Sunday, December 3, 2000

Tribute to my grandmother Betty Ford

To: Suzanna, Erin, Anna and Gabrielle

Today, Dec. 3, 2000, at approximately 4:00 PM, Betty Elaine Baumberger Ford, passed away in a nursing home in Atlanta Georgia with Arlene Ford by her side. She had suffered a severe systemic staph infection and spent a month in hospital, finally being released last Monday into a nursing care facility. She had been in great pain during most of that time until 3 days before her death when doctors finally prescribed medication which brought some relief. She knew that Jeff and Arlene were near and helping her as much as they could. She also knew that she was loved. Her wishes that she be cremated will be carried out without any service or viewing at this time. Her ashes will be kept for possible future as yet undetermined memortial service and disbursement. I love her and I am thankful that her suffering is over.

Her second daughter, Dianna



I got your phone message this evening. Thank you for the call. I knew what it was going to be when I saw your number on the Caller ID. I assume that in the condition that Mother was in, living didn't have much more to offer. Perhaps she is better off now. Even so, I feel terribly alone without parents. I sincerely thank you and Arlene for talking care of Mother for the last 25 years and especially this last year. What were her last wishes?




Mother had a very difficult last month and it is a blessing at this time that her suffering is now over. Over her last four days she was given morphine to reduce her discomfort and at the time of her passing she did not show any signs of pain. For that I am greatful.

Concerning her wishes, mother never wanted any fuss to be made. She was always frugal in her conduct and never wanted to be a bother or burden to her family.

She explicitly stated that she did not want a religious ceremony. The only time that I was able to get any specific wish related to the handling of her remains was on a visit I made years ago when Arlene and I were still in Chicago. I took her to a restuarant in Santa Barbara, on top of a hill overlooking the bay on a typically beautiful California day. She told me that she would like to have her ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean off the Santa Barbara pier. Our mother loved California and Santa Barbara was a beautiful and majestic place that symbolized that special quality that California represented to her. Years later she said that it really did not matter that much to her what happened to her remains. However, I believe that it did matter to her and my intention is to do exactly what she had requested. It is my way of honoring her and to express my unconditional love for her.

I do not yet have a specific time frame to carry out her wish and I do not feel rushed to make a quick decision in this regard. These details can be worked out over time and anyone that wishes to participate can let me know and I will try to make accommodations. I intend on writing a eulogy for mother which I can read before the spreading of the ashes. Anyone that wishes to write some sentiments they want expressed at that time can either participate directly or I will be happy to read those sentiments on their behalf.

We all owe a great deal of gratitude to Arlene. The care and kindness that she showed mother over the 35 years she has known her has been remarkable. But even that pales in comparison to her recent devotion. Arlene worked extremely hard to help relocate mother to be close to us in Atlanta as her health made it impossible for her to continue to live independently. Once in Atlanta, Arlene spent countless hours four and five days a week to help mother make the adjustment. Once mother became hospitalized on November 2, Arlene was at the hospital almost every day for hours at a time to try and provide comfort to her. In the 30 or so days that followed the hospitalization, Arlene maybe missed 3 or 4 days, and only when I was able to spend time with mother on the weekends. Our mother loved Arlene dearly and rightfully so. Arlene was with mother when she took her last breath and made sure that the last thing that mother heard was that we loved her. Arlene is the one who deserves the thanks. You can thank me for marrying Arlene.



Tomorrow morning Arlene and I fly to LA to meet up with Joel and Corey. On Sunday (07/01/2001) we will have a brief ceremony on a charter boat and spread mother's ashes in the Pacific ocean. I put together a eulogy and we will be reciting a few poems. I will carry your love for mother on the boat with me. (along with some dramamine tablets, because both Corey and I are notorious for needing them) I've attached the eulogy and poems that we will be using. If you are thinking about it around 12:30pm on Sunday PST, you can join in as well.

Betty Baumberger Ford
Born: April 2, 1920
Died: December 3, 2000

Today, July 1st 2001, we have returned to California to commemorate the life of Betty Baumberger Ford, and to spread her ashes off the coast of Santa Barbara. It is always difficult to summarize a life, we each carry different memories and experiences. Today I wish to honor my mother as I remember her. My beloved wife, Arlene, and our two wonderful sons, Joel and Corey, are with me to pay tribute to her and to fulfill my commitment to return her spirit and remains to the place she loved the best.

My mother loved California, the golden sunshine, the cool ocean breezes, a quality of life that begged for independence and freedom. We had lived in California earlier in the late 1950's when I was growing up. It was one of the happier periods in my mother's life with our family still intact. By the early 1960's we had moved away. But in 1984, when she lived near my own young family in Atlanta, I told her I was being transferred to California and that I would move her as well so she could continue to live close to us. It was a joyous day for my mother. ...and now, and forever, she returns again to California.

Born in St. Louis, raised in San Antonio, abandoned by her father, Charlie, before she was 5 years old, and despite being struck by lightning when she was 6, my mother had a happy childhood. She learned to play the piano and was musically talented. She and her younger sister, Sweety, sang and danced together as children, performing at functions all over town.

In high school the two sisters enjoyed the popularity that you might expect two attractive, talented young women might have. It was a happy time, before responsibilities got too heavy, when you could enjoy the vitality and physical joy of youth, when all the parts still worked, when movement was fluid and effortless, when you could almost fly like a bird.

She fell in love with my father right after high school, became a military wife, and during the war years, while my father was serving and defending our country, she began the work of raising the family. Being a military wife meant moving every couple of years, leaving close friends and beginning anew. It meant being separated for long periods of time from the husband you loved. It meant most of the burden of child rearing came to rest on her shoulders. Certainly not an easy time. But my mother was fiercely loyal to her children and protected and nurtured us in the best way that she could.

Unfortunately, she developed a drinking problem during this period that became a major disruptive force within our family. The day before she died, she told me she wished that she could have controlled it, and she tried to express her regret for the pain that she knew she had caused. I told her I understood, that I forgave her, and that I loved her.

I came along on her 30th birthday and we shared a special relationship because of this bond. We were more alike then not. I got my determination to succeed and competitive nature from my mother, I got my high aspirations from my mother, and I also got my temper from my mother. We inherit both the good and the bad. We are linked with our past, and I understood my mother because I am a reflection of her.

She loved sports and encouraged me to excel. She demanded the best from me and supported me with an outward enthusiasm that, at times, was embarrassing to me, as her shouting voice rose above the crowd cheering me on in my athletic endeavors.

Once I left home, being the youngest, my father divorced my mother after years of periodic separations and a new phase of our relationship began. As I started my own family, my mother became a grandmother to my boys when we moved her to Atlanta to be close to us. She was a terrific grandmother and took care of the boys as our permanent baby sitter. She loved our boys and demonstrated a side of her parenting that, although I benefited from it myself as a child, I could not recognize until I had a different vantage point.

Joel and Corey were a source of great pride for my mother. She enjoyed helping to raise them and marveled at the fine young men they became. I am grateful that she got to see both of them one last time over Thanksgiving, one week before she died. It was further proof of her life's contributions. I wish her other grandchildren could have known her on that same level.

When she moved to Atlanta 24 years ago, she also started on the road to conquer her drinking problem and finally succeeded. Her drinking problem masked many of her wonderful traits and blinded those around her to the positive qualities she possessed. When her mother, Muddy, passed away, Hobart, her step-father, established a trust fund for my mother. Because of my mother's drinking problem, Hobart did not trust her to handle money matters. He locked up the trust fund monies so tightly that she never really benefited much from the inheritance. Yet, for the last 30 years of her life, she managed her own finances in such a way that she was able to live on a bare subsistence income. She learned to do without. Her only luxury was a TV.

Besides her declining health, my mother's single most challenging assignment was how to make the money last. She did a remarkable job. Hobart would have been amazed at the job that she did. Before she died, I told her how proud I was of her accomplishment. I think this gave her some relief in her final days of pain as she reflected back on her life. She knew she had done well with her money situation and that she had not become a burden to her children.

When I moved my family from California to Chicago in 1989, I again offered to move her with us. She decided that she would remain in California instead since the climate in Chicago would be too harsh for her arthritis. Plus, she loved California and really never wanted to leave.

She spent 11 years in California, living alone, with no family nearby to care for her. It was her choice. It was her way of saying that she could take care of herself, that she was going to remain independent as long as she could. Her arthritis condition degenerated dramatically over that 11 year period and caused her great pain and discomfort. Her hands became virtually useless and her ability to walk severely limited. She could no longer cook for herself or go to the store on a regular basis. She had to subscribe to a meal service which delivered her almost the exact same meal every day for years. She could not afford a better service. But she did not complain or ask for help. She gritted her teeth, the few she had left, and made the best of her situation.

Always independent and filled with courage and defiance, my mother did not choose to be alone without a companion in her later life, but she adapted to it. Her greatest fear was in becoming a burden to her children. In her last ten years, she complained much too infrequently when she really needed help with her physical ailments.

Arlene and I visited her in early 2000 and I was shocked at her deterioration. We made the decision to move her to Atlanta to be closer to us so that she could receive better care. Although I knew she never wanted to leave California, and that she never wanted to become a burden to us, she also was desperate for assistance and consented to the move. The move itself was difficult. Arlene was magnificent in making this transition as painless as possible. My mother loved and respected Arlene for her kindness and kept claiming that Arlene was "the smartest woman I have ever met." Of course, I kept reminding my mother that being married to the smartest woman has got to qualify me for being the smartest man.

We tried hard to improve her condition and make her as comfortable as possible. We had made good progress and I was hopeful we would have a few more years together and we could bring her some happiness. Arlene saw her almost daily and I spent time with her on the weekends. She jealously watched her tennis, one of her last passions, and disciplined herself everyday to make it through yet another crossword puzzle to keep her mind alert. She registered to vote, determined to once again support the Democratic party and made sure she got her ballot mailed in time.

Then she developed an infection that her body could not fight off and we had to put her into the hospital. Five painful weeks later, she was gone. She was courageous during the whole period, but eventually desperate to stop the suffering.

She lived her life with dignity and courage. She handled her daily pain with true grit and determination. I admire her and respect her for that. And for being my mother, well for that, I love her unconditionally.

She is now free at last, free from the arthritic pain, free from the crippling movement of deformed joints, free from the worry of financial constraints. At the end of her journey with us she knew she was loved, she knew she was forgiven, and she did not die alone.

Today, we release her spirit back to her golden California, where she can bask in the sun and feel that cool ocean breeze, where she can sing and dance once again,

...where she can fly like a bird.

God Saw Her

God saw that she was getting tired,
And a cure was not to be.
So he put His arms around her
And whispered, "Come with me."
With tearful eyes we watched her suffer,
And saw her fade away.
She didn't deserve what she went through,
So we could not make her stay.
And when we saw her sleeping,
At peace and free from pain,
We could not wish her back
For her to suffer that again.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Her twisted hands at rest,
One last sigh she gave us all
She gave to us her best.
On Death

Speak to us now of death.
And he said:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
Open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one,
Even as the river and the sea are one.

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the world and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing,
But to free the breath from its restless tides,
That it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence,
Shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
Then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
Then shall you truly dance.

Kahil Gibran

Some Time At Eve

Some time at eve when the tide is low,
I shall slip my mooring and sail away,
With no response to the friendly hail
Of kindred craft in the busy bay.
In the silent hush of the twilight pale,
When the night stoops down to embrace the day,
And the voices call in the waters' flow--
Some time at eve when the tide is low
I shall slip my mooring and sail away.

A few who have watched me sail away
Will miss my craft from the busy bay;
Some friendly barks that were anchored near,
Some loving souls that my heart held dear,
In silent sorrow will drop a tear--

But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
In moorings sheltered from storm or gale,
And greeted the friends who have sailed before
O'er the Unknown Sea to the Unseen Shore.

Elizabeth Clarke Hardy

Windward Passage

Beating against mediocrity,
always pointing high.

Sunshine warmth atop golden swells

Loving Breezes passing through

Flowing winds soaring fluid Wings

Flying Floating Dancing Free

Singing sweetly eternally,
memories anchored leeward key.

(in memory of Betty Baumberger Ford
written by her son Jeff)

Page first published by Erin Howarth at 21 Oct 2001
Re-published by Erin Howarth @ 24 July 2009

Saturday, May 13, 2000

Orson Scott Card on blacks and the priesthood

Orson Scott Card is a Latter-day Saint and a science fiction author.  I love his books.  He maintains a website for his fans.  Part of that website offers answers to research questions regarding his work and himself.  One person asked If he could describe his experience when he was a missionary for the Mormon Church in Brazil

Of course this was far too broad a question to answer, but Card promised to try to answer more specific questions, so I asked if he could describe the instructions he received from his mission president regarding the teaching of black people in Brazil because I knew that different missionaries received different instructions at different times. 

My father-in-law, for example, received no instruction at all and actively proselyted among Brazilians of African descent. 
Here is Orson Scott Card's response

May 12, 2000: Because Mormon congregations are completely staffed by lay members - no hired priesthood - they need to have at least a minimal number of priesthood-holding men in order to function.  In Brazil, so many people have African descent that the rule the Church had before 1978, barring the priesthood from them, made it so that out of necessity, the Church had to restrict its missionary activity among people of African ancestry.  We were told to put obvious barriers in front of people whose African ancestry was apparent, so they had to be exceptionally motivated in order to join the church.

This was a painful thing, in practice.  So many people that were really interested in the Church were, in effect, turned away - not meanly, but nevertheless effectively - that many of us yearned for that restriction to be lifted.  Most of us, of course, had grown up in the American west - an area that has very few blacks.  So we had not seen the effect of this policy in our own lives, among our friends or acquaintances.  Now that we saw first-hand how much more receptive the Brazilians of African descent were to the gospel, it was hard to think they in any way "deserved" to be cut off from it.  Naturally, in order to "justify" the Church policy, many people had invented folk doctrines or seized on doctrines invented by others that, in effect, blamed blacks for the restriction.  But in fact the policy had been introduced solely to preserve the Church in its early days on the American frontier, when, in Missouri, the local slave-holding culture hated and feared the mostly-Yankee Mormons because they were growing in number and represented potential anti-slavery votes.  When it became clear that Mormons were baptizing and giving the priesthood to freed slaves, the anti-Mormon mob went into a frenzy.  That was when the policy to no longer give the priesthood to blacks was introduced.  And, during the era when blacks were grossly discriminated against throughout all of America, that policy helped the Mormon Church survive in bigoted Bible-belt areas.  By 1973, however, the policy already seemed pretty dated to some of us.  Though we also knew that change would only come when the leaders of the Church felt that they had the Lord's permission to make a change.  Some of them had expressed their personal belief in some of those folk doctrines, making it seem sometimes that they would be highly unlikely ever to change.

And the worst thing was what the policy did to many of the missionaries there.  It was like a carte blanche for racism.  Some of the disparaging comments I heard, the hostile or mocking attitudes toward blacks, shocked me.  I had never heard anything like that from my family.  While I grew up hearing some of the fear-centered stereotypes about blacks, there was never anything even approaching hostility toward or mockery of any racial group, and I could not believe that people calling themselves Latter-day Saints could have such attitudes.  I was not the only one to get into arguments with some of the most excessive of the racists - but it was hurtful how THEY claimed to have the Church on their side.

Still, I also saw many examples of faithful members of the Church who, having joined the church despite the restrictions, or having done their genealogy, discovered African ancestry, and had their priesthood "suspended," nevertheless remained loyal, faithful, loving Latter-day Saints.  They helped dispel much of my own ignorance and racial stereotypes.

And when, five years after I got home from my mission, the announcement came that the restriction was lifted, I was one of many former missionaries to Brazil who longed to go back and find all those people we had to turn away when they were seeking the gospel.  Since 1978 the Church has grown by leaps and bounds within Brazil.  Why did it take so long?  I do not think for a moment that the Lord or the Church were waiting for Africans to be ready - they were ready all along.  First the wait was for American culture to be ready to accept fully integrated churches in every region of the country; then the wait was for the Church members themselves to be ready to embrace the change.  And embrace it we did.  Yes, there were areas where substantial numbers of Church members stopped coming to church and haven't been back. But the vast majority of the Saints were ready and eager to see that restriction lifted from our shoulders - for it burdened us as surely as it burdened any of the African-Americans (and African-Brazilians) who joined the church despite the rule or missed out on it because they could not bear the inherent racism of the policy.

It was a racist policy that had been instituted by a non-racist church for the sake of the survival of the church in a racist region, and, like racism in America in general, it lingered far too long.  But I'm proud of the fact that we Mormons don't do things by halves - we are now one of the most rigidly ANTI-racist Churches.  Throughout the South where we live now, most churches are segregated, not by rule but by custom - blacks go to mostly-black churches, whites to mostly-white churches.  But the Mormon churches are integrated and black members are fully involved in leadership and service.

I hope this answers your question.  I'd love to know what prompted you to ask it.

Orson Scott Card

* The Casting Broad
* Fresco Pictures
* Hatrack River: The Official Website of Orson Scott Card
* Lost Books
* Nauvoo: A Gathering Place for Latter-day Saints
* The Ornery American

I was greateful to receive this reply from Card, and sent him a reply in return.  I don't recall all of what I wrote, but he replied again.

May 13, 2000: I truly wish the issue WERE dead.  As far as the official church is concerned, it is ... but several issues remain.

1. The previous folk teachings about race continue to be taught despite our best efforts to stamp them out - so many members still hear all that old nonsense about why blacks deserved inferior treatment in this life, etc.

2. Members who think that EVERY action of EVERY authority of the Church must be inspired by God are grossly disillusioned at the discovery that many if not most actions of church leaders from the lowest to the highest offices are merely those leaders best decisions at the time, based on their own understanding and their own preferences and judgments.  when you think about it, this shouldn't be a problem - God isn't creating puppets here, he's creating people, and that means we have to have experience making decisions, even harmful ones - and also bearing with and being patient with the mistaken decisions of others.  However, the story that everything is inspired, while it has the convenience of getting many people to accept decisions without argument, does the great harm of setting up the members of the church for disillusionment and loss of faith.  The decision to restrict blacks from holding the priesthood was one such decision - it may have even been inspired at the time, but all the nonsense set up in support of it certainly was NOT inspired ...

3. The language with which the declaration was made left the implication that there is an unwritten revelation somewhere in someone's memory.  Quite the contrary.  what there was - all there EVER was - was President Kimball's profound assurance, given by God, that the restriction should be lifted.  He spoke of this to the 12 in the temple, and all of them agreed, in a very spiritual meeting in which it was clear to all that this was the will of God.  My wife can steer you to where the best account of this has been written down.  So what was not given in words cannot be written down in words.  Still, there could have and should have been an official account of how this revelation was given ... except that I think part of the reason for not doing so is that to have such an account in the scripture would lock in the fact that the racial restriction ever existed, and there is, I think, a profound wish among the Brethren that the memory of that old policy might just go away.

It won't, of course.  But it can be set aside by most members and nonmembers alike, and perhaps, unlike polygamy, it will NOT continue to be one of the first things that people think of when they think of Mormonism <wince>.

Anyway, I'm glad that you're one of those who are not only concerned that the true doctrine be taught and widely understood, but are taking part in that effort. I'm looking forward to reading your paper - the table of contents looks good.


I also received this kind response from Kristine Card

May 15, 2000: Hi, I'm Scott Card's wife, Kristine.  He asked me to send you the reference to the place I think is one of the best accounts of the revelation on the priesthood.  But, I'll bet you have already read it.  If not -- it is Chapter 11 "The Long Promised Day" in Leonard J. Arrington's biography "Adventures of a Church Historian".  The book was published in 1998 by University of Illinois Press.  I know you can get it from Deseret Book or Amazon because my bookclub just read it and that's where everyone got their copies.  Best wishes, Kristine Card

Saturday, April 1, 2000

Autobiography of Dianna Solmes (2000)


I was born in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 13, 1943. My father was in the Air Force stationed in South America most of the time during Mother's pregnancy, but he managed to be with Mother before she left the hospital with me. I was born in the Breakers hotel(1) which was requisitioned as a hospital during these war years. I was the second daughter and the second child of my parents. My sister, Suzanna, was a year and a half older than I. We were great friends all of our youth

I had a brother, Brian, born three years later in West Palm Beach, Florida, but I don't remember him until later when my last brother, Jeffrey, was born in 1950. By then, we lived in Montgomery, Alabama

>Dad never stayed in one place for long. We moved from Florida to Texas, to California, to Florida, to Arizona, to Alabama, to Maryland, to Virginia, to New Mexico, to Germany, to Morocco, to Virginia, to Ohio, to California, to Florida. I'm not even sure about the order in the earlier years

My grandmother lived with us for a few years from 1951 to 1953. She was a wonderful influence in my life. She talked to me about God and encouraged me to go to church with our neighbors in Clovis, New Mexico, the Huttons. Reverend Hutton was the pastor for a Baptist Church in Clovis and Suzanna and I went with them every Sunday. They had five sons all of whom were grown and married except Jimmy, who was two years older than Suzanna. He was neat

Suzanna and I were baptized the summer of 1953. Then Dad received orders to go to Hahn Air Force Base in Germany as the Fiftieth Fighter Bomber Wing commander. He left in August and we followed in December. We flew to New York and waited for several days. We met Mother's cousin, Will (Bill) Pahlman, and his friend, Margaret Cousins, who was the author of several biographies for young people. She gave me a copy of her biography of Benjamin Franklin and autographed it for me. They took us to the ice capades in Times Square. Then, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany. On the airplane we read horror comics. I had some bad nightmares because of one in particular. I was afraid the ceiling was going to fall on me in my sleep and puncture me with a thousand spears! Dad met us at the airport. It was nighttime and very dark. We drove for a long time before we got to the base. Dad entertained us with stories of bears and wolves in the German woods along side of the road. He laughed and laughed when we shrieked in fear! He didn't know about the comic books

We lived on post in a double apartment and we had a German housekeeper. It was great. We didn't even have to make our beds! But we got spoiled. If our beds weren't made we had a fit. We even learned to do it ourselves the German way. That resembled the military way (tight corners -- tight everything!). We had every base privilege which included free shuttle bus service anywhere on base, a movie theater, a commissary, a gymnasium, school, everything we could want. We had the freedom to explore the nearby German woods, go to summer camp in the black forest, and shop in quaint little German towns. Frau Zeiler, our first German housekeeper, would go on picnics in the woods with us. She would warn us about the mines that were still buried there. We felt immortal, I guess, because we never let that stop us from exploring and having fun. Some people weren't so lucky. They got blown up!

The following year, Dad was transferred to Ramstein Air Force Base, which was more of the same, it was great. We loved playing in the woods. Then he received orders to go to Rabat, French Morocco. This was different. We had to live on the economy, which meant no military housing. It took three months to get a house fixed up for us in Rabat. The house was French and had black marble floors upstairs and down with a curved marble staircase and three balconies. In the meantime we rented a tenant house on a fruit farm in Salé, a small place outside the city. We spent a lot of time at the beach on the Atlantic Ocean swimming, body surfing, and picnicking. We rode a bus for an hour to get to our American school in Quonset huts in the middle of a cork forest. We even had basketball courts and baseball diamonds. In the spring we had a caterpillar epidemic. The trees and buildings were totally covered with them. They had to be burned off with torches.

During a softball game that I played in, I lost my temper with the coach/teacher and threw the ball at him as he turned around and walked away from me. I hit him in the back of the head. I was more shocked at my actions even than he was! When he turned around to see who had hit him, the fear on my face tempered his anger, and he let me off with a warning. I never did anything like that again.

Mother played softball on an Officer's wives' softball team. I don't remember who they played, but it was probably the non-commissioned officers' wives. They lost I was a cheerleader for mother's team. I lost heart and couldn't cheer much toward the end of the game. But mother never lost heart. She was dynamite! And she was a gracious and generous loser. I really admired her that day.

Just before we came home to America, the Moroccans won their independence from France. There was a showy procession into the city by the King and his mounted army on their day of independence. We stood at the top of the hill watching them. They were colorful and proud and happy. Even though the Americans were under curfew for several weeks prior, I heard of no blood being spilled.

We returned to the U.S. on the USS Hodges, a military ship converted into a passenger ship. It was the pits. Everyone was seasick, but the food was great. I was the only one well enough to do the laundry.

We moved to Annandale, Virginia, near enough to the Pentagon for Dad to commute. Our neighbor had two horses and didn't have time to exercise them both so she let Suzanna and I take turns exercising one of them. Suzanna had always loved horses, so we made a pact with each other to save every penny we could get our hands on until we could buy our own horse. We talked Dad into paying us per job rather than a flat rate for chores. It worked out great for both of us. For a year and a half, the house, car, and yard never looked so good, and we got enough money to buy our first horse!

The next time we moved, to Columbus, Ohio, Dad purchased a place with enough land to keep a horse. This time the Air Force didn't move him, because he retired and went to work for Space and Systems Information Division of North American. We bought our first horse from a riding stable that was going out of business. We were amazingly lucky, because she still had a soft mouth and was still willing to go. In fact she could go very fast. I won a race on her with a farm boy that my best friend, Mary Ann Sumption, had a crush on. Merry Frolic was her name, but we changed it to Reveille, a good military name. In the winter, we boarded her at a nearby farm. The second winter, Suzanna could drive, so we boarded her at a stable. John Dean Phillips, also know as Jack, was hired to run the stable. I was fifteen and he was twenty-one. He was ready to get married and we were in love, My parents decided to move to California. They really didn't like the way things were going with me and Jack! Jack was going to come to California and bring Reveille to me, but after three months' separation, we broke up and he sold our horse and sent us the money. He sold her for twice as much as we had paid. Now we had money to buy a horse in California. In fact, we ended up getting two. But horses sort of lost my interest after my junior year in High School and we finally sold them both. Suzanna went to Stephens college in Springfield, Missouri. I bought a car. I started hanging around kids who drank and smoked and I started doing the same. Up until this time, I was known as Miss Goody-Goody, but I soon lost that status. I could never admit how much I missed it.

Mother and I had been at odds for years, but now things became very volatile. She wanted me to be good and study hard to make something of myself and I wanted to goof off and be popular with my bad friends! As soon as I graduated from high school, I got a job with the Redondo Beach Telephone Company and two weeks before my eighteenth birthday, I moved out of my parents' house into my own apartment on the beach. It took one month for all my friends to take advantage of me, and get me evicted from my apartment. I found another one and Pat Berrin, one of my girlfriends moved in with me. She didn't have a job, but enjoyed spending my money for groceries. She loved cheese and crackers. I hated them.

I quit my job and moved back home! I started working for the Downey plant of Space and Information Systems Division of North American as a clerk. When I had enough money, I found myself another apartment, but this time I stayed away from my old friends. Then I was transferred to the Seal Beach Facility and my Dad was transferred to Satellite Beach, Florida, and I elected to go with him and help take care of my brothers, because he wasn't taking Mother with him. I started going to college at Brevard Junior college, but by now my habits of drinking and not studying were so entrenched, that I did poorly in school. I was not a good influence on my brothers and I wasn't much help in any respect. One day I just left without a word to anyone and returned to California. I found a job working with Pat Berrin. I moved in with her and her mother-in-law. Pat had married Bob Corbin just before he was sent to Okinawa with the Marines. The day President Kennedy was shot, I was sitting at a bar in some town in Redondo Beach, California watching it all on TV. I was devastated. I sat there for the rest of the day, drinking.

I went to San Luis Obispo, where Suzanna and her husband, Mohammed Al-Bakhit lived with their son, Eyad. There was nothing for me there so I went east. I stopped to see a few friends on the way but I ended up in New York. It was big and unfriendly. I went to the Army Recruiters Station and tried to enlist in the WACS.(2) The Sergeant put me on a plane and sent me home, telling me to enlist from my home in Florida. To my amazement, I was greeted at Dad's door by my mother. I didn't even know that she had left California and come to Florida. My parents didn't try to stop me from joining the Army, so I joined up in March 1964.

I hated basic training. It was just like home. Somebody was always yelling at me. I tried to keep up so I wouldn't be yelled at and I was made the platoon leader. That wasn't too bad except when the other girls would bring me their problems and expect me to solve them. My sergeant didn't like what I told one girl, so I was demoted and the girl I had chastised took my place. I was humiliated of course, but still glad to be out of the focus of leadership.

After nine weeks of basic, I was assigned to flight simulator operator school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. It wasn't much of a move from Fort McClelland, Alabama. I had been there several weeks when I sort of encountered Russell Solmes. He offered me a ride one evening as I was on my way to the movie theater (actually he "picked me up"). He decided to go to the movie too. Afterwards he went with me to the Little Wheels Club, and finally left since I had joined up with some other friends. However, the next day he came around and every day thereafter. He would pick me up right from school in his pink Cadillac convertible until his windshield was broken by a kid with a tomato and had to park the car off post. Then we started marching all over post.

I went off post a few times. But I didn't like it. The townspeople didn't like the military much, except for their money, and if you had a black or Hispanic friend with you they didn't even want your money! That was such a shock to me that I preferred to stay on post.

Russ and I decided to get married when he received orders go to Vietnam. We made hasty plans, and were married by the base chaplain with a few of our friends present. My parents came out from Florida, and Mother brought me a white dress with blue cummerbund and white shoes. I was very grateful, because I was prepared to get married in my WAC uniform. The amazing thing was that it fit me perfectly. Mother just knew that I would be thin again after gaining so much weight in basic training. Actually, I think she didn't think anyone would marry me unless I was thin, so she bought a size 10 dress. I requested a discharge and it was granted, so when Russ was allowed to go home just prior to shipping out to Vietnam, I was free to go with him.

I lived with Russ's parents while he was gone. I got a job at White Products in Middleville, When he came home, we went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There I worked as a typist and property researcher for an abstractor in town. Russ worked an odd shift and we didn't see each other much. We came close to getting divorced then. When his time to reenlist came around he refused. He was discharged and we went home to Hastings, Michigan, where he immediately started working for his father in the auto body repair business. WE came close to getting divorced again. Guess what saved the marriage? Procrastination! Now, how many people can say that?

On June 8, 1970, our first daughter was born. I named her Erin Elizabeth. Erin was just a favorite name of mine, but I named her Elizabeth after my favorite grandmother whom I loved dearly because she was always so kind to me. She never spoke harshly ever. I wish I had emulated her on that so my kids could say that too. They can't. I used a lot of rather inventive language.

Russ and I had been renting a house on Center Street in Hastings up until Erin was about a year old, and because Russ's brother, David, was getting divorced, we took over his house payments. This was our first house, at 628 Colfax Street, and the only way we could afford it was because we didn't have to put anything down on it. All of our savings were always borrowed to invest in the business and we would get it back in commodities rather than cash, but it all worked out very well for us.

On October 12, 1972, Anna Mae was born. She wasn't as easy to take care of as Erin had been and it took me five months to figure out what her problem was. She didn't like nursing. It took too much effort or something. But when I finally gave her a bottle, she became a model baby.

I became pregnant again about two years later, but I miscarried, and it was another two years almost before I had Gabrielle Elaine on November 14, 1976.

In April, when Gabby was about five months old, I met my first Mormon missionaries. I had seen them walking around our neighborhood several times, but they had never ever knocked on my door before. We had been going to the Nashville Baptist Church for about three yeas and Pastor De Groote had preached a sermon once about the dangers of talking to them because they belonged to a cult and they could deceive you and take you to hell with them. When I found out that he had been talking about those clean cut, handsome, well-dressed, young men who were walking about my neighborhood, I thought it a terrible shame that they were going to hell, and why didn't someone help them? After all, the only thing it would take to save them, would be to tell them about Jesus Christ, that he died for their sins, and if they would only believe in Him, they could be saved like the rest of us!

There was only one problem with this. As a parent, I could feel that this was misleading and over simplified. I loved my children more than anything I had ever loved in all my life, but I certainly expected and desired more from them and for them than just to trust me and go about their self-centered way. I knew they had many things to learn and conform to if they were to become independent, successful, productive and happy.

Finally, one Saturday afternoon, two of these young men did come to my door. Russ was home and I was afraid he wouldn't support, understand, or tolerate my efforts at straightening out these doomed young men. I told them I couldn't talk to them now, but if they would come back on Monday, I would listen to their strange notion that Jesus had visited the Americas after his resurrection. I couldn't imagine where they got such a bizarre idea.

I never even had the chance to argue with them, because everything they said was true. They did believe in Jesus Christ, so how could they be doomed? Not only that, but they knew things that I had never been taught, but when they spoke, I knew they were speaking the truth. I knew that I had lived in heaven with heavenly Father before I was born, and wonder of wonders, I even knew that I had a mother there! Never had I heard this concept verbalized before, yet it was as clear as spotless glass.

Then, they began to teach me about Joseph Smith. This was harder for me to swallow. There are so many self proclaimed prophets and men called by God to do this, to go here or there, to teach and preach, to build this church or that church or whatever. The idea wasn't exactly original. They told me to read the Book of Mormon and pray. I didn't do it.

The next time they came back, I was willing to listen to more, even though now there was a different missionary with Elder Johnson. Elder Brown had gone home, I was told, and Elder Todd had replaced him. Elder Brown had done all the talking. Elder Johnson was very quiet and shy. Fortunately, Elder Todd had no trouble picking up where Elder Brown had left off. He told me that he had joined the church while he was in the Air Force, and after serving his term of enlistment, he began to serve his mission. I was very impressed.

He talked more about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. They left too soon, but they wanted me to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. That night I started reading after I prayed to know if the Book was true, or if it was the work of the devil, as I had been taught by Pastor DeGroote. I read 1 Nephi chapters 1, 2, and 3. I prayed between chapters. After a few more, I said to myself, what in the world was Pastor DeGroote talking about? If this was of the devil, then so was the Bible. I knew that if one was true, the other was true, too.

I became very excited. I called the missionaries. We had set another appointment for the following week. There was no way that I could wait a whole week for more information. I told them that I had read the first five or six chapters of the Book of Mormon, and I knew it was true. Could they please come over sooner than next week? They asked me when, and I said how about tomorrow morning? They came and they kept coming. I couldn't get enough. I talked to Russ incessantly about the things I was learning. He seemed interested but in no way willing to do any studying himself. The missionaries were very reluctant to teach me any more until Russ became involved. He finally agreed. The first night that he listened to the missionaries and watched a film, I was frightened to death. Later the missionaries asked me if I could feel the Spirit, and I told them I felt a terrible spirit the whole time they were there that night, but I never felt it again. I wanted to be baptized, but I didn't know if I was worthy . I had already quit drinking and smoking. Russ had actually quit smoking two years before me. Russ had made it clear to me that if I wanted to keep my children, I had to stop drinking. I couldn't smoke without wanting a drink so I quit that too. It was really hard. That was when I spent all my days reading the Old Testament and telling Russ everything I had discovered that day and each day when he came home from work.

Russ simply didn't want to be committed for the longest time. The missionaries kept working with us patiently. They invited us to come to church. The first time I went, I rode my bicycle and carried Gabby on my back while Russ stubbornly went to Nashville with the older girls.

At that time, the Saints were meeting in a small wooden church in the south quadrant of town. I was sure that Russ would hate it, but I loved it. It sort of reminded me of the Blacklick, Ohio Church that I used to attend with my friend Mary Ann Sumption because it was so small. Everyone was so friendly. The missionaries sat beside me, took me to classes and stayed with me, gave me a hymn book, helped me find the page, helped me with Gabby, and really made me feel at home. I never went back to the Nashville Baptist Church. Russ and the girls came the following Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter. The Gibson family fellowshipped us and we became very close friends. Their youngest son, Grant, was born the day before Gabrielle. Dawne Gibson knew Russ in high school. The Gregorys, the McMillans, Lucy Karcher, Sandy Gillum (now Wilkins), Bee Fuller (now Dunham), and others, all contributed to our sense of feeling at home. We finally were baptized, on September 1, 1977, in Grand Rapids at the old stake center with almost the entire branch present.

When Elder Todd confirmed me a member of the Church by laying his hands upon my head after my baptism, he gave me a blessing. I heard him say that if I was obedient and faithful, as Laiya was, I would receive the same blessings that she did. I thought I had misunderstood him, because I had no idea who Laiya was. Before the blessing was finished, he repeated the same words a second time. Later, I asked him what he had meant. He had no recollection of having said that, and he had no idea who Laiya was either. I know I heard it, because I was planning to ask him about it after the first time. When he repeated it, I was extremely curious. I still do not know who Laiya was, or is, or will be, but I do know that someday I will know. And I will be very disappointed if I fall short, because I was specifically promised the same blessing that she obviously was, is, or will be worthy of.

The day that Elder Todd left us was the saddest day I had ever lived. Fortunately, we have kept in touch and visited with each other over the years. He went to college, married, rejoined the Air Force as an officer in public relations and now has five children.

Elder Johnson's family came to Michigan to take him home when his mission was finished, and they spent a day with us. They were the sweetest people I had ever met. The following Christmas, Sister Johnson sent each one of us a gift, including our newest and yet unborn child . . . a baby quilt that she had made herself! He now has five or six children and is living in Wickenberg, Arizona.

Jessica was born February 1, 1979. She is the only one born in an odd-numbered year. She is also the only one who has rebelled against the church. However, I am comforted to know that her rebellion is not unlike my own, and it will go away someday and she will come back, if only for her own children?s sakes.

By now we lived on a forty acre farm south of Hastings. I loved it there. I thought I never wanted to move again. I wanted to raise goats and drink their milk and raise chickens and vegetables and be self sufficient. That lasted seven years and two sons later.

Levi Daniel was born November 13, 1980, When he first appeared to me in the doctor?s arms, I wondered where in the world this little slanteyed baby came from. I had watched him come from me, and he never left my sight so I knew he was mine and Russ?s. But he definitely looked Oriental to me and though he lost some of that look, he could always tip those eyes and make his "wolf-look". Dr. McAlvey thought I was nuts to give him the initials LDS. I just let him laugh at me. What did I care?

>Isaac was born August 13, 1982. I actually planned it that way. My mother had her last child, a boy, on her birthday. It so happened to be on her thirtieth birthday. I was slower than she was, and Isaac was born on my thirty-ninth birthday. Also, he was born at home, on the farm in my very own bedroom. I had wanted each one of my children at home after my first, but my husband wouldn't hear of it; too risky and dangerous. But I finally convinced him that I knew what I was doing by now, and besides, I would keep on having them until I had one at home. He finally relented. He didn't want to watch, but Lorna Adams, my friend, and a member of the church, pulled him into the room to see, and then he couldn't tear himself away. He was as eager as we women were about what was happening. I had one midwife and two support sisters to help me. The week before, I had made and decorated a beautiful birthday cake for him and put it in the freezer. When I started labor hard, I went down into the basement and got the cake out so it could thaw and be ready for the celebration that would soon follow.

The evening of Aug. 12, 1980, Russ and I went to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel for dinner and dancing with our Amway Group. I was huge and many people asked me when I was due to have my baby. I always told them tomorrow, because I knew that I would have him on my birthday. It was the plan. My contractions started on our way home after the dance. (I danced with exuberance. I figured it would help move the baby, and besides, I always danced with exuberance.

He was born very conveniently at 8:45, Friday morning. I was a Friday the thirteenth baby, too. I was so happy and so proud. Heavenly Father blessed me with my heart's desire. Not only did I have a perfect baby, but it was a son, so that Levi wouldn't be the only boy in a family of all girls. I am still trying to convince Levi that it was a good gift. I hope their rivalry will be completely resolved by the time they both complete their missions.

I was blessed to stay home with my children until Isaac was three years old. Then I had to go to work to help with the family finances. Also, I wanted to go to school and learn computer programming so that I could do something that I liked that would pay me a decent wage and compensate me for being away from my children.

I worked for Rodees, Inc. During the day as a secretary, and went to school three nights a week and Saturday mornings. It took me ten months to get through the course, and when I did I confidently quit my job and started looking for a job as a computer programmer. It took me three months to find one but to my utter surprise, and it was only temporary. However it temporarily lasted twenty-two months , and I loved it. I was an operator and programmer for the IBM System 34 at the E.W. Bliss company right here in town. We had sold the fame and moved back to town for convenience sake and I couldn't take care of all my animals while I worked and went to school and the kids needed to be closer to school and activities.

When that job phased out, I learned that I was not qualified for a job as a programmer because I had no degree and not enough experience. Erin went to college at BYU and I wasn't helping with the finances. Finally when she got home after her first year, we went together to get factory work. I worked in the factory three weeks and found another job in town as a secretary for a realtor and a land surveyor. Also, I started working nights as a waitress. Finally, I went to work for Russ in the Body Shop as his secretary, and eventually quit the waitress job, too because I was always so tired on Sunday mornings after no sleep for twenty-four hours that usually dragged out to forty hours before going to bed Sunday night and starting over Monday morning.

I am so proud of all my children. Erin became a missionary who served 18 months in Venezuela Caracas East, and then returned to finish college at BYU with a major in History and a Minor in Spanish. She then taught Enlace as a second language to Spanish speaking people, and then she taught Spanish to high school students for two years. Anna graduated from BYU with a Major in Family Science. She is the best mom! Gabrielle is grooming dogs at the present and managing a Petsmart Grooming Department. Jessica worked for Dewey's body shop until after her second son was born. Now she stays home to take care of her little family. I am so proud of her and she is a very good mom.

Levi has entered the MTC to prepare for his 2 year mission to Hiroshima Japan. This was his heart's desire. Could there be a premortal connection? I don't know, but I wonder.

Isaac is still in High School He loves sports. He hasn't decided what he will do yet, but he plans on serving a mission too.

I am so proud of all my children. Maybe this is the blessing that Laiya has. I really want to meet her. I wonder if it will be in this life?

Time is flying by so fast. This short autobiography tells so little really, yet is seems as though my life has gone as fast as these words. I hope that I can learn to take advantage of the time I have left, and accomplish more of the tasks mentioned in my patriarchal blessing so that I may experience the blessings that I was promised.   1. See photo on page two.   2. Women's Army Corp

File uploaded to 20 Sep 1999.
Updated 09 Mar 2005
(c) 2005 Dianna Ford Solmes

transferred to 01 Aug 2009.