Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Grandpa Hartley – A Good and Great Man

In honor of father's day for June 17, 2018, I want to highlight some positive aspects and experiences of my grandfather's life, Charles Alton Hartley Jr. ("Charlie"). I have combined segments from various sources to illustrate the goodness and greatness of this man. I never met my grandpa Hartley since he passed away before I was born. However, I am extremely grateful for the work of others, especially from my father Jim and uncle Bill (sons of Charlie), so I could know about him.

My Grandpa Hartley – A Good and Great Man

A Hard Worker and a Man of Competence

Charles Alton Hartley Jr.
A birthday party for him
Charlie was born in 1909. At home, and at a young age, Charlie learned to milk cows, care for chickens (more than 40), pigeons, and chop wood. At age 11, he was a newspaper carrier for the Oregon Journal, and by age 13 he had charge of the Journal’s distribution for all of Silverton, Oregon with 350 newspapers on week days and 500 on Sundays. During the summer after his first year of high school, Charlie worked in a fruit cannery that his father managed. When the harvest was at its peak, Charlie often worked 10 to 14 hours a day.

During his junior year in high school, the family moved to Oregon City, Oregon where his father took over management of a small road paving company. Charlie’s next two summers were spent working for his father. At first, Charlie checked the daily loads of sand, gravel, and asphalt, and was a time keeper for the paving crew. Later, he was also assigned to fire up two coal burning steam rollers—a two-hour task that began at 6:00 a.m. each day. One day, one of the operators came to work drunk and nearly destroyed one of the rollers. The crew foreman fired the man and put Charlie in the driver’s seat. Charlie—just 17 years old—worked rolling asphalt until October 1927.

Charlie on a Steam Roller

While at Oregon City High School, Charlie twice lettered in basketball and twice in baseball. He participated in several school plays and helped with the yearbook. He took commercial classes, and in 1926 entered a Clackamas County high school typing contest for second year commercial students, taking first place. He graduated in June 1927 at age 17.

Charlie played Second Base

Good Manners

In March 1928, Charlie tested the job market. He and two other students interviewed for a stenographer job--taking dictation and manually typing out on paper what someone has said--with the Southern Pacific Railroad in Portland, Oregon. Each of the three candidates was interviewed individually. Part of the interview was to test the candidates by ignoring them for a few minutes. While being ignored, each of the other two candidates sat down in the man’s office without invitation. In contrast, during his interview, Charlie stood politely and patiently until directed to sit down. After the man hired Charlie, he told Charlie the reason the other two men didn’t get hired and why Charlie did: It was Charlie's good manners.

A Gentleman

In 1935, Southern Pacific Railroad transferred Charlie to Salt Lake City, Utah, and he lived in a boarding house for a time. There he met Norma Miner, an employee, because of an unusual situation. Norma had a scheduled date with another man in four days to play a game of Bridge. The problem was she didn't know how to play or even shuffle cards. However, Norma had seen Charlie in the building where she worked, and desperate, asked Charlie if he could teach her to play Bridge within those four days. Norma said of this:
"[Charlie showed] me how to shuffle cards and everything. And so after he’d worked with me for oh, I guess about two hours, he could see that he wasn’t getting any place at all with me. And it was so hot and he could see how tired I was, and so he said, 'Come on, let’s go out. Let’s go down to the Dollhouse,' the Dollhouse on State Street and they always had lovely milkshakes and hamburgers. . . 'You’re too tired. And then maybe tomorrow night I can help you.' So, I went out with him and I liked him because he was such a gentleman. He never tried to kiss me or be bold or anything and I thought he was such a nice person."

It turned out the date she had scheduled with the other man fell through. Charlie and Norma began to date more seriously, fell in love, and on December 16, 1935 they married.

Charlie and Norma Hartley
On Their Wedding Day

Dedicated to Family, Working Hard Again, and a Man of Integrity

On February 10, 1942, Billy was born to Charlie and Norma Hartley in Salt Lake City, Utah, their third child. He appeared to be a healthy, normal baby. When he was about two months old, his mother spent 14 days in the hospital battling an appendicitis that was so bad gangrene had set in. Soon after returning home, she and her husband noticed that something didn’t look right about little Billy’s eyes—they were discolored and filming over.

Their family doctor referred them to an eye specialist, Dr. Palmer, who diagnosed “infantile glaucoma.” Certain fluids inside the eyes of newborns are supposed to drain out, but they didn’t in Billy’s case. The increasing pressure of those fluids was damaging the optic nerve in both eyes. Without immediate surgery, Billy would soon be completely blind.

Dr. Otto Barkan
1887 - 1958
Before authorizing the surgery, Billy’s parents sought a second opinion from another eye specialist, Dr. Near. That doctor diagnosed the same problem, but, providentially the night before, he had read in a medical journal of a successful new surgery being performed by only one person in the world, Dr. Otto Barkan in San Francisco. The doctor strongly urged Charlie and Norma not to let anyone operate on Billy’s eyes unless it was Dr. Barkan. A third eye specialist was consulted, who confirmed the diagnosis and advice of the second. Arrangements were quickly made to see Dr. Barkan.

[...] Charlie and Norma were then on a train to San Francisco—despite the fact that Norma had not fully recovered from her appendicitis. Within two days, Billy underwent the pioneering procedures. [...] After three operations, Dr. Barkan was able to completely save Billy’s left eye, but he could not reverse the damage that had already occurred in the right eye. The right eye had perhaps 10% vision.

The costs of the surgery and follow-up were approximately $2,000, an enormous financial burden on a young family of five during war-time. This amount is approximately equivalent to $89,000 in 2017 dollars when adjusting for medical-cost inflation!

In 1942, the railroad provided medical insurance for its employees, but not for their family members. So, Charlie found it necessary to borrow money from a bank and take out a loan against his life insurance policy in order to pay the hospital. Charlie didn’t have the money to pay the doctor’s fees. So, they entered a gentleman’s agreement: Charlie would pay something each month to the doctor, even if it was a small amount, until the fees were paid off, no matter how long it took.

[...] Charlie took on two part-time jobs in addition to his full-time, 44-hour per week employment so that he could make the payments on the loans and to the doctor. One job was during the evenings, eight hours a night, every other night at an ice plant moving 300-pound blocks of ice.

The other job was on Sundays and holidays. It was a second job with the railroad. At first, he helped lay and repair railroad track. Later, he was shifted to keeping their paycheck records.

Charlie did the extra jobs for about 15 months. [...] It took a number of years to fully pay off Billy’s medical costs, but Charlie did it and met all his commitments.

A Man of Compassion and Meekness

Raylene Hartley, age 2
In 1946, Charlie and Norma's two year-old daughter Raylene was run over by a milk truck and died. Charlie was in Butte, Montana at the time of her death since he was trying to find a home for the family. Two months earlier he had received a promotion from Southern Pacific Railroad to oversee their freight operations in Montana.

Charlie’s former co-workers in Salt Lake City notified him in Butte that Raylene had been in a serious accident. They then arranged for him to fly home. Friends picked Charlie up at the Salt Lake Airport. On the way to his home, he was stunned by their news that Raylene was dead. Raylene’s death was devastating, the two-year-old toddler had been adored by the whole family.

The dairy delivery man of the truck (that ran over Raylene), and his wife, visited Charlie and Norma to express their immense sorrow and deepest sympathies. The dairy delivery man did not notice Raylene under his truck while he was temporarily parked on the road. He started up his truck and felt a bump as he moved away from the curbing. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw the child lying in the road. The truck had passed over Raylene’s neck, fracturing her skull and neck.

Charlie and Norma realized that the death was an accident. The delivery man had no way of knowing that Raylene had crawled under the truck. Their compassion toward the delivery man was remarkable. Some people would have been angry and bitter. They would have sued the milkman and his company for many thousands of dollars. Here’s what Charlie said about the situation:
The driver was no way at fault . . . . The company that owned the vehicle was no way at fault. I didn’t feel that when they’re not really at fault, that you should blackmail them for a lot of money.”

Involved in the Community and with Family

After Raylene's death in 1946, Charlie and family moved to Butte, Montana. While in Butte, Charlie became an active member of the local Rotary Club and Toastmasters International. He was Rotary President for a year. He won several Toastmaster speech contests, local and regional. To spend time together, he and Norma joined a square dancing club, which they enjoyed, and where they made many friends.

Charlie and Norma Hartley and friends
Square Dancing

In 1953, Southern Pacific Railroad transferred Charlie to work in San Francisco, California. The family soon found a home in San Lorenzo, a suburb south of Oakland. While living in the Bay Area, Charlie became a recognized transportation leader as demonstrated by the list of organizations he belonged to and offices he held in those organizations. He became president of the Oakland Traffic Club in 1966, and a director and then president of the Oakland World Trade Club. He also belonged to the following organizations:

National Defense Transportation Association
Associated Traffic Clubs of America
Contra Costa County Development Association
Oakland Chamber of Commerce
San Leandro Chamber of Commerce
Fremont Chamber of Commerce
Pacific Railway Club
Richmond Council of Industries
Emeryville Industries Association
Berkeley-Albany Industries Association
Delta Nu Alpha (National Transportation Fraternity)

Additionally, during the San Lorenzo years, [...] one of Charlie's trademarks was writing a weekly letter to his brother Jack, sister Edna, and his mother. As Charlie's children grew up and went away college, on missions, and got married, he wrote weekly letters to them. He consistently remembered and stayed in touch with his family.

A Good and Great Man

Based on these experiences, it can be said of Charlie that he had good manners, was a hard worker, a gentleman, dedicated to his family, greatly involved in the community, a man of competence, a man of integrity, a man of compassion, and a man of meekness. Overall, he was a good and great man. Happy father's day to the grandfather I never met (yet)!

Charlie and Norma Hartley
A Night On the Town

Compiled and adapted by Tom Hartley, grandson to Charles Alton Hartley, Jr.


Charles Alton Hartley - Life Highlights Selected to Honor his 100th Birthday - William G. Hartley, compiler

My Aunt Raylene Hartley - A Joy to All

Charles Alton Hartley, Jr.: Great Things Often Start Small

My Uncle Bill Hartley - "Miracle Bill"

Tom's Inflation Calculator (Medical-cost inflation calculator and more)

Some information on Dr. Otto Barkan

Thursday, March 29, 2018

My Grandma Hartley – Ingrained with Copper

Norma Miner Hartley
July 1914 - April 1992
I want to highlight some great (and challenging) aspects of my grandmother Norma Miner Hartley's life. Based on some of her life experiences and example, I believe these can be related to copper and its production. A maiden name of "Miner" also seems to be a nice touch.

Copper and Copper Production

Most copper ores contain only a very small percentage of copper metal, with the vast majority of the ore being unwanted rock. The average grade of copper ores is below 0.6% copper, with a proportion of economic minerals (including copper) being less than 2% of the total volume of the ore rock.

Through a series of intensive processes in which copper ore passes – iterations of being crushed, saturated with acid, melted down, and more – valuable, pure copper is eventully extracted and can then put to use for many good purposes.

One of the favorable properties of copper is that it is an excellent conductor of electricity. It is better at this than any other metal except for silver, being only slightly behind. In every aspect of electricity generation, transmission and use, copper is the vital metal.

Although copper has many beneficial uses, mining it takes great effort and may come at a great cost. With these ideas in mind, we can now get on to Butte, Montana and my grandmother.

Butte, Montana, a Rugged Mining Town

Butte, Montana is a copper mining town. It was established in 1891 when Anaconda Mining Company bought out all the small, independent gold and silver mining claims and set up a major mining operation. In a short time, copper became king. By the 1920’s, Butte was a “boom town” with 60,000 people. Located in southwestern Montana, Butte was known as "the richest hill on earth."

Deep beneath the residents of Butte are more than 10,000 miles of wooden-framed mining tunnels, some of which descend more than a mile below ground level. In 1955, in addition to the maze of tunnels, Anaconda started excavating an immense open pit copper mine called the Berkley Pit.

Uptown Butte, taken in 2003
Copper mining is a hard and dirty business, and consequently it attracted hard and rough people to Butte. Bars and brothels were plentiful. City officials were “owned” by the mine owners, and could be bought for the right price. Air and water pollution were extremely bad. No fish could survive in the city’s contaminated Silver Bow Creek. There were no broadleaf trees.

Charlie and Norma Hartley

Charlie and Norma Hartley
Taken in 1936
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake City, Utah, a young family was growing; the Charles and Norma Hartley family. Charles Alton Hartley, Jr., known as “Charlie,” was a freight and passenger agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad, Texas born, and a non-practicing Catholic. Norma Miner Hartley was a Utah-bred, practicing Mormon. By 1942 they had three sons, Charles Alton the Third (“Chuck”), Bryan Paul (“Bryan”), and William George (“Billy”).

Little Chuck was born in 1936, and almost from the time of his birth, he suffered from serious asthma and allergies. Asthma nearly took his life in 1938 when he was 18-months old.

In May 1942, doctors discovered that three-month old Billy had glaucoma and was given a 98% chance of going completely blind.

In 1944, Charlie and Norma's daughter Raylene was born. When Raylene was two, in 1946, she wandered into the street to pick up a shiny object and was tragically run over by a milk truck.

These were very challenging events for my grandparents, and Raylene's death was particularly devastating.

Transferred to Butte

Shortly before Raylene’s death, the Southern Pacific had transferred Charlie to Butte, Montana. He was there looking for housing when he received word of the tragedy with Raylene. It’s hard to imagine how Charlie and Norma must have felt moving to Butte and leaving their precious daughter behind. Charlie was sent to Butte as a Southern Pacific freight agent to win a portion of Anaconda’s ore and copper shipping business. In addition, he serviced about two-thirds of the state arranging for the shipment by rail of grain, livestock, and canned produce. He didn’t have an office. Instead, Charlie worked out of a small room in his home and maintained a post office box in downtown Butte. He even built his own sturdy, wooden desk on which to work. Generally, he traveled around Montana three or more days per week, normally by bus or train, visiting clients and fellow railroad agents.

Butte, however, was not a place where a family man was eager to raise a family. It was exceedingly painful for Norma to move to an ugly, rugged copper mining town with three young boys, leaving the support of her family, her church, and being so far away from her daughter’s fresh grave.

In 1949, a fifth child was born to Charlie and Norma. Richard M (“Richy”) was born in Butte’s aging Catholic hospital, St. James.

In 1950, a sixth child was born, Mary Elizabeth. But Norma had earlier contracted the flu and delivered Mary prematurely at about seven months. Mary only lived for five hours. Mary got the flu from Norma and died from hemorrhaging of the bowels. An autopsy showed the virus all through her intestinal tract. Charlie and Norma buried their baby girl next to her sister Raylene in Salt Lake City.

Living in Butte and losing Mary stretched Norma emotionally and spiritually nearly beyond her ability to bear it. But, good neighbors and the little branch of faithful Mormon members rallied around the Hartley’s.

Later, Norma stated that she obtained her testimony of God, the Savior, and the divinity of the LDS Church while she struggled in Butte. Charlie struggled deeply as well, but those struggles led him to question whether there is a loving, personal God. He remained more-or-less agnostic.

An Ultimatum

Norma’s devotion to her church created friction in their marriage. Charlie traveled most of the days of the week, but was generally home on weekends. He wanted his wife to be home when he was and resented Norma’s attendance at Sunday worship services, which typically dominated the entire day.

Once Charlie’s frustration boiled over and he gave her an ultimatum: she would have to choose between him and her church. Norma’s response? “If you want me to choose between you and my church then you’d better start packing your bags!”

He didn’t, and she kept going to church. Ultimately, the two were married for 42 years until Charlie passed away in 1976. Furthermore, for a few years leading up to his death, Charlie actually ended up attending church with Norma, listened and participated during Sunday school, and enthusiastically sang church hymns even though he was always off-key. Norma's faith and devotion were certainly an influence on Charlie for him to start doing such things.

Norma's Valuable "Copper"

So, after many struggles and challenges (particularly while living in Butte) – almost as if Norma were copper ore being crushed, drenched in acid and melted down – her valuable "copper" came – a testimony of God, the Savior, and the divinity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Like real copper, Norma's "copper" was also an excellent conductor. Norma's "copper" helped conduct great faith and strong devotion to the majority of her children, including my father Jim, allowing the light of the gospel to shine in their lives. Faithfulness and devotion have already been conducted to other generations as well, which includes me as a beneficiary. As of this writing (March 2018), an estimated ~75 of Norma's currently living descendants (out of ~95) treasure the gospel of Jesus Christ in their own lives, which has been a tremendous blessing for them and others.

If it were not for my grandmother's refined faith and testimony of the gospel, many others would not have the light of the gospel in their lives. Her positive influence cannot be overstated. Grandma Hartley's life and example were certainly like copper in a number of ways.


Major portions and adaptions for this family story came from the following:

* James E. Hartley: My Story, March 2018

* Remembering Norma Miner Hartley Haymond from William G. Hartley, Richard M Hartley, June 2014

Other Sources:

Email and other communications between me (Tom Hartley), Jim Hartley (son of Norma), and Susan Hartley (wife of Bryan Hartley, son of Norma)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

My Aunt Raylene Hartley - A Joy to All

This is a great (and sorrowful) family story written by my father, Jim Hartley, primarily about his sister Raylene (my aunt) and his parents, Norma and Charlie (my grandparents). I want to share this because I believe it has some very valuable insights and lessons that can be of worth to anyone. Below are my father's own words:

Raylene Hartley: A Joy to All

Example of a milkman and delivery
truck in 1946
Tuesday, June 4, 1946. Ellis Oakley Spencer was making his routine afternoon rounds as a milk deliveryman for Clover Leaf Dairy. He stopped his truck and walked to the front porch of 211 East Hubbard Avenue in Salt Lake City, where he carefully placed the bottles of milk ordered by his customer.

Across the street, at 218 East Hubbard Avenue, Norma Hartley was also expecting a milk delivery, but from a different company. It was a hot day, and she was concerned that her milk would get warm and spoil if it sat too long on her front porch. Norma’s two oldest children, Chuck, age 10, and Bryan, age six, were away from home playing with friends. So, she told her four-year-old son, Billy, to let her know when the milkman came.

Billy and his two-year-old sister, Raylene, were playing across the street with other children in a neighbor’s front yard. When that neighbor needed to go somewhere, she sent the children home. As they left, Mr. Spencer was in his truck marking his route book and waved to Billy. About that time, Norma’s milkman arrived. Billy obediently ran home to let his mom know.

Hartley’s home at 218 East
Hubbard Avenu
Moments later, Norma’s milkman was pounding on their front door. “Mrs. Hartley, please, can we use your telephone. The milkman from the Clover Leaf Dairy needs to report an accident that he’s had.” Mr. Spencer then entered and telephoned the police. “I must report a death. I have run over a little girl.”

Norma noticed that Billy had come in, but not Raylene. She stepped out onto the porch and, to her horror, she saw her little girl’s body lying in the street.

The police arrived almost immediately, and Raylene was rushed to County General Hospital, about two miles away. She was pronounced dead on arrival.

Raylene’s father, Charlie, was in Butte, Montana at the time. About two months earlier, he had received a promotion from the Southern Pacific Railroad to oversee their freight operations in Montana. He was in Butte trying to find a home for the family. Charlie’s former co-workers in Salt Lake City notified him in Butte that Raylene had been in a serious accident. They then arranged for him to fly home.

Friends picked Charlie up at the Salt Lake Airport. On the way to his home, he was stunned by their news that Raylene was dead.

Norma and Charlie had already been through a lot with their children. When their oldest son, Chuck, was 18-months old, he nearly died from asthma. When their third son, Billy, as only a few months old, glaucoma nearly permanently blinded him. Both were saved by miraculous events.

Raylene Hartley, age 2
But, not this time. Raylene’s death was devastating. The two-year-old toddler had been adored by the whole family. Norma had been so excited to finally have a daughter after giving birth to three sons. She later summed it up this way, “Raylene had been such a joy to all of us.”

The Clover Leaf Dairy delivery man, Mr. Spencer, and his wife visited Charlie and Norma to express their immense sorrow and deepest sympathies. He had not noticed that Raylene had not followed her brother home. He started up his truck and felt a bump as he moved away from the curbing. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw the child lying in the road. The truck had passed over Raylene’s neck, fracturing her skull and neck. Mr. Spencer was devastated and heart-broken.

Charlie and Norma realized that the death was an accident. Mr. Spencer had no way of knowing that Raylene had crawled under the truck. Their compassion toward Mr. Spencer was remarkable. Some people would have been angry and bitter. They would have sued the milkman and his company for many thousands of dollars. Here’s what Charlie said about that: “The driver was no way at fault . . . . The company that owned the vehicle was no way at fault. I didn’t feel that when they’re not really at fault, that you should blackmail them for a lot of money.” Even so, Charlie and Norma accepted a check from Clover Leaf Dairy for $2,500.

The events that followed immediately after Raylene’s death were a blur to the family. After acknowledging all the sentiments, support, and gifts of many, many good friends and neighbors, Charlie later confessed that he couldn’t remember many of the details of that difficult time. He said, “We were so upset and everything was so disturbed and we had so many people in and out, I just don’t remember.”

Raylene was buried at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park in East Millcreek, Utah. She was joined four years later by her younger sister, Mary Elizabeth Hartley, who died in Butte, Montana. Mary had only lived for five hours because of complications caused by a dangerous flu that Norma contracted during her pregnancy.

While raising their family, Charlie and Norma understood hardship and sorrow. But, they did not let it destroy them. Instead, they moved forward with their lives and created an extremely happy, loving home for their surviving five sons.

Regarding those terrible challenges, a poem by Helen Steiner Rice reflects Charlie’s and Norma’s attitude perfectly:

           God has told us that nothing can sever
           A life He created to live on forever.
           So let God’s promise soften our sorrow
           And give us new strength for a brighter tomorrow.

Written by James E. Hartley, Raylene’s and Mary’s brother.

Sources and Photo Acknowledgement

  • Newspaper report of Raylene’s accidental death— CPG)&
  • Transcript of an oral history interview by William G. Hartley with Charles Alton Hartley, Jr., October 11, 1973
  • Transcript of an oral history interview by William G. Hartley with Norma Miner Hartley, June 9, 1978
  • Rice, Helen Steiner, Expressions of Comfort, Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2007, 68. Used by permission.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From My Uncle Ron - A Technical Manual and Dropped Teeth

This is a family story from my uncle Ronald Frye (my mother Linda's brother) that has some great lessons. This took place around 1997 when uncle Ron worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, a nuclear weapons research facility. Below are my uncle's own words from his autobiography about an inspiring event that took place while he was on the job:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
"During my last years at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in a job with the Procurement Department, any opportunity that came along which was in any way remotely associated with something technical, I snatched up. Such was the case with a problem that had been plaguing the Procurement Department for years... that of creating some sort of computer-based system for evaluating companies with whom the lab was doing business. Now for one reason or another, Procurement just couldn't seem to get its act together to solve this problem. Attempts were made over the years, but a satisfactory solution was never realized.

"So, to make a long story short, I created a database, which was based on File Maker Pro, to evaluate those companies. I programmed this application so that quality assurance data would automatically be gathered from some of the lab's other computers, and based on that data a letter grade would be assigned to each company, much like the grading system used in our school system.

"Being in the Quality Assurance group of Procurement, and in a position I thought ideal for solving this problem – after all, I was evaluating the quality assurance programs of companies with whom we were doing business – I started to think about it, and act on it, in my spare time, usually during lunch hour.

"Now the version of File Maker Pro I was using was not designed to plot graphs of data, but I wanted that feature to be a part of the program. Something in the back of my mind told me it could be done, albeit through a "back-door" approach. During one of those working lunchtimes, I closed the door to my office, got down on my knees, and asked the Lord for help to solve this problem. Very clearly, the answer came to my mind: "You will find the answer on page 'xx' of the technical manual." Sure enough, turning to that page revealed what could be done to solve this problem.

My Uncle Ronald Frye
May 1998
"Shortly thereafter, the project was completed, and I showed it to my boss, who contacted his boss and urged him to come see what I had done. Not only did he come, but many other Procurement managers as well. The word spread like wildfire! They about "dropped their teeth" when they saw what I had done in my spare time, something their high-paid software engineers had been unable to do for years. I guess they were really impressed, because I received an award and a raise at our next big division meeting.

"Now how would the Holy Spirit [of God] know about the contents of a software technical manual? I don't know. But it just goes to show that the scriptures are correct when they said the Spirit [of God] can help us know the truth of ALL things."

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My in-laws Edmundo and Fátima - A Sunday Not to Forget

It has been said that the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people's lives. These small hinges, or the small decisions individuals make daily, can end up having large effects with the passing of time. Such was the case with my father-in-law and mother-in-law, Edmundo and Fátima Leite, with a decision made many years ago on a particular Sunday.

Fátima & Edmundo Leite
Children: Ricardo and Lia
June 1981 - "Festa Junina"
Nearly four decades ago in Brazil, Edmundo converted to the church his wife Fátima belonged to, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon church”). Edmundo was very excited and happy to be a new member, and he loved the missionaries who taught and baptized him. He developed a strong friendship with the missionaries and thoroughly enjoyed being warmly greeted at church by them.

One day at church, Edmundo met a new set of missionaries that had arrived. He learned the ones that helped baptized him were no longer in the area. This greatly dampened his enthusiasm. Edmundo didn't end up feeling the same friendship or affection for the new missionaries – they just weren't the same and weren't as warm or friendly. For that, Edmundo didn't want to go to church anymore and stopped going altogether. Fátima, however, continued attending every so often.

Edmundo soon found himself creating excuses why he wouldn't go to church on Sundays. He would talk to Fátima on Sundays in a manner such as:

Oh, we need to go to the beach... today is Sunday.”

Want to go to a churrasco?” [Brazilian barbeque]

“Do you want to go to a soccer game?”

He was also invited by others to participate in such things on Sundays, particularly during church hours, and he would accept the invitations and go.

Some time passed, and on a certain Sunday, Fátima spoke with Edmundo and said, “Today is Sunday. Let's go to church.” Edmundo responded in the negative. “No. We're not going to church. Let's go somewhere else. Let's go to the beach!”

Fátima sternly replied, “You can go to your beach, your churrasco, your soccer game, to wherever you want go to. . . but me and my children, we are going to church!!”

Edmundo was shocked. Fátima had never addressed him in such a manner with such vigor and firmness. He watched her gather the kids and things until her arms were full. He remained silent. Out the door Fátima went carrying a diaper bag, a bag for babies' bottles, scriptures, and one of the children in arm. She took the second child by the hand to walk along side of her. Down the stairs they went, and off they were to catch a bus.

Edmundo continued watching from a window and saw Fátima board the bus with kids and bags in hand. The bus was also full of people (mostly men) dressed in shorts and without shirts going to a soccer game. The bus then drove away.

Edmundo remained standing at the window pondering about the situation. He thought to himself, “You are such a coward. How can you say you love your wife and kids, yet leave your family in a complicated situation like this? You are not worth a thing.”

Fátima (4th from the right), Edmundo (3rd from the right)
At church in Belém, Brazil, ~1982 
From that day onward, Edmundo resolved he would never miss accompanying his family to church due to his own choice. He is certain today that if Fátima had said to him on that particular Sunday, “Yes, let's go to the soccer game,” or to go anywhere else except the church, they would both not be attending church at the present time. Fátima's choice to attend church, alone with the children in spite of the difficulty, was a life changing experience for Edmundo.

The decision to keep the sabbath day holy and attend church that day, the “small hinge,” has had a tremendously positive influence through time and also far-reaching effects for good. Edmundo believes that his and Fátima's lives, along with the lives of his children and grandchildren, would probably not be what they have become today had Fátima chosen not to go to church that day.

Fátima is also grateful for the way she acted that Sunday. She believes that if she didn't remain firm in her conviction, it's possible she and Edmundo would not have even stayed together as a married couple. Fátima has said, “The church helps us in all things … and helps us overcome challenges and difficulties.”

Fátima and Edmundo Leite
At church in Utah, 2017

Adaption by Tom Hartley, son-in-law to Edmundo and Fátima Leite. Based on a video interview with Fátima and Edmundo completed on July 12, 2017 by their daughter Juliana Leite Hartley. The original interview, in Portuguese, is located here: