Memories of Grandpa McDonald
Contributor: bwdraper Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
The other day, while preparing a lesson for my seminary class, I had a complex question arise. I sat for a few minutes pondering it and was suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to call my grandpa. Unfortunately, that was a call I couldn’t make. It’s been over 10 years since Grandpa McDonald died, and I still miss him. He always knew the answers to all the tough gospel questions, and no matter what I asked, I always came away with the answer I needed and so much more. There have been many times over the past few years that I wished there was phone service in heaven.
My grandfather figures prominently in my childhood memories. My sister and I spent a lot of time with him. We had weekend sleepovers, hikes in the mountains, and wonderful adventures to Cedar Valley where we hiked and explored around for hours. We would always stop in the little town of Fairfield and rest in the beautiful park there. On one particular adventure we went all the way out to Mercur. I remember some sort of abandoned town or mining operation there, probably not really that impressive, but he told us all kinds of interesting facts about the things that had gone on there and we thought it was the most amazing place we had ever been. We loved those excursions! My sister recently took a trip out to Cedar Valley and called to report that there are houses everywhere and everything looks different. That made me a little sad.
My grandparents lived on Millcreek Way in Salt Lake City. The creek flowed through their front yard and created a little pool area just before continuing its path down to a much more turbulent section. That pool was fresh and cool and we could go out and swim and catch water skeeters. My grandpa saw how much we enjoyed this area and since he also loved to sit and watch the creek flow by, he decided to build a bench right there under the tree. He made it from large rocks and concrete and it wrapped beautifully around the base of the tree giving plenty of room for several people. He also built a little walkway and stairs right down to the water. It was wonderful. My grandparents used to sit and watch us swim. I recently visited Utah and as usual made my way down to Millcreek Way. Although the creek bed has been replaced by a concrete culver, the bench is still intact. It makes me smile every time I see it. So many great memories.
We loved to visit grandma and grandpa and as soon as we got to the house we would run to our Grandpa’s office to see what he was doing. No matter what it was, he would put it away and completely engage with us. We would pull an encyclopedia off the shelf and pick a page to read. We put his encyclopedias to good use! One of my favorite memories is of him sitting down with my own sons and reading through the encyclopedia with them. I loved that! He had a love for learning and he definitely passed it on.
I am grateful to have had a grandfather that was genuinely interested in each one of his grandchildren. I always felt that he loved me and I adored him! I will miss him until the day we meet again. That will be a joyful reunion, indeed!
A Brief Tribute to Lawrence Wesley McDonald Jr.
Contributor: bwdraper Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
A Tribute to Lawrence Wesley McDonald Jr.
By Ronald F. McDonald
Eleven years have passed since the death of my father. Everywhere I turn I see things that remind me of him, and I find myself wanting to thank him, which I didn't do often enough when he was with us. Toward the end of his life, it was my privilege to care for him for a time. He kept trying to pay me, but I refused money. So he gave me things, like his tools and other things he thought I would like. Every time I use one of the things he gave me, I can’t help but reflect on his life, and how unusual he was. Truly, my father was a very complex person. He was nothing like any other person I have ever known. He exhibited a few family traits, which can be identified with his ancestors on both sides, but he also had a lot of characteristics completely unique to himself. Simply said, Dad was a lot different than most other people.
Dad’s uniqueness became apparent soon after birth. He was an only child, and his mother told me Dad was a sufficient handful, and they didn’t need any more children. Dad was not a bad kid, but he was a busy kid. He never rested, and he had endless energy, which lasted until old age. By age 17 he could play the piano very well by ear, having had no lessons. He could also completely overhaul a car engine, or climb to the highest peak in the mountain range east of Salt Lake City, without taking water or a lunch. He was composing music while still in high school. By age 19 he was able to hire on as a mechanic at the local Chevrolet Dealership. His mother once told me they wondered where this kid came from, and what would be next. By age 22, Dad had graduated from aircraft mechanic school, and within 5 years had become a supervisor at Hill Airforce Base, with a large crew of employees working under him.
During World War II Dad served in the Merchant Marine. In less than 6 months he went from the lowest rank, to purser of the ship, and also helped with the job of ship navigator. He was something like third in command of the ship. Some of the crew members were saying it was corruption. There was no corruption; Dad was motivated, and was continually learning new things. While in port, the crew would go to town to party, but Dad stayed on the ship and studied navigation and other subjects. The Captain took a liking to him. He asked Dad if he knew who the last man to abandon ship was to be in case they were sunk by the enemy. Dad said he thought that it was the Captain. The Captain said that was correct. Then he asked Dad if he knew who the next to last man to abandon ship was. Dad didn’t know. The Captain said “it is you, you drop the secret code papers and other important things with a lead anchor, and then you are free to abandon ship just before I do.” Dad said after hearing that he started wearing two life jackets whenever there was an enemy alert. When the war ended, Dad was the absolute last man off the ship. He wrote his own final paycheck and signed it.
Dad and I got along okay, but not perfectly. He thought there was only one way to do a task, and that was his way. Although his way was always better, it was a bit annoying to me. For example: I was unable to wash the car, or mow the lawn correctly. As I look back on those memories now, it is obvious his way was superior. Dad was somewhat of a perfectionist. If something had to be done, it should be done correctly. That was difficult for me, because most of the things I do end up less than perfect.
Every morning Dad would be up early. The first thing he would do is wash his face in cold water. He said that was to wake up his brain and get the day off to a good start. He taught me to do it, but not long after I went out on my own I quit that practice. I preferred to wake up more slowly.
1950 was the year I became well acquainted with Dad. He bought a 480-acre farm near Monticello, Utah. He then bought a Case LAI tractor in northern Utah. Dad and I drove that tractor all 300 miles to Monticello. I had just turned 13, and that summer Dad and I lived alone in a small pup tent on the farm. We became well acquainted. During that year I learned first hand some of the unique characteristics of Dad, which I had already been somewhat aware of, but I learned them first-hand. Dad was 100% meticulously honest in all his dealings with people. He was fanatical about honesty. He was 100% converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and taking care of religious duties came before any other thing.
I also learned the meaning of hard work. Prior to this, my activities included riding my bicycle, playing marbles and fishing in the ditch. The move to the farm was a whole new life for me. I learned to handle a large tractor and the equipment that it pulled, to drive a 2 ton truck, to service and repair equipment, to cut and sell cedar posts, to harvest rabbits and deer, and how to prepare and cook them, and much more.
Trying to work along side Dad sometimes wore me out completely, but I loved it. I loved the good feeling inside after a hard days work. My self esteem grew tremendously that year. At the beginning of the year I was a kid who knew how to play marbles. At the end of the year I could do a man's work. There is not any amount of money I would take in exchange for that summer on the farm with Dad.
Later on Dad built a 100-power telescope from scratch. It had a 10 inch lens which he ground and polished by hand. When the telescope was finished he gave it away. It might still be in use at a college in Tucson Arizona.
As the years passed, Dad continued to improve himself and accomplish more difficult assignments. In Monticello Dad was hired as an automobile salesman for Redd’s General Motors Dealership. In a short time he was promoted to Sales Manager. One year he received an award from General Motors for selling more trucks than any GM salesman in the entire state of Utah, including the big dealerships in Salt Lake. Buyers flocked to him because they recognized he was totally honest with them.
Dad was called on a stake mission, and soon after was put in the mission presidency. He also did a huge amount of family genealogy, and became well acquainted with his ancestors who had long since passed on. He organized the McDonald Family organization, and sponsored reunions. All of that ended after his death.
It was very entertaining to go in any public place with Dad, like a store for example. He would continually start conversations and make friends with strangers. He made people feel comfortable very quickly, and could often get strangers laughing in a short time. He would cheer people up everywhere he went.
Dad took excellent care of his widowed mother for many years, and was there for her to the end of her life. Toward the end she was in a nursing home. Dad was there every day. He would go in the lunchroom and play the piano, which cheered up all the residents. He would often put his mother in a wheel chair and take her for long excursions around the neighborhood.
After moving back to Salt Lake City, Dad was hired by the Church as World Wide Automobile Fleet Manager. He worked there until retirement at age 65. He was also called to be bishop of his ward. After serving his term as bishop he was called to the Stake High Council, and then to be Stake Patriarch.
Dad had a significant library of books, which he studied diligently. There was no fiction in his library. He became so well versed in the gospel that people would come from near and far to get help on gospel questions. He would not answer their gospel questions with opinions. He would go strait to the scriptures for the answers, or the writings of the modern prophets.
Dad played the piano daily from age 13 to about 84, when paralysis began to cripple his hands. He could really make the piano swing.
Dad enjoyed spending time with all his offspring, and he was always cheerful and friendly to everyone. He set a fine example for all of us, and I miss him often, but I will see him again. One can only guess what else he has accomplished since we saw him last.
There is much more I could write, but I am sure Dad would say “keep it brief”.