Memories of Roy Hussey
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The day before the funeral, held 24 January 2003, I was walking my daughter's dog, Blue, in the desert at midnight (1 AM Utah time). I was feeling very poorly over Roy's unexpected passing. Then something happened, at 12:15 (1:15 Utah time) it was as if Roy entered my body, extended himself to his own size, and gave me the jovial thought, "hey, this doesn't fit" while at the same time I could see as if I were looking out of Roy's eyes. It was a very cheery feeling for just a second or so and as the feeling left it felt like I was getting a pat on the shoulder and I said to that fleeting feeling "I'll see your wife and kids later today, Roy." The impression I got was a very cheery "me too."
I felt much better after that, the feeling I had was that Roy was well, making the rounds of his family and friends to touch them as he had just done me. Later that day and the next I was quite pleased with that same good feeling in and around members of Roy's family. There was great sadness, of course, but the general mood was optimistic and at times even poignantly joyful. This, no doubt, is a result of the family's deep belief and faith. The clan is both Mormon and Polynesian, and combining those two communities in this rite of passage made for a funeral that was both a farewell, with its inevitable sadness, and an exuberant musical "Aloha!" that was timeless and reflected the expectation of a future meeting, one without end. I needed that funeral.
So who was this Roy? Here are some of the highlights of the years when our two lives crossed paths.
When I finished technical school at Chanute Air Force Base, at Rantoul, Illinois, early in 1964, I was pleased to be assigned to Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho for my next duty station. I had pictured a base in the piney woods of Idaho's mountains, given that name. Instead it was a desert base, surrounded by a sea of sagebrush, with mountains at considerable distance to the north and south. The town got its start on the slope of the nearest northern mountain. Then the railroad came, the town moved 15 miles to meet it, and the name was not changed. The base was another 10 miles farther away from the mountains. I was in the Air Weather Service, a "detachment" of 22 persons. The commander was a Colonel, and the detachment clerk, a person with considerable power and resources, not unlike "Radar" in the M.A.S.H. TV series, was Royden Roger Nawaii Hussey. He greeted me warmly and mentioned right away that he and I were the only Mormons in the detachment. He had read my file, I could see.
I was assigned a room in the barracks, and found the other "Airmen" assigned to the detachment to be nice people, very friendly, and not Mormon. I had a roommate that smoked, drank, and unfortunately, drove drunk and killed himself under a train. A great reminder to all of us young men that we were not immortal, and that even away from home we still had to follow the rules and be careful.
With me having no roommate and a new person being expected in as a replacement, Roy used his administrative powers and within days signatures were affixed to forms and my address had changed to his room. Of course he was a few months my senior in rank, so it would have been unthinkable for him to have made himself move. I moved, gladly. So we could "live our religion," we agreed.
Live our religion? Yes. When I arrived I was just about six months old as a Mormon. I was still highly enthused. I wanted to go to a real "Ward." Had never done that before. I was baptized in San Antonio, Texas, at a Ward house (local church building) near Lackland Air Force Base. Church was a branch on base, it met sometimes in a cafeteria, sometimes in a smaller meeting room, and weekday gatherings were at members' homes. It was similar in Rantoul.
Church allowed association with officers. We met in officers' homes. I thought I was in Heaven, associating with officers and their families and being treated as a human being in the process. During the normal day on base anyone with a stripe on their shoulder was a Lord, a candidate for Divinity. Officers? We had been taught to fear and obey them. Had only seen them up close in the medical or dental clinics.
In Mountain Home, I found out from Roy, I would have to go to town and meet in a civilian Ward. I couldn't wait. I asked how we would get there. Roy said he hadn't been in a while, wasn't too enthused about it, but just for me he'd requisition the detachment's Jeep and take me to Church next Sunday. He did. We went to a meeting in the afternoon. One I don't remember. There were two more meetings to attend, I later found out, earlier in the day.
After that meeting Roy suggested he show me the town to get me familiar with it, I rode along gladly. We saw the town as we exited from it to the north, and I saw the nearest mountain up close. I asked him about the miles on the Jeep, and he said he kept the logbook. Would take care of it. Good.
In the meeting we had attended I had been a bit uncomfortable. I had been surrounded by a few hundred Mormons who all seemed to know what was going on. I didn't. But I was determined to get into this groove. There were some really nice looking girls in the ward, sure, but I was still an enthused new Mormon. I asked Roy if we could go to all the meetings next Sunday. It may have taken several weeks before we did.
That next week with full intent we had started out, it was early in the morning and we were headed for something called "Priesthood," but on the way I asked him about some sand dunes some guys at work were talking about. We made it to the third meeting, I think, or at least I'd like to think. It was 1964, a long time ago. So we saw the Bruneau sand dunes up close and personal in a Jeep! Wow!
But all good things come to an end, and a few weeks later two things had begun to happen. First we had been to enough church meetings enough times that people were becoming our friends. Second, some of the local church leaders were military, officers no less, and suggested very gently that driving a military vehicle to church was allowed by regulation, but only when or where there was no alternative. Two of them said they would, between them, pick us up. To us, a gentle hint from an officer was like a Divinely fingered line on a stone tablet must have been for Moses! We only ‘abused' our vehicle privileges every once in a great while when we went to a "conference" in Boise, an hour away, and when we had more enlisted men to take with us.
We toed the line, sort of. I do recall seeing a reservoir and a dam on one of these trips to attend a Conference in Boise. But by then we had also lost the Jeep. It was replaced by a passenger van that was no fun to drive and broke down at random intervals in awkward places.
So we became "active," both of us. Before long we had "callings" and taught classes of youngsters, moving up in ages over time. Then came a time when I taught adults in Sunday School and Roy became my boss: Sunday School superintendent.
We also became ‘home-teaching' partners, on base as well as off. Every month every member of the LDS Church is, ideally, visited by a pair of home teachers who give a message and ascertain if there are needs the Ward can or should help with.
We advanced in the steps of the Priesthood together, both ending up Elders in a relatively short time. But a very wise Bishop took Roy to the sacred place called "the Temple" in Idaho Falls a full six months before I got to go. Why? He never told me. But Roy did.
Roy had asked him why he wanted him to go to the temple without me, that "Van" and he had done everything together for years now. He said that was exactly the point. Separately we would have a deeper experience because we would not be relying on each other to interpret what we were seeing, hearing and experiencing. Cool. Besides, the Bishop, according to Roy, said: "You are ready, Van is not, so if you want to go together you'd have to wait." Of course he chose to go.
Huh? Me not ready and Roy ready? Frankly, I was more studied in the religion than Roy. I was reading continually. But Roy had absorbed the religion into the very marrow of his bones. He did not need to get his intellect aligned with his heart as I did. His heart was in charge and told him "the is the right place for you to be in, live on!"
We were not just active, we were "gung-ho' Mormons! But we took turns getting discouraged. Funny thing is we would never be discouraged at the same time and would work with each other to bring the enthusiasm back. Only once did we both get "down." Not on the religion, but some experience in the Ward had discouraged us both. So we hitchhiked (see what being obedient to officers will do to you?). We hitched into town on a Saturday, walked through town, and then hitched a ride to Boise. There I called my very dear friend, Mary Jane Root (click here for my reminiscenses concerning this wonderful person), and asked her to pick us up. She did. Soon she was Roy's very dear friend as well as mine. That was Mary Jane.
We had not failed to recognize that there were beautiful women in that family. One of her daughters had just won Miss Boise! The others could have. So could she, had she been younger and single. We announced we were discouraged with our ward and would like to attend hers. We stayed over and she took us to Church later that day. Her Ward was huge compared with ours. After dinner she sat us down and basically said: "If you have the gift to discern there is a problem in your Ward that no one else seems to be aware of, it is obvious you have been called to fix the problem. Go back to your home ward and allow God to place you in the position to fix it. Come back and tell me how it is going."
She was no military officer, but we had the same sinking feeling as when we had been talked to gently about the Jeep. Life will not be the same. It was soon after this that we found ourselves at a high enough level in the Sunday School hierarchy to be responsible for exactly the problem we had agreed existed. Did we solve the problem? Who knows, we were too busy to worry about it. I don't think either of us remembered what it was after a few weeks sweating out our new callings.
Roy was a great reader of persons. He would listen to stories of love and mischief and come up with remarkable, even if tactless at times, retorts calling into question the assumptions underlying some assertion or other. There was, for example, a person we will call JV, since those were his initials. He protested that his steady girlfriend back home was not responding to his calls and letters like she used to. He was going home on leave to break it off and see who else was available in his little home town. He had been getting letters from a girl he really liked and wanted to date again.
He came back engaged to the first girl. He said he was really enthused about it. Roy said "No. You're not. You are upset. So what happened?"
I was quite shocked. Roy said later that at work JV had been sluggish and morose, not his usual self at all, since coming back from his leave. I hadn't noticed.
To my surprise, in response to Roy's disagreeing with his fake happiness he began to whine about her putting pressure on him to stay with his original pledge to marry her once he got enough salary to live on, and he didn't want to feel like a heel or a bad guy but just went along with it. He had agreed to marriage as soon as he was "out," she wanted to stay where their families lived. Six months later he was done with his four years, another month and we received a wedding invitation.
Did I mention that Roy was a large Hawaiian person? He was also quite athletic, and loved handball and racket ball. Since we were doing everything together he badgered me into a handball game. I never caught on. He suggested that since I was always close but never hit the ball, I should try racket ball, a racket would allow me to reach farther. After several painful bruises, one in an awkward place, I said "enough." Never played again. I watched him play. The boy definitely had a competitive streak! He was good.
As roommates, we were both decent housekeepers, I don't recall either of us ever jangling over messiness. I did find Roy's little Hawaiian treats, sent to him from "home," a bit of a challenge to tolerate. Little packets of gooey pickled squid and other such things, shark-parts, yuck! But I brought Dutch salted licorice in once in a while to get even. He hated it.
We had fun. We were not always serious as I may inadvertently have intimated above. We had made military life into a religious retreat by reading and telling each other about what we read, praying together, and doing home teaching and other ministerial things together. But we did go out of our way to have fun. Life was good.
Some of our home teaching experience was unusual. There was the woman who had a visitation by the devil who ended up in a mental hospital. There was the man who ran away from his wife and seven children because somehow this life they had created together was not the life of his dreams. Both these cases had good outcomes, no thanks to us. What we learned from these two examples was the need to get the right kind of expert help for the right kind of problems. There is only so much that two inexperienced visiting young men, no matter how sincere, can do when there are serious problems. I think this type of experience may have influenced Roy's career choices. He clearly wanted to be part of the profession that intervened in people who were at risk, psychologically and emotionally.
Speaking of Roy's insights into people, there was one time we had gotten a ride to a Saturday evening Fireside in Boise. A Fireside is an evening religious meeting, for single people usually, and usually with a special guest addresing a specific subject. The person offerring us the ride had a girlfriend in town and was staying over, to go to Church with her the nest day. We were important parts of the Sunday School at home, so talked him into taking us to the highway from where we would catch a ride home. Up went thumbs, car squeeled to a stop.
We got into the back seat since the passenger front seat was full. Several six-packs of beer bottles were stacked there and on the floor below, and the man had an open bottle in his hand. He asked where we were going and hit the accelerator. When the whole car shook from the speed I asked him to please slow down a little. No response.
I suggested to him we could drive for him, if he would like. He cussed and said he was not drunk! And sped up. I asked him to stop and let us out and he cussed again and cussed even more when it would not go any faster.
Meantime Roy had poked me in the ribs and without words suggested it was time to pray, not talk. In about 20 minutes we covered what usually took close to an hour, the car squeeled to a loud halt in Mountain Home, a few miles from our turnoff, and we got our uttering thanks, to him he probably thought. He peeled out as we sat in the roadside grass for a minute just to feel Earth and asure ourselves we were alive. Catching a ride from town to the base took less time than walking from our dropoff spot to the turnoff.
We were influenced by three Bishops during our time at Mountain Home. One was a military doctor, and we kept a relationship with him after our military days. Me for a little while, Roy for the long term. That was Roy's way.
Another Bishop was a federal employee with the Department of Agriculture, who was a very kind and gentle man. My choice of going into soil science at the time of my Masters program was to some extent influenced by his convincing me that his job was a very important one in terms of keeping agriculture improving in terms of efficiency and resistance of crops to disease.
A third Bishop was a butcher. He was quite a stern and non-soft-spoken individual. Different from the first two. It took me a while to get used to him, Roy had no such problem. In time I learned to like and respect that Bishop. Some years after my military time I sat overnight with his wife to relieve him from his vigil by her bedside while she was dying of cancer. Roy would have been proud of me, I sat and gently sang to her during the night, and memorized songs from the hymnal in the process. I left in the morning when he came back, she died that day.
Another home teaching experience was more lighthearted for us but not the victim. We did a dinner with a local family. Delightful people. They had a daredevil daughter (into skydiving) we enjoyed visiting with and a mischievous boy of about 7 or 8. Roy had it in for the boy that night, he kept pestering us, especially Roy. So as we all got to table Roy looked at their very fat dog waddling in and said to the boy: "That dog wouldn't last a day in Hawaii. My family has had dogs, and when they get that big they become supper."
Boy and dog disappeared from the dining room. We didn't see either until our next visit. In the meantime his mother had called Roy and asked him to explain that he had been kidding. He said he would, next visit, but he really hadn't been kidding. Nevertheless, they remained good friends with both of us for years afterward, especially with Roy.
The butcher-Bishop shocked us once. We had reported to him, as the home teachers of a couple in town, that he was mean to her and we feared she was planning to leave him. We were both inexperienced then, and thought the institution of marriage had to be saved. It hadn't yet occurred to us that sometimes it must be broken to save the people trapped in it.
The Bishop made an appointment with the couple and invited us to be there. The Bishop sat still as the husband calmly denied that anything at all was wrong. The Bishop sat still as the wife lost her cool and raved about the humiliations and threats she continually lived with. Then when they were both quiet, he calmly said to the man that he was unworthy of his wife, and that she deserved someone like Roy, or Van (me, I was always second in any positive listing), and if he didn't shape up very quickly we were always nearby and ready to take his place.
The Bishop said some other things, shook hands all around, and left. We were speechless. He turned to us on the lawn and said something to the effect of "Let me know how this turns out, but I am not hopeful." That was it. We never called the Bishop with a home-teaching problem again. Roy even agreed with me that this was not good. The husband, asked us not to come back. The wife, asked us to come back. We asked the Bishop to reassign us. He did.
But Roy did keep track of the wife by phone occasionally. They split up, he went to jail for embezzlement, she moved home to her mother's house in the Midwest. The divorce was in there somewhere.
We both liked the wife, she was very pretty and very nice to us. But neither of us had been in love with her. We liked the husband too, however, especially when he let each of us, one time each, have his spiffy Alfa-Romeo for a Boise date! I remember driving to and from Boise. I don't remember the date.
I bought a small motorcycle from him. Since that was illegal for a serviceman of my rank, without written permission that was simply not possible to get, he hid it for me at his store. I could get it when I came to town, and hitchhike back to the base after I was done with it.
He was a really nice guy. To us. But he and his wife just clashed, they did not get along. It happens.
One day I was riding my motorbike on a lonely highway in the hot summer sun. I had just been up all night on a grave-yard shift. Had gone directly into town for a ride. I fell asleep a few miles out of town. Motorcycles are like Lazy-Boy chairs with vibrators. I was going perhaps 55. I awoke with gravel slowly approaching my face. Very slowly my faceplate on my helmet scraped a path through the gravel that finally stopped. It was all scratched up. The bike was scratched up and the handle bars were at a funny angle. Blood was soaking into my jeans at each knee. I had got off easy.
I restarted the bike and limped into town. Parked the bike. The man from whom I had bought the bike fixed it for me and helped me sell it. His wife (for a little while longer) bandaged my knees and washed my pants. They knew I had to keep this secret. In the barracks Roy, who had tried to discourage me from buying the bike, never said "I told you so." He helped me get around and I got a ride from him to and from work until my knees were useful for walking more than a few steps at a time again. For weeks, with his help, I kept up appearances of normalcy. Only one person asked why I was walking funny. "Horseback riding," I had lied. "Yeah, that'll do it."
How did Roy take me to work and pick me up? He had bought a Ford truck, his baby. I think it was an early fifities model, a ‘51 maybe? I can't recall. But I do recall he was very proud and protective of it. But, Roy shared a lot with me. Even his most prized possession: his truck!
He did have his limits though. Once he came home from a date very late at night (date was in Boise, over an hour away) and said it had been a waste of time. It was a series of trivial pursuits and games. From now on he should stay at home Saturday nights and we would study scriptures and do genealogy together in preparation for the Sabbath.
I got the picture. So I asked to borrow his truck for next Saturday evening. Roy could study scriptures and search for ancestors alone. I called the girl that had been such a pain, whom Roy had dated before and liked, and I liked too. He seemed to be done with this girl though, given what he had said the previous week.
She said "sure" and I roared up in Roy's truck, and took her out. It was awkward. She mentioned Roy a lot, asked if he had loaned me the truck to take her out. I said "no, he doesn't know who I am with," and it was the truth. At the end of the evening she politely suggested this was fun, "you are a nice guy, don't get me wrong, but there is not going to be a second date." Ouch!
When I got home, I told Roy she still liked him, even though he didn't like her anymore. It was the one and only time in the 3+ years we lived together that he lost his temper. Using his truck to surreptitiously date his previous date went over the line!
When later I said I had really thought he didn't like her anymore he gave me that "do you think I am stupid enough to think you are that stupid" look. But I guess he thought perhaps I was, and finally smiled. But the truck was never driven to a Boise date again by me. A few odd times to Mountain Home, OK. Not Boise.
Speaking of Roy and dating (we won't speak of me and dating), he did that. Sometimes we had gone to a Fireside in Boise and I had come home filled with thoughts and he had come home with several phone numbers. It was his good looks, good humor, and music that did it, he was a chick magnet and I liked being around him and seeing if I could pick off any of the leftovers. Occasionally I did. I didn't do badly, just was not in the same league as Roy.
On some occasions Roy would bring his ukulele to a meeting of this nature and be part of the entertainment. I couldn't compete with that but once brought a copy of my "The Life Story of Brigham Young" by Susa Young Gates, at that time already a rare book. A young woman asked what I had and asked if she could borow it, giving me her name and phone number and saying we should go out sometime and talk about Church history. I was ecstatic. I never saw her at another meeting, the phone number was a roommate she had left in the lurch fo her part of the rent, I never saw my book again. I had fancied having her, in a good way of course, but instead I had been had in a bad way! Roy thought it was funny. Years later I did too.
Most dating was in Boise, occasionally in Mountain Home, a town of 10,000 then. Mountain Home had beautiful girls and women, but the problem was most of the women our age were servicemen's wives, and the good looking ones that we called girls were too young for us. Were there no servicemen's ex-wives or widows? Not for long. All that we knew about moved "home." Whatever that meant.
Among the "girls" of Mountain Home there were some we were sweet with, perhaps sweet on to some extent, but we were aware of the pitfalls in dating very young mid-teen girls when we were in our 20's already. Age differences matter at that age. When colleges were between semesters or quarters, the whole complexion of the town changed, but those returning young women were typically doing their future-making dating in college (just like the returning young men). We went out with one or two local ‘girls' each. Well, one for me and two for Roy, OK?
Several families were very good to single Mormon servicemen and fed them Sunday dinners regularly. Foremost in this class was a local rancher with a large family. They were struggling to make ends meet when we first were taken into their home. Before we left they were well off. Spuds, thousands of acres of them, made the difference!
We both literally became a part of their family. I think both of us remarked more than once "if only that older daughter were just a few years older, wow!" Then we'd go to Boise the next weekend. But these people were our food source, our spiritual advisers, our mentors regarding our entry into adult life, and our exemplars with respect to work ethic and family life. Were all the examples positive? Not always, but that was also part of getting ready for adult life, having reasonable expectations is very important to maintaining long-term relationships.
I worked for these people a summer after my service was over and I was in college. It put muscles on me, helped me catch my wife of 33 years now. Roy likewise worked for them some. We both also worked for another rancher, our Stake President then. His family was amazing, to us, but the man's wife at one point told us something valuable.
She said (I think she was sick and discouraged) that they were experts at putting on the appearance of a perfect family to others. Inside the home they were like everyone else though, disagreements happened and got loud and nasty, but not often. Kids had to be worked with, sometimes in unpleasant ways, to get them to church. She indicated that they had a great life, true, they were probably a great family too, but it was at a great price: it was always difficult.
A few weeks later I asked her, when she was obviously back in her sunny space, how the struggle went. She said to please forget we ever had that talk, she was ill then. But Roy remembers hearing similar things from her husband. That life was not easy, and family life was really hard at times. But it was worth it, and he recommended it highly to us single youngsters. I liked his oldest daughter, so did Roy, we were amazed by her talents and intelligence. She wasn't all that intrigued with us. Shows how intelligent she was? Hey! Be nice! Roy kept in touch with her for a longer time than I did. She liked him better.
Roy and I also home-taught a first-lieutenant and his wife. She was Mormon, he was skeptical, but open to discussing religion. We had unbelievable discussions about almost everything under the sun, and stayed hours at a time doing so. One day he said, to his wife's delight, that he wanted to become a Mormon, to be baptized. Roy and I did not get to do that, but we assisted in the ceremony for conferring the Holy Ghost that follows baptism. The person selected to do the honors was his wife's father. They were, and stayed for the few years we kept track of each other, very committed to each other and the religion they now shared. That was a highlight of life in Mountain Home, Idaho, for both Roy and I.
There were also lower lights. We had several other adventures. We did a Home Evening every once in a while to which we would invite the few other LDS (Latter-day Saint, Mormon) servicemen in our barracks, and at time we invited selected non-Mormons. Made some good friends that way. A good Catholic boy from the Bronx was a particularly good friend for a while. We learned that taking these people to Boise to Firesides was not a good idea, however. They did not take to the religion, and were complained of by some of the women because they were trying to take out and seduce them, and wanted nothing to do with the LDS religion. Gee, guys in their early twenties with nothing but sex on their minds? What was the world coming to?! We were shocked. Sort of.
One of our larger adventures was volunteering to go to Vietnam. Our detachment of 22 stayed pretty much the same size, but every six months or so orders would come for some to go to Vietnam, and new weather watchers and forecasters would be sent to take their place. Lots of turnover.
From our friends in Vietnam we received widely diverging reports, some of hijinx and tall tales, some of horror stories, some of boredom. It depended some on the personality of the person, and a lot on where they were. One of our favorites was a forward weather observer who would be dropped ahead of a planned incursion, do weather observations, and get plucked out just before the raid. When you do treetop raids you have to know how the wind is blowing.
One of our First Sergeants was a compulsive neatnick and where others would take breaks to eat or relax, he'd race to the barracks for another shower. On one of his days off he was showering for the second time in the morning when his barracks was blown up. He was a survivor because of where he was. His room and the rooms around his were gone, so were several occupants.
Roy and I felt we were getting by easy, and our friends were not, and it wasn't fair, so with about 15 months left for Roy and about 21 for me, we volunteered for a year tour in Nam. Roy did the paperwork for our and our Commander's signatures. Our Commander at that time, Major Nuhn, told us he was signing these papers because there was part of him that applauded our doing what we were doing. He had seen action in several wars, and felt that most people's attitudes toward who needed to fight in case of war stank.
He liked us and we got a lot of attention from the man, a lot of encouragement. In part because we were good parts of his organization, in part because soon we were the only long-time people in his organization, everyone else got sent to Viet Nam after a year, at most, in the detachment. Also in part because he was a lapsed Mormon from Idaho and we reminded him of himself as a young troop and Mormon, ready to fight and pray at a moment's notice. We were sorry to see him retire.
Our new commander was a sad character by choice, always bemoaning his fate as an unfairly retired fighter pilot. Since his hands shook a little now and then they had pastured him into this forsaken outpost of civilization, working with people who barely looked and acted like soldiers, and all of that.
Roy did a splendid imitation of him walking into a room, hands shaking as he took off his hat, and starting in on a "this thunderstorm reminds me of the day we took off on a mission to the DMZ" (Korean War is where most of his jet-fighter stories came from) type of speech that we were all expected to pay attention to. He was no fool. Despite his feelings about his assignment he ran a decently disciplined operation.
He learned about our request for a transfer to Nam. He said to us something to the effect of: "This is a mindless organization. However, when you prove to them that you are idiots, they will treat you as such. You will each get your orders to go to Nam when you have six months left. They will ask you to sign a paragraph shipping you off, and it will have small print extending your tour of enlitment from four to five years. It is too late to show them you are not idiots, but surprise them: Check the box to reject the orders and sign under it. They'll get mad and boot you out early in retaliation, ‘at the convenience of the government.' Get out and use the GI Bill to go to college and make a contribution to society. You are both too bright for this type of life. You volunteered for four years, that is very good and all that should be expected of anyone. Get out and contribute to society in another way." His predictions were right on the money! We both refused the orders, and Roy was let out a month early, at the "convenience of the goverment," so was I.
Speaking of people who influenced our lives, there was Lieutenant Gilchrist who showed me his paycheck when he saw me get mine. We were plotting maps side by side. He pointed to my check and to our maps and said something like: "We are doing the same work right now. Yet my check is just about ten times more than yours. I do some things you don't do, but you could learn. The real difference between you and me is four years of college. That allowed me to get into the officers Candidate program, and here I am. Get out and get a degree. If after that you want back in, have them make you an officer. I shared this with Roy and we both agreed that college was the key to our futures. Making that determination, a serious one, was an important moment in our lives.
I would go as soon as I was out. He wanted to do an LDS mission, to serve two years teaching others the "Gospel" as taught in the Mormon faith. By this time he was very dedicated to his religion. More so than I was? In some ways yes. I had rationalized an excuse or two for not going on a mission. Roy never questioned my decision.
Even with a mission under his belt he still finished college before I did. An A.A, B.S., and M.S. I took much longer to get my M.S., and then stayed for a Ph.D.
Before Roy's mission he lived in Western Idaho and fought forest fires for a season. He met Dianna during that time and changed. The Roy I knew was dedicated, but serially. He was easily distracted and though always dedicated he seemed to quite able to take that intensity off one subject or object and switch it to another on short notice. After he met Dianna he was bit by a serious love-bug. He was no longer easily distracted, he became focused, and he seemed to know from this point forward where he wanted his life to go. At least from the less frequent talks, and even less frequent visits after he left the military, that was my impression.
From his mission he sent a few interesting notes, some of them longing for the spirituality we used to generate between us. When one of us had a problem we would pray and sometimes thoughtfully sing "Do What Is Right Let The Consequence Follow" together, until our courage was up to whatever the task was. When one of was in the process of making or persisting in a poor decision (usually me, with lots of justifications at the ready), we would remind each other (usually I got reminded), that the song said "Do What Is Right Let The Consequence Follow" and not "Do What Is Wrong Let The Consequence Follow."
Roy was never judgmental with me. But he also never for a moment pretended to believe me when I was lying to myself in support of a bad decision. He'd let me know what he thought, sometimes in rather sharp words. Sometimes he'd let me know with no words. That rolling eyes look that said without words that you were being an idiot was not comfortable, but it also was not judgmental. Or was it? There was never a question of not feeling loved and appreciated. There was just a matter of fact mirror he sometimes put in your face to reflect your own self-deceptions back to you. He was very wise that way. I wasn't.
But in spite of myself, I found someone to pledge to be with me forever, and so far we have spent 33 years together. Roy and his beloved Dianna spent over 32 years together. Once when Roy was working in Salt Lake and I had just started on my PhD we met for lunch in the city, and he expressed his appreciation to Dianna to me. Without her help he would not be what he was now. A successful business man, a respected member of the helping professions, and a father of 5 already!
Already in the military he was singing and playing instruments in various informal venues. He was very much into the musical heritage of Hawaii. Sometimes when I worked nights and slept days I would be awakened by his quietly playing his Uke and/or singing. I think it always amazed him that such soft soothing noises could keep me awake or wake me.
At his urging I began to go to Church Conferences in Salt lake City. He did the paperwork giving the miltary the privilege of granting me me time off to go on "religious retreat." I was a guest with a family I would become related to through marriage a few years hence. Roy visited there a few times too, and befriended the lady of the house. She attended the funeral, and still speaks fondly of the blessing it was to her to have us two in her home. Made her look forward to Conferences in the mid-1960's. Says she never knew anyone like us either before or after those days.
On one of these trips Roy arranged, through a man we had met in the service who was an organist for the Church, to have a private tour and demonstration of the giant pipe organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Those two talked music for hours. I was more interested in the mechanics of moving air through these many pipes. How was it done before electricity? With great effort! Pumps powered by men on a row of stationary bicycles? I seem to remember it that way, but it was long enough ago that I don't really recall.
I mention this for to illustrate that it was about this time that I really began to appreciate how deep and wide ranging his musical interests were. We both could nod in appreciation of a good piece of music. He could play and sing such a piece, I could not. He could talk music with an expert, I could not.
Roy's loyalty to his family and friends was astounding and outstanding. He was able to keep key contacts open with many people from our Mountain Home days, for a long time after. We stayed in touch, but calls and visits tapered off over time. He made friends with our two older children. The older daughter saw Roy several times during her years in Salt Lake. Our son also saw Roy occasionally, and he still lives there. He recalls a visit with Roy last year.
Roy attended our wedding, we attended his. Roy had just been released from his mission and came and stayed with me the night before, we talked and he played music to calm me. I was very nervous and unsure the night before. I'm sure that is unusual.
Roy attended my graduation for my doctorate. He and Dianna also came to our oldest daughter's wedding.
We kept in touch, occasionally calling or sending emails. Very occasionally over the last two decades there was a visit. Usually when I came to Salt Lake on family business. The last time Roy visited with us was here in Las Vegas, when he and Christopher were passing through and spent the night.
I took Roy's presence on this Earth for granted. Yet the world was a safer and saner place because I knew Roy was in it. That feeling seemed to be lost for a little bit when I heard of his passing. But his touching me as he did afterward went a long way toward restoring that feeling of all being somehow well: Roy is still here, somehow.
I did not realize until the funeral how much Roy had done to promote the musical and culture heritage of his fellow Hawaiians in the Salt Lake area. I did not realize how much he had done to create a community for all Polynesians in the Salt Lake area. It was good to hear from people who reported knowing and working with Roy for 30+ years! It was good to see what a solid family he and Dianna had created together. There was love and unity galore on the occasion of his funeral, sure, but the kids said it was simply like that: a very loving and mutually supportive family group, blending the best of both Mormon and Polynesian culture. Both cultures emphasize cooperation and love in home as well as in society. Through both his family and his culture, Roy lives on.
But my dog-walk experience with which I began this long remembrance suggests that there is yet another, more immediate way in which Roy lives on. It allowed me to feel for just a moment the reality of this other, more personal way. A day later, when this more personal way was added to seeing the other two ways he was still here, persisting through family and community, my feeling of safety in the world came back to me.
Thanks Roy. We were together for just a few of our formative years, but in that time we became parts of each other, and taught each other some of the things that make us what we are today, still. True for you, still, as well as me. But it was just a few years, and your wife and children, and even most of your grandchildren, knew you much longer than that. So did some of your career and cultural co-workers. And they all have changed because of their having shared a part of their lives with you. Just as you were changed by that same sharing.
I think it is very safe to say I am a small part of a very large group that loves you, Roy. We are all glad to have had the privilege, just as you are no doubt glad to have had the privileged relationships you did, especially with your wife and kids and grandkids.
It is hard to let go. But we must. As you well know, sometimes we don't truly have something until we let go of it. By setting it free we come to truly posses it. Love is just that way. Aloha!
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