This time it's in Desert Saints, published in Las Vegas and I get paid for this article, amazing! Download June 2008 issue on p. 20 for my article "Remembering My Father" or read below:
Every Father’s Day, as I sit quietly in church listening to someone honor their father, I remember my dad Stanley Vernon’s last day on earth.
It was a hot late summer evening June 18, 1945. We had just returned from a ride in my Dad’s plane and were met at the airport by the Rowley family who wanted an airplane ride. Dad agreed to give them a short ride before dark. Seated together in the front seat of Dad’s small piper cub airplane was George Rowley and his only child, beautiful dark haired nine year old, Mary Lou.
Only minutes earlier, my mom and I had been in the front seat of the blue and yellow canvas covered airplane with its lightweight aluminum frame. Dad sat behind us as the pilot, as we soared over the barren hills and high mountain deserts of Milford, Utah. Four years old, I loved to fly with my parents and look down at the fascinating landscape below us. Now my mom and I were sitting in the car, waiting with Mrs. Rowley for our family members to return from their plane ride.
My dad got interested in flying during World War II and had great plans to open up a flying service in our little town in southern Utah. The plane he bought was used, leftover from military flight training. Purchased for such a good price, he had just learned to fly and got his pilot’s license before flying the plane home from California. His enthusiasm was high for adventure. He had built his own ham radio set and taught himself the Morse code. This helped him get a job as a train dispatcher for the Union Pacific Railroad. Just out of high school, he had started working with the railroad on the road gang, repairing and maintaining the tracks in hot arid Nevada. Now, he was married to his sweetheart, Evelyn Johnson, from Silver City, Utah. He was a family man with a young daughter to support, a good job, living comfortably in a company home near his parents. Life was good!
Deferred from military service because of his important work on the railroad moving American soldiers and supplies to both coasts, the long war was almost over. His younger brother, Weston, had joined the army and was stationed in the South Pacific. We all worried about Weston’s safety in a combat zone, but he would come home safely. Dad had assured everyone including his wife and parents that flying an airplane was safer than fighting in the war or driving an automobile.
Then suddenly, a sharp crack filled the air and before our stunned eyes, Dad’s plane fell directly toward earth and crashed nose first into the hard ground below. Within a few seconds, all future plans were shattered. Two dads and one little girl were suddenly gone. Two families forever changed. “Killed because of some mechanical failure in the airplane,” they said in the papers that reported the accident the next day. “Death was instantaneous.” said the death certificates.
We had watched the plane crash before our very eyes from our car while awaiting their return. Quickly we drove to the crash site. Already there were workers from the nearby mine assembled. They kept us from seeing the mangled bodies of our loved ones. I remember sitting in the hot car wondering what was going on. My mom and Mary Lou’s mother were in shock. I didn’t realize what drastic changes would come into my previously uneventful young life. Later as I sat on my mom’s lap at my grandparents home while they were told the tragic news, I remember hugging my mom and telling her that everything will be all right. I’ll take care of you… as she cried and cried.
How do you explain death to a child? Daddy’s gone away, he won’t be back. He’s gone to live in heaven, only brings further questions. Why? To which there is no answer. Many times I would hear my mom cry late at night in the dark in the bed we now shared. She had also lost her father to stomach cancer when she was only four years old
Separated by death for a very long sixty-three years, my parents have now been reunited after my mom’s death in Jan 15, 2007. A year later, I felt my mom’s promptings from beyond the veil to do her temple work and have them sealed together. This I did and have also been sealed to my parents as if I had been born in the covenant. What a blessing to now have an eternal family awaiting me when I one day rejoin them. This Father’s Day I’ll remember my dad’s last day on earth and picture him together with my mom awaiting my return.