Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Gustaf Emil Oscarson is 147!

My grandfather, Gustaf Emil Oscarson, was born June 8, 1862 at Petterslund, Vårdinge (parish), Stockholms län, Sweden. He was the third of nine children born to Oskar August Andersson and Anna Lovisa Hellström.

I was not yet three years old when he died, so I never knew him personally, but through the years I have gained an enormous appreciation for this great man who stands at the head of the Oscarson family.

He learned the value of hard work from his parents and at an early age was working as a hired hand on neighboring farms. It was at Vassudden, on a neighboring estate that he may have met his first love, Johanna Fredrika Åkerlind. Their destinies took them to Stockholm where they were first exposed to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Johanna joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, followed by Gustaf Emil.

In 1890, grandpa packed a trunk and set out for "zion" in the American west. It was here that he and Johanna were married and became the parents of three children, two of whom (John Emil and Elsa Johanna) would survive. Lily Maria lived less than a year. By the time of Johanna's death in 1902, her sister, Lovisa Wilhelmina (aka "Minnie") had joined the church and also gathered to Utah. She came to help grandpa with his two young children and in time became the second love of his life. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 16, 1903

When my grandmother was expecting her fourth child (my father), grandpa received a mission call to return to his homeland and preach the Gospel. Through their combined faith, the call was accepted and his young family was left in the hands of the Lord. Many miraculous things occured as a reuslt of this service, including the conversion of grandpa's mother and that of his brother, Hjalmar, and Hjalmar's family. The family has always felt grateful for this example of faith in accepting calls to serve. Grandpa served in Sweden for two years and during that time baptized thirteen converts. He returned home to Pleasant Grove, Utah on December 10, 1910.

He was set apart in March, 1815 as the first counselor to the bishop of the Pleasant Grove First Ward and served in that capacity for many years.

One of the things I especially appreciate about grandpa is the reputation he had for always helping those in need. He would be the first to hitch a team of horses to help a neighbor and was a kind and helpful example to all who knew him.

He spent his life working the 17 acres he called home in Pleasant Grove as a fruit grower. He raised 10 children on that little farm and together with my angel grandmother established a legacy of faith and faithfulness for his posterity. I never knew my grandpa personally, but have come to know and love the man he is and look forward to the day when I can thank him personally for all he did to make our lives as blessed as they are.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Vera Brown Oscarson turns 100!

Vera Brown was born 23 May 1909 in what was then known as "Provo Bench" (today "Lindon"), Utah, in a home that had been built by her great grandfather, James Stratton. She was the second child and second daughter of Walter C. and Maud Knight Brown. Born at 1 minute after midnight, she was a Sunday child who loved and appreciated beauty in all its forms: nature, music, dance, art and people.

In her youth, she was the "go-getter" that made things happen. Her grandfather Knight called her "Captain" because she was the "captain of all the kids." She was outgoing and social and loved making and being with friends. She never lost her appreciation of all that was beautiful in life and it was reflected in how she decorated a room, set a table or coordinated an outfit. She created for her husband and family a true home that was comfortable and inviting...a place Dad called "Heaven on Earth."

Two incidents recorded in her personal history truly define this incredible woman. The first followed a disappointing reversal in Dad's career with Edison Brothers that required a move and a step backwards.

"When spring came, we found a house to rent with a huge yard and the owner had been a part time nursery man. There was a six foot border with all kinds of shrubs and flowers all around the fenced in back yard. We had nothing but our baby’s bed trundle to move in. We had lived in furnished apartments.
The first night we walked in (had to be after work) with only our suit cases and nothing else but the boys’ cribs. It was pouring rain. Roy built a fire in
the fireplace. I had seen a lilac bush covered with blossoms in the yard the day before. I took an umbrella and went out and broke off a big bunch of blossoms. I arranged them in a kettle and sat them on the mantle, turned to my husband and said, “Now we are home”.

The second incident occurred in 1943 when she had to travel from San Francisco to St. Louis with three young children and illustrates the true grit that was at the heart of this sweet, soft-spoken mother:

"Roy had made reservations in the Pullman and was to meet us in Kansas City. Our train ride was pleasant. When we arrived in Denver, we were informed we would have a four hour wait! Some troops were being moved. Our train would be switched to another track but we would enter by the same gate as we departed. My first thought was ‘perhaps we should just wait that four hours in our seats,’ but the children were getting restless and Roy had suggested I may want to take them to a show near the station. That was my decision. We found our way through masses of soldiers, their loved ones bidding them goodbye. It was a heart breaking scene. I took my little girl by the hand and the boys were to stay very close to me, not being distracted by anything only to follow. We went to a show and the walk in fresh air had revived us all. On our return to the station, the gates were lined with crowds on both sides. I knew we would not make it through that ticket gate. I had been very observing on coming out where I might get back through. There was a guard and he refused to let us through. I tried to explain we had our tickets and our time was so close he could see we could never make it through the mobs of people. He refused! I took the children back and rearranged us taking Dick’s hand and telling Don, “When that guard is talking to that group of people approaching him, we will start to run and if he blows his whistle or yells, keep running!” It happened. He did yell. He did blow his whistle but we kept running and he did not dare leave his post there being so much confusion everywhere. We found our train track 22 and exactly two minutes after we were in our seats it pulled out. I thanked my Heavenly Father for his watchful care and inspiring me to do what I did."

Mother's was a powerful influence for good in all who knew her. Handicaps and set-backs were faced with courage and overcome. She was our "captain" and steered a straight course for a family who love and revere her for all she did and all she was to each of us.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Roy W. Oscarson Turns 100!

On March 30, 1909, Roy Wilhelm Oscarson was born in Pleasant Grove, Utah. Today marks the passing of 100 years since that momentous day.

His was a life well-lived. His example of hard work, faithful service and love of family has marked the way for his posterity to follow. How we love him for all that he was and all that he did. He has left his family a rich heritage.

In the copy of The Oscarson Families he gave me in 1981, he wrote:

"To our son, Paul Kent Oscarson. Your finest inheritance -- a good name. With love, Dad and Mother"

Thank you, Dad, for your lasting gift to us all, "a good name!" We especially remember you on this special day...and thank the Lord for you and all you mean to us every day


Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Show me the way..."

One of the advantages of living in the West is the accessibility of beautiful slices of nature. You needn’t go far to find something interesting, something pretty or something fun. And so it is with us here, just a few blocks from home is the head of an interesting little trail that parallels a creek as it splashes and swirls down a little canyon. The perfect place for a walk (or a Thanksgiving morning “hike” with the grandchildren!)
And so with the sun beginning to slip in the sky creating that special time of day I call the “Golden Hour”, I set out for a little stroll. The late October air was cool and the pathway perfumed with the fragrance of sage and wet, fallen leaves. The trail is a bit rocky in places but never too narrow and never too steep. Like Baby Bear’s porridge, it was “just right”.
I was enjoying the gurgling sound of the brook and the golden wash of color in the trees and brush as I ascended the trail. There were rock faces on the other side of the canyon where you could stop and try and see whose face and identity nature was trying to portray. I thought I saw the face of Abraham Lincoln, but on closer examination, it seemed to be more that of a vulture. There were falling and fallen trees, bushes low to the ground that looked like they could bear blueberries and mossy rocks all up and down the canyon. With the sun setting, I felt like a child told he could gather anything he wanted with a 2 minute limit in a candy shop. Where to start? Too much to see, too much to feel, too much to enjoy in this confectionary of nature!
The trail is made more interesting by the necessity of crossing the creek several times. Definitely not the Missouri or Mississippi, nevertheless, little Holbrook Creek has plenty of water going plenty fast to get one uncomfortably damp on a chilly fall afternoon. So one steps carefully and appreciates the crossing where the rocks are large and dry and not too far apart. And a big “Thanks” to the lad whose Eagle Scout Project left a nice wooden footbridge over one of the more treacherous crossings.
I hadn’t thought much about the last crossing. As I studied the size and location of the stepping stone rocks strewn across the creek, the route seemed fairly clear…although not a “slam dunk”. I was reasonably proud of my athleticism in getting across safe and sound and continued up the path.
A glance at the watch and the disappearance of any rays of direct sunshine reminded me that it was very close to being as far walking back to the trail head as it was hiking to this point. “Better head back.” Good, mature advice from what the movie theatres and amusement parks consider to be a “senior citizen.” And so back I started. “Down” is easier than “Up” in most cases, and so it was as I started back down the way I had come. But oops! Here is an interesting dilemma…that last crossing of the creek that was possible on the way up now looked different on the way down. The “stepping stone” rocks now slanted in the opposite direction leaving only the smallest ridge on which to balance once my corpulence was put into motion (there is no stopping mid-way in these situations…once the play is called and the ball is snapped, there’s no looking back…it’s step, step, step, step, step and hopefully landing on the other side without slipping into that very cold, cold water). As I tried to visualize this crossing, I kept seeing myself slipping on wet rocks, twisting ankles, breaking legs and training for the senior Para Olympics. In addition, there was the vision of walking the rest of way wet and cold only to emerge at the parking lot (where doubtless there would be someone we know) and having to answer the question, “What happened?”
No, there was danger in this course and with the light now growing dim, a sense of urgency to get on down the canyon added to my concern. I possessed just enough of sense to realize that this way may not work. And so I did what we all do in these situations. Realizing that the limited intelligence that got me into this fix was not sufficient to get me out of it, I prayed. “Please, Heavenly Father, show me the way.” Same stream, same rocks and same fallen trees, but now another pattern of “stepping stones” presented itself. There it was. Another way!
A deep breath and another prayer and I was stepping lively over the rocks and logs that proved a more sure course across the creek. “Thank you,” was the prayer of gratitude I uttered from the other side where I was safe, sound and dry.
As I continued down the path, the lessons of what I had just experienced seemed so clear. First, do we recognize the possible dangers or ineffectiveness of a present course? If things aren’t working as they should, if we’re not enjoying the joy, peace and satisfaction that come from pursuing a right course, do we have the sense to realize that there may be a better way?
Second, how often do we acknowledge that there is a source of help, one that can provide inspiration to know what to do differently and the strength to do it?
I’m so glad I didn’t slip and fall into that creek. What an unnecessary outcome that would have been to be wet and miserable…or worse, to have been wet, injured and really miserable. I pray for eyes to be opened to see the consequences of continuing on a wrong path and the inspiration to be shown a better course. “Lord, show me the way!”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


October 2006

It was going to be an up-hill battle. The former residents at this address had done an exceptional job of maintaining not only the home, but also the yard. The first question I was asked by the first person I met on the first Sunday we attended our new ward was, “Are you going to keep your yard as well as T.J.?” You know, it’s so much easier to follow an itinerant band of gypsies or 14 college students. The yard under those circumstances can be so neglected that just cleaning up the beer cans or raking the dirt can be seen by the neighbors as an improvement. In my professional life, my company has always regarded me as someone they could count on to fix things that were broken…clean up messes made by others. I have been called upon to take on challenges others would not…and go where others feared to tread. My expertise is in making bad things better.
So you can understand my trepidation in taking a beautiful yard and keeping it nice. It would be like someone saying, “Here, run Target. Run Costco. Run the Detroit Tigers (of today)…and make them better. I’m desperately trying not to ruin it.
And so the epic begins. Dead spots of grass appear throughout this beautiful carpet of a lawn. What can it be? One person suggested grub worms, another deer urine and a third some sort of fungus. Thank goodness for knowledgeable family members who directed us to the local nursery where experts on the local flora and fauna were available to help diagnose the problem and recommend solutions. I was hoping for the fungus. Worms are creepy and how do you keep deer from tinkling? What relief, “It sounds like Necrotic Ring Spot,” Debbie announced. Now Necrotic Ring Spot is not to be confused with “Yellow Patch” or “Fusarium Patch”. “Ring Spot can occur throughout the growing season and is characterized by a blackening of roots and rhizomes, and by dark brown ectorrophic hyphae on dying roots, rhizomes and crowns.” Sprecken zie Deutch? Debbie was speaking a foreign language to a guy who has had the good fortune of having a very affordable swarm of non-English-speaking yard experts taking care of things since the youngest slave (er, child) left home. When the kids were still at home, I was one of those dads who believed in teaching the children the value of good, hard work. How they thrived out in the fresh air performing good, honest, manual labor. What a blessing! I didn’t touch a rake or a lawn mower all the time they were growing up. When the last one left home, I was grateful to provide employment for young people like my own grandparents who came to this country not speaking English but looking for a better life for themselves and their families! Enough rationalization. The truth is, I have approximately 5 hours of free, non-sabbath daylight time each week and I have appreciated not having to spend it in the yard.
But a new chapter has begun. The Lord made Adam ruler over the whole Earth and placed him in a garden to till and take of it. My inheritance from father Adam is a third of an acre on the Wasatch front. I don’t want to “blow it!”
So, back to Debbie and Necrotic Ring spot. The cure is simple. Rake up the dead grass. Check. Treat affected soil with a solution of 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent to 5 gallons of water to break the surface tension of the soil and make it possible for subsequent treatment to take effect. Check. Aerate with a pitch fork. “I don’t have a pitch fork.” “Go buy one for $29.97 plus $1.95 tax at Home Depot.” Check. Purchase bluegrass seed that has a proven resistance to Necrotic whatchamacallit and plant it over the spots you have raked, washed and aerated. Check. Treat entire yard with Fertilome F-stop Fungicide. Check. Then try to explain to visitors why there are these big muddy patches in the yard. Check. (As soon as the words “Necrotic Ring Spot” come out of my mouth their eyes sort of glaze over and they turn to comment on the beautiful view of the temple.)
This is round one. A mere skirmish in a war that may last a lifetime. But several things I’ve learned already. 1) Going to the nursery is like going to Target or Costco. Take lots of money, because a simple bag of weed killer ends up being $102.75 worth of chemicals, seeds, bulbs, bulb planters (a tool, not an immigrant worker) a $5 “kit” for eliminating a kind of spider I’ve never heard of but was pictured on a poster at the check-out counter with a picture of the swollen, red, puss-oozing dead skin that results from being bitten, and 5 lbs of rocks in a plastic bag (We don’t have the right kind of rocks for an indoor planter, even though we now live in the Rocky Mountains), and
2) When you go through the prescribed steps to eradicate Necrotic Ring Spot in your yard (after soaking the darn thing with dish washing soap solution), you may still have brown spots all over the place, but you can at least boast that you have the cleanest grass in the neighborhood!

"Harry's Towing"

Nantucket Island
24 June 2002 (3:51 pm)

It was one of the more pleasant and relaxing vacations we’ve taken since becoming “empty nesters” (every vacation was fun for us when the children were still at home!) A week in a rented cottage on Nantucket Island. We slept and ate, walked and rode mopeds, enjoyed the sights and even did some painting. All in all, it was everything that a vacation should be, almost.
A former CEO of my company built his “retirement home” on Nantucket and I thought it would be interesting to see where he lived. So, one afternoon we looked him up in the phone book, got the address and headed out in our rented Toyota Camry to take a look. It was on the far side of the island, a part with which we were less familiar. But on a little island, how hard can it be? We drove by the home. Very impressive, but then David Farrell had done quite well. And as long as we were in an unfamiliar neighborhood, we thought we’d do some exploring.
Nantucket is a sand bar that peeks above the waves about a two-hour ferry boat ride from Hyannis Port off Cape Cod. Even the middle part of the island is sandy, but as you get closer to the ocean, “sandy” becomes sand “dunes” and finally beach. Driving on the dunes or beaches can be treacherous, so the island requires that a vehicle have a 4-wheel drive permit to reach these areas. A well-recognized sign marks places where only “permitted” vehicles are allowed. We always walked to the beach or drove to the dunes, so we never thought about needing anything but our feet and/or the Camry.
As we drove past the home we’d gone to see, the road continued to the west and so did we. It was a nice asphalt road that wound up and down and around wind-swept stretches of the island. Coming up over a hill, the asphalt suddenly turned into a solid dirt surface…not unusual in some of the residential areas where hard pavement and dirt roads switch back and forth. We were enjoying the sights. Birds, flowering bushes and clear blue sky. We didn’t notice that the dirt road was becoming less and less dirt and more and more sand. Coming down one slope and ascending another, the dirt part of the road was completely gone and we were on sand. I gave the Camry a little gas to be sure and get up the slope, but in a moment what little sand was sustaining us gave way and there we were, stuck with the bottom of the car resting on sand and wheels spinning, digging a nice little trench where traction became impossible.
What happened? Where was the sign, warning us that off-road permits were required?! Yikes! We’re stuck and not a house or a car in sight. Well, being a “problem-solver” and never afraid to take on a challenge, I figured that between the two of us there was enough of brains and brawn to get ourselves out this mess. We didn’t need help, I thought. We can handle this.
My first strategy was to try and scoop the sand out from underneath the car, allowing the wheels enough clearance to set us free. With only my hands as a tool, this was like bailing the Titanic. But, not to be outwitted, we placed a pad of drawing paper under the driving front tire thinking it would provide enough traction to clear the sand. As the wheel started to turn, the pages of the pad shot out from under the car like confetti and fluttered to the ground like leaves falling in autumn.
OK, time to get serious. I next wandered out into the surrounding brush looking for limbs and branches large enough to place under wheels. No go. Looking around us (now) in desperation, I noticed a small business card stapled to a post. “Harry’s Towing” it read, “Off Road Towing / Beach Towing”. What a coincidence! How did Harry know someone would be needing his services right at this spot? There were two reactions. The first was one of gratitude. “Thank goodness for Harry!” Without him we would now own a 2002 Toyota Camry buried somewhere in a Nantucket sand dune. The second reaction was, “Wait a minute! Where was the usual sign normally posted on these roads warning “Permit Vehicles Only?!” Did Harry have something to do with removing that warning sign and replacing it with his card?
Thank goodness for cell phones. And, I guess, thank goodness for Harry. By the way, all indications are that Harry is doing quite well on Nantucket. We think that’s his house on the beach next to our former CEO’s!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Last Hurrah

As Oliver Cowdery once wrote, "These were days never to be forgotten!"
Flying in to Houston last Friday, as we passed over the green landscape that is the Klein Texas Stake, I was reminded of the many times flying in from Denver when the plane followed that same path...in over Magnolia, turning over Louetta for a clear glimpse of the temple and then on in to IAH. I don't think there was a time then looking out the window at that sight when I didn't feel that this was hallowed ground, a special place, our place...the place where we had been planted by the hand of the Lord to finish raising our family and do His work. I loved this "patch" of earth that somehow seemed to be "home". This time it felt the same, but different. The Master gardener has moved us to another part of the vineyard. This patch is no longer our patch.
Friday evening, we had the opportunity to once again meet with our wives as a stake presidency (as we had done so many times before) in the Temple. We were joined by our visiting authorities and had the privilege to kneel at the altar in the temple and participate in those marvelous sealing ordinances. I couldn't help but pray that as these families we represent now have the opportunity to be together throughout eternity, may we as brethren and sisters, friends and co-laborers be granted that same privilege. The solemn time in the temple was followed by friendship and fun at RockFish where we all met for a late dinner.
On Saturday, we once again saw how the Lord truly directs the affairs of His kingdom. Priesthood leaders from throughout the stake (bishops, branch presidents, high councilors, etc.) were interviewed. I appreciated my role to wait in the "on deck" circle with each of them before introducing them to Elders J. and R. A few precious moments with each of these good men with whom we had shared sacred times.
Then the Lord spoke. In communication that could not have been clearer on Mt. Sinai, the brethren knew whom the Lord has chosen to hold the keys and lead our stake. I know our new president. I know his heart and his capacity. His service together with that of his councilors will be a great blessing to our stake.
We spoke to the Priesthood leaders about the symbolism of ancient priestly robes...how priesthood leaders in those times were reminded that they bore (the responsibility for) the people on their shoulders, the names of the people in their hearts and a commitment to be consecrated to the Lord upon their foreheads.
In the Adult Session that evening, we talked about councils and how their purpose is not to persuade or convince, but to seek the mind and will of God. Husbands and wives, presidencies, bishoprics, wards, stakes and even nations (see "City of Enoch") can be united if they will seek not their own will, but that of a loving Father in Heaven who knows what is right and best for all.
Sunday belonged to the new presidency and the choir. Oh, what heavenly music! And what a privilege to hear your mother bear her testimony. She is the strength of this family and a light on a hill for us all to emulate. Her ministry in the Klein stake has been as meaningful in the lives of individual members as any. (See "Former Seminary Students who hug and praise her constantly").
As Mo said in her blog, those of the family in Houston were the best part of the weekend. Our hours with you, especially on Sunday afternoon, were the crowning touch to a time never to be forgotten. My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of having been in Houston when we were and for opportunities to know and serve with so many great people.
Now I fly into Salt Lake. I see the mountains, I see the Temple, I peer down into Utah county for a chance to see where some of you are and I wonder, is there a patch of this place that will one day be "home"?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why I Did It

It has always been my dream to have a farm. Not a "let's get up at 4:30 in the morning and milk the cows" farm, but an "isn't this a beautiful sunset from the front porch" farm. I have never wanted to actually live on a farm...but to own a piece of mother earth to call my own. A place where mom and I could go occasionally on weekends and in the summer to entertain the grandchildren.
I've had visions of them coming a few at a time. Their "turn" to be with Mo and Papa on the farm. Running in the fields, fishing in the pond, playing with the dog, finding the newly-born litter of kittens in the barn...and, of course, going out in the morning with papa to gather the freshly-laid eggs that would be part of a country breakfast. A fun time for the kids. A chance for them to see and be in nature. A time to build memories of grandparents who love and cherish them, but will not always be around to celebrate all they will accomplish in their lives.
Far West, Missouri always seemed an appropriate place for the farm. After all, it could not have been by chance that mom and I met on the temple site there. The Knights and Stringhams and many others had been planted there with a promise. A promise they would not see fulfilled, but could be by their posterity. A piece of land. A sacred family place. Zion.
So what has this to do with my new Salsa Red Pearl Toyota 4Runner? I guess it's the closest I'll get to that farm. So come on, kids, let's go for a ride! It won't take us to Zion, but it will take us up into the mountains where we can cook (or buy) a country breakfast, have fun, see nature and get to know mo and papa better. My grandpa Brown, a devoted and life-long farmer once held a piece of his Idaho farm in his hand and told my mother, "Vera, this is God's gift to man." Perhaps a Toyota 4Runner is the Japanese' gift to Americans who will never own a farm.
Anyone want to go for a ride?