks College group. We joined them and visited Russia, Holland, Finland and the Holy Land.
With Whit and Cheryl in Alaska we were able to make two trips to visit them.
With Fred, Syd and their wives we went to Cozumel and the Yucatan.
With Steve and Kristine we joined a BYU tour to Meso-America, going to Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Yucatan and other areas in Mexico.
On our last day in Belize before returning home we were scheduled to go out to an island in the ocean to snorkel. Norma seemed tired and didn’t feel like going so she stayed in the hotel. As we were flying home she said that she didn’t feel like going on any more overseas trips, she was tired. Upon arriving home we immediately went to our little home in St. George. We had been there for a couple of days when she developed severe abdominal pain. I took her to the emergency room at the hospital where the personnel there thought it was a kidney stone, she had had one while we were in Chicago. They gave her some medication and we went home. The next day she was in greater pain so we returned to the hospital and to a urologist. He was able to remove a large stone. She spent a day or so in the hospital and came home again. We made an appointment with our primary care physician in Provo for the next week. In a couple of days she was again in server pain so I said that we were going to return to Provo at once. She was in extreme pain all the way to Provo. As we enter Utah valley I called the doctor’s office and told them that I wanted her to be seen at once and not in a few days when she had an appointment. We went directly to the office. After a good examination the doctor suspected a bowel obstruction but x-rays did not show this so he again recommended pain medications. We went home. That night was very difficult for her. I called the doctor the next morning and told him I wanted her hospitalized. As we were getting ready to go she sat on the edge of the bed and said, “I don’t want you rambling around this house alone”. At the hospital they did a gastroscopy and found a large lesion. The various doctors felt that it could be successfully removed so surgery was scheduled. The surgeon told me that he anticipated about a two to two and a half operation. After about a half hour a nurse came to me and ask if the doctor had talked to me, I said no that he had indicated he would be much longer. Shortly he came out and said that the cancer had spread all over the stomach, to the esophagus and to the hepatic ligament and that there was nothing that could be done. He had placed a feeding tube in to feed her because she would be unable to eat by mouth. Both the surgeon and our primary care physician indicated that the condition was terminal.
After a couple of days Norma seemed alert enough for me to tell her the situation. I told her that the surgery was not successful, that the cancer was too extensive to be removed. She looked at me as ask, “Am I going to die”? I said, “Yes, you are going to die”. She looked at me for a moment and we talked for a while about the situation. She seemed to accept the reality of her condition without any show of emotion. She was in the hospital recovering from the surgery for several days. I stayed with her day and night. Brent and DeeNise were very faithful in visiting her and would come and to be with her when I could go home to bath and change cloths.
In the mean time I visited with a lady in the hospital who was the cancer coordinator. She discussed the use of hospice services and put me in touch with several such groups. After interviewing the directors of these I selected one that appeared to be very complete in their program and through them I made arrangements for a hospital bed, feeding pumps, medications and everything else to be able to care for Norma. I set up a hospital environment in my study to care for her. I brought her home and tried to meet her needs for pain control, feedings, etc.
The children had all been notified of mother’s condition. They all came to visit her as much as possible. I selected a mortuary and made all the arrangements necessary. Daddy Fred had given her two plots in the Hyrum Cemetery. Even though they had been given to her, her brother Norris and sister Billie thought they should have some claim to them so I had paid them for any right they felt was theirs. We therefore had thought to bury her in Hyrum but Syd commented that that was so far away that I wouldn’t be able to visit that site very easily and suggested we use a local cemetery. Some time before this all occurred, we had visited a cemetery very near our home and so on a warm day we took her, in a wheel chair to that location to find a lot. I had been up to the location and found what I though would be a good spot but in her very typical, strong personality way she indicated that it was too much in the sun and she want to be in the shade. A location acceptable to her was found. She also selected the stone design she wanted on her grave.
One of the times when the children were all here she told me she wanted to talk to the family. I ask what she wanted and she indicated that she would take care of it, so everyone assembled around her bed and I told her that everyone was here and what did she want. In her usual loving but firm manner she said, “I want to plan my funeral” and so in conference with all her children we planned her funeral service. She was a remarkable woman in every way right to the end.
I set up a cot and slept by her for the last three months of her life. Hospice was wonderful in the way they meet the many needs. As her condition deteriorated and we could see that the end was near, Brent, Kristine and Susan were with us. At exactly 3:30am on June 5, 1996 with the four of us around her bed she left us to go to Our Heavenly Father. No words can possible express the feelings of my heart as this dear woman with whom I had enjoyed such a wonderful life was taken from me. Even now as I write this my eyes are full of tears.
Norma had touched the hearts of many people in the short five years we had lived in Provo and the chapel was fill to capacity for her funeral. Our study group purchased a tree to be placed at the grave site as an expression of love and as a memorial to her.
Some weeks before she died it became known in the ward that our beloved bishop, Jim Mathis, would be released. As I contemplated that possibility I felt very concerned as to who the new bishop would be. There were many very worthy men in the ward but I wanted the new bishop to be someone with whom Norma had some special relationship, for he would be conducting her funeral service. As I thought and prayed about this, with deep concern, there came to me, as an audible voice from the spirit, “Be at peace, David will be the bishop”. With this I felt at peace. About three weeks before she died our good friend and neighbor David Blackhurst was sustained as our new bishop. He knew Norma and conducted the funeral service with the sensitivity that I sought for, even to shedding tears as he spoke. That communication from the spirit brought comfort to me at a time when it was very much needed.
That summer was long and lonely. On one occasion as I was doing some yard work, I was on a ladder trimming a bush, the ladder went out from under me and as I was falling I thought Oh good Heavenly Father is going to take me too. As I hit the ground I landed on a sprinkler head and cracked a couple of ribs but was allowed to continue on this earth to have more time to experience the ups and downs of life.
Later that fall Norma’s sister Billie, in California, and I were talking on the phone and she ask if I would be getting married again. My response was “Why do you ask”. She said that while she was visiting us in Nebraska she and Norma were in my office and visited with my office assistant Charlene Wisbey and after Charlene left the room, Norma told her that if any thing should happen to her Charlene was the one she wanted me to marry.
Shortly before Halloween Syd invited Charlene to visit them in Las Vegas. An invitation was extended to me also. We had a wonderful time together going to the strip and building an entertainment center for Syd and Susan. I took Charlene over to St. George to see our little home in Winter Haven. She liked it very much.
Fred invited me to come to Lincoln for Christmas. As we were going to town from the airport he indicated that if it was all right with me he would like to take Charlene and me out to dinner. The stage was set. Charlene and I spent some time together on that trip and I ask her to marry me. She accepted my proposal. I had brought a copy of my patriarchal blessing with me and at that special moment we shared our blessings with each other. She thought that a spring wedding would be good but I convinced her that we should be married in February. We went to Beatrice to tell her brothers and sisters. They were shocked but very happy for us and very supportive.
We were married for time and eternity on February 15, 1997 in the Provo Temple. Linell came out with her mother for the wedding. There were thirty eight of the children and their spouses and the stake presidency and their spouses with us in the temple for that great event. We had a very nice luncheon in the Sky Room of the Wilkinson Center at BYU. That evening we had an open house for the people of the ward. It was well attended. The next day we drove to Malad to see Mother in the rest home. She and Charlene had been corresponding for a number of years. She was very pleased with our marriage and told Charlene that if I wasn’t good to her that she would spank me. We returned home to start a whole new phase of life, which has been filled with joy and happiness.
Shortly after we were married Rick’s College had a tour to China. We joined that group as a honeymoon trip. We had an extensive tour of China. Our good friends from the ward, Dr. Bay and Jean Hutchins joined us. We had a most unusual experience in Guilin where we visited a “Normal School” (training teachers). As we arrived at the school the student body and their band were assembled to greet us. They played some music for us and then they all sang “I AM A CHILD OF GOD”. We were all very touched that they sang this LDS hymn. It would take a whole book to cover all that we saw. We ended up in Hong Kong where we attended a temple session in the Hong Kong Temple. Charlene and I were the witness couple.
As we were flying home I ask Charlene where else she would like to go. She indicated that she had always wanted to go to the Czech Republic. So the next year we joined a tour group from Crete College in Nebraska for a tour of the homeland of Charlene’s father. Again this was a memorable experience.
Since then we have been to Alaska twice (one trip with Steve and Kristine), to Mexico a couple of times, a cruise to Hawaii with Whit and Cheryl. a BYU tour of church and national history sites, an ocean cruise down the west side of Mexico and several trips around the United States. We have found that we like to take the train to the Midwest but we enjoy travel wherever we go.
We continue to spend the winter months in our little home in southern Utah. We have many dear friends there. and love to attend the beautiful St. George Temple. From our home in Washington we have visited many other places in the surrounding areas.
The high points of our lives are these opportunities that we have to be with our families. Whether a short visit at their homes or in our home or the periodic family reunions, these are the high points of our years. As the years are added upon us we come to realize more that ever the vital importance of family. Unfortunately the distance in miles has not allow us to have blended the two families together in the close relationship that we would like to see but individually each family is precious to us.
The numbers in the family continues to expand. There are 47 grandchildren in the James family and Charlene has 2 grandchildren. We love them all. The number of great grandchildren is ever expanding but at this point, the fall of 2007, the number is over 75.
The church is so very important to us. I feel so very blessed with the fact that with a few exceptions all of my descendants are active in the church and have been sealed in the temples of Our Lord. As we read in 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy that to hear that my children walk in truth”.
I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve in the kingdom. I have not felt worthy nor capable of the callings that I have been given but I have tried to fulfill each one properly. I strive to be worthy of the many blessing that the Lord has given me. I have made many errors in life which I have tired to repent of and now place my whole trust in the redemption and saving powers of Our Savior.
As I conclude this I want to bear my testimony to those who may read it. My life’s experiences have given to me a testimony of the reality of Our Father in Heaven and His love for us His children. His Son is Jesus Christ, who under the direction of The Father, created this earth and all things therein. He came to this earth and took upon himself a mortal body. He took upon himself the sins of all mankind and the earth itself. He was resurrected to immortality and is exalted to be with His Father, worlds and time without end. He established a church while in His mortal ministry which has been restored in these last days. All the powers and authority of past dispensations have been restored to men in this time through Joseph Smith, Jr. The prophets and apostles are truly called of God. Within the temples of the Lord we can receive all the covenants and commitments to enable us, through our faithfulness, to return to Our Father in Heaven and to receive exaltation in the eternities. I want each person in my family to know that I know these things by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and as sited in some of this history, I have seen miracles from the Lord that cannot be explained by anything other than the spirit. Although I have seen these miracles, it is the quite speaking of the spirit that truly brings to me a testimony.