Memorial Day is full of stories. Stories about ancestors, heroes, and family connections. A walk through the cemeteries on Saturday was a journey full of stories.
One of those stories is about Elliot Larson of Monroe, Utah.
NAVY MUSICIAN 1ST CLASS ELLIOT LARSEN
Elliott Larsen was a Navy musician 1st class on the USS Oklahoma. He was 25 and just days from returning home when he was killed when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.
His body was never recovered and for 75 years Larsen was reported missing in action. Then earlier this year, thanks to DNA testing, his remains were positively identified. Friday he was brought home to rest.
It was an honor to pay our respect to him Saturday.
ALMEDA MARIA WASHBURN WINGET
Elisa and I spent Saturday traveling with her mother Julia. Our first stop was Monroe in Sevier County, a tiny town south of Richfield by five miles and bookend by Frog Town on the north and Monkey Town on the south.
Elisa and I both trace our roots to Sevier County, on both sides of each of our families. A journey to the cemetery is a journey through multiple family histories.
Julia visited with her sister and brother and remembered many of her family buried in Monroe, including her late husband, parents, and several generations of the Magleby family. She shared several stories of those buried there, going all the way back to Hans O. Magleby who was born in Denmark in 1835.
One specific story was about Almeda Maria Washburn Winget, Julia’s great grandmother.
Almeda was born in a dugout on a cold winter day in 1849. The dugout was at the base of a prominent hill in Manti, a hill that soon would see the rising sandstone walls of the Manti LDS Temple. Almeda also has the distinction of being the first white child to be born in Sanpete County.
I made some new family connections while visiting my maternal grandfather’s grave, Corky Christiansen, who is also buried in Monroe.
I met my grandfather’s youngest first cousin, Judy Christiansen Johnson. Her mother Ida was the youngest of nine kids, and my grandfather’s father Abraham was the oldest.
That’s Judy on the left in the picture above, along with cousins of some sort of two additional branches of the Christiansen family tree.
To further the small world connections, Judy has a daughter who lives in Hyde Park, just a mile or two from where we do.
THE CONNECTING POWER OF MUSIC
Music touches my soul, creating connections and stirring emotions deep down inside.
Music also helps me remember.
Sunday night I remembered those who gave that final measure of devotion by watching the National Memorial Day Concert on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Our daughter Rebecca and her new hubby Taylor were there watching the concert live.
When I stopped to snap this photo of two men raising a flag at the Richfield Cemetery, I discovered one of them was my old Bantam Basketball coach, Kay Kimball (Bantam Basketball was the pre-Jr. Jazz way for kids to play basketball with practice and games held at the Armory).
I took the chance to say thanks to Kay for being the kind of coach who made playing fun while also learning to be competitive. He treated us fairly, expected us to practice and play our best, and motivated without acting like some of the other coaches. His coaching philosophy of kids having fun influenced me when I took a turn coaching my boys in soccer many years afterwards.
REMEMBERING JEFF JACKSON
A visit to the Richfield Cemetery starts with saying hi to my Dad, Mom, Grandma Janssen, and my brother Shane. Saturday we also connected with Gordon and Barbara Patterson, my Uncle Dick Peterson, and several of Elisa’s family including her aunt Lora who passed away just a few weeks ago.
We also said hi to Mike Branch, big brother of my childhood best friend Pete. And visited the Veteran’s Memorial pictured above.
A visit to Richfield is not complete without saying hi to Jeff Jackson. JJ, as he was known in high school, passed away partway through his Senior year from Leukemia. But before he finished his journey, he changed my life. Someday I need to share JJ’s story.
SGT 1ST CLASS RONALD WOOD
I started out Memorial Day weekend remembering Sergeant First Class Ronald Tanner Wood. This is the final picture I took of Ron, taken just a few weeks before he was killed in Iraq on 16 July 2005,
This picture represents everything that I grew to love and admire and respect in Ron. He was the ultimate soldier who did everything right all the time. He was a true warrior, trusted and respected leader, had a huge grin and was loved respected by our entire unit.
I miss Ron and honor his memory as one who gave the last full measure of devotion.
LCPL MICHAEL ALLRED & PVT JOSEPH CAIN
Buried here in Hyde Park are two veterans I visited on a regular basis throughout the year.
LCPL Michael Allred is a friend who lost his life serving as a Marine in Iraq. I’ll share his story as long as I have voice. He was a friend who made a difference in my life before I went to Iraq. And now his memory lives on through his incredibly influence and through his family.
PVT Joseph Cain is a Civil War veteran my family and I simply choose to remember. You can read more of his story in this Monday Morning Boost: Remembering Civil War Veterans, I wrote last year for Memorial Day.
There are many ways to make Memorial Connections and honor those who have paid the utmost price to defend and protect the freedoms we cherish.
Chad Hawkes is 5th grade teacher at North Park Elementary who teaches his students how to remember through a program called Hawkes Rangers. Mr. Hawkes uses the innovative program model after a military unit to teach citizenship, patriotism, and community service.
I saw the incredible impact his teaching is having when he invited me to share my experience in Iraq with his class and attend their “Ranger” graduation ceremony. Current students, plus many from past classes who return for graduation, pay tribute by the way they live their lives.
Mr. Hawkes shared this with me:
“I start our Ranger program after Christmas. The kids are all issued picture ID’s which they wear while at school. I use stickers to “coin” them with when they do great things. 15+ commendations earn them a special notation in the program along with other goals they’ve met in reading, writing, citizenship and community service. They repeat our Warrior Creed every morning after roll call and each platoon sgt reports on those eating in the chow hall.
“There are 26 requirements the kids work on from Dec to May in order to get their Ranger pins and certificates on graduation night. It’s a culmination of their 5th grade experience as an elite organization in the school. Graduation night includes our presentation of the colors, year in review slide show, presentation of “The Great American Award ( intense Citizenship course) presentation of certificates and being “pinned” and a final company formation and inspection where they march to a Cadence that I picked up from [my son’s] Shawn’s graduation from Basic at Fort Sill.
“Families and former Rangers are invited to come back every year to our reunion. I have students from 11-13 years ago come back. It’s really a fun night. I get to be the “Drill Sgt” for the evening and present my class.”
I hope as you make your journey through the headstones of the past, you’ll find your own memorial connections.
God Bless Our Beautiful Country, the United States of America!
Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share.
p.s. Take 13 minutes today to make and share some Memorial Connections.
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