Life Sketch of Elden G. Hurst
By his daughter Jeanette Hurst Drake
Unabridged version - It was edited for timing when delivered at the funeral.
May 27, 2009
It is a great honor to give a life sketch of my father’s life. It is also a difficult task to condense 87 years of accomplishment into a few minutes. I am grateful that my father wrote his personal history and kept a Book of Remembrance. I also pray that what I say will be meaningful and interesting to all of us, even my young grandchildren and his grandchildren. I am remembering that my father was a school teacher. So listen up kids, there will be a quiz! First of all remember that whenever I say “Elden” I am talking about “Grandpa Hurst.”
Elden was born in Lynndyl which was a railroad town at the time. Now it is a smaller community and is listed as one of the “Ghost Towns of Utah.” He was the eighth child of his parents with four older brothers and three older sisters. His oldest sister had died as a baby in Mexico. His parents grew up and got married in the Mormon colonies in Mexico. They left Mexico in 1911 and moved back to Utah because of a Mexican Revolution. His family lived on a dairy and sold milk, cream and butter to the railroad workers and other families in Lynndyl.
When Elden was one and one-half years old his mother died. Both of his grandmothers came to help take care of the family at different times. Then two years later his father married Elzada Martineau who became his stepmother.
Elden learned to be a good worker. His brother Vernon wrote in his personal history that Elden was helping his Grandmother Romney gather eggs and bring in firewood at a very young age. He started milking cows when he was three years old and he would help deliver the milk in Lynndyl. The older children would go to school and he would drive the milk buggy home. One day he was trying to put a badge on his shirt and the horse “Old Bess” took a shortcut home through the sagebrush. His parents came running out to meet him and were afraid all the milk bottles would be broken. None were even cracked.
He had his tonsils out when he was four years old. The doctor came to his house and did the operation on the kitchen table.
There was a Princess Hall movie theater in Lynndyl where Elden could go to see silent movies. Someone played the piano for the sound. Church meetings were also held in this hall.
Elden went to first grade in Lynndyl. Then his family moved to Payson and bought a farm at West Mountain. He attended Taylor School, Peteetneet School, Payson Junior High and Payson High School. His farm was a mile and a half from town. He rode the school bus to school.
When Elden was in the second grade he and his brother Miles got spinal meningitis. They were very very sick and the whole family was quarantined. Through the power of the priesthood and the faith and prayers of their family, their lives were saved.
Primary was on Tuesday after school, so Elden would go to the ward house from school and then walk home from Primary. He graduated from Primary and received a certificate for near perfect attendance. He learned the Articles of Faith in his Trailbuilder classes.
Elden was a scout and earned his tenderfoot and second class rank advancements. Because he felt the scout program was a good program to help young boys, he later served as scoutmaster in the Yale Ward and had an outstanding troop. Four of his sons were Eagle Scouts and one was a Star Scout.
Seminary was provided for junior high school students during school once a week at the ward house. When he was in ninth grade the program changed and ninth graders were able to go to seminary every day. Elden spoke at seminary graduation and his talk, “What is Man?” is included in his personal history.
Elden was an excellent student in high school. He played the clarinet in the band and was able to go on a band trip to San Francisco. He was reporter in Future Farmers of America and also on the dairy judging team. He won the FFA public speaking contest and placed second in region. He won second place in the Tolhurst oratorical contest. In chemistry he received the highest score on the state test. He was on a typing team and placed third in region. He was selected to speak at high school commencement.
When Elden was growing up it was the time of the Great Depression. His family always had to work very hard to earn a living. They believed in being self reliant and would not participate in the public works programs that President Franklin Roosevelt started.
Elden won a scholarship to attend Utah State Agricultural College, now Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. His roommates were Robert Baird and his cousin Rex Hurst. He worked to pay expenses by milking cows and doing janitorial work.
He met his wife Josephine Rollins (Joy) at a get-acquainted dance at the Logan Institute of Religion. She was also a freshman.
They had a birthday party for her on December 6, 1941. It was a Saturday night. The next morning they heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese.
Because of World War II, Elden enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942. He attended boot camp at San Diego, radio school at Madison, Wisconsin, Aviation Radio School in Memphis, Tennessee, Gunnery School in Purcell, Oklahoma. He then completed flight training to be a rear gunner on a dive bomber. Because of his long legs, it was difficult to get in and out of the gunning turret. He spent time at Treasure Island in San Franciso Bay and then boarded a ship at New Orleans and sailed to Hawaii. His ship stopped at Quantanamo Bay in Cuba and went through the Panama Canal. He had become very proficient in Morse Code and while he was on this ship he became bored so he went to the radio center and translated the college football scores from Morse code and then posted them on a bulletin board. Immediately the officers wanted to know who had done that and he found himself working in the radio center for the rest of the trip. When he got to Hawaii instead of being a rear gunner on a dive bomber he was a supervisor in a radio station in Pearl Harbor from November 1943 to March 1945. They would decipher the messages from Morse code and then rush them to the Navajo code talkers to be translated so the military could use them.
Next he was sent to the Dearborn Michigan Naval Training Station. While there he wrote to Joy Rollins and asked her to marry him. They had been writing to each other since he had enlisted. Since all the letters were censored for security reasons, they had developed a secret code in their writing so he was able to tell her where he was and other secret messages. You can ask Grandma Hurst what the secret code was.
Joy got on a bus all by herself and traveled several days to get to Detroit. Elden and Joy were married by George Romney, his cousin and president of the Detroit Branch of the LDS Church. George later became governor of Michigan and ran for president of the United States. Later in March 1946 Elden and Joy were sealed in the Logan Temple.
In August 1945 he was sent to Corpus Christi, Texas for more advanced schooling. The war ended that same month and he was sent to Camp Shoemaker near San Jose, California to be discharged. Whenever you hear someone refer to “the Greatest Generation” who helped win World War II remember that Elden and Joy were part of it.
While in the Navy Elden says he found it easy to live LDS Church standards. He met many people who respected a person who could live their standards. He did not remember being ridiculed for keeping the Word of Wisdom. He always attended LDS church services whenever he could and usually met someone who was related to him. He has over 400 first cousins.
He wrote that seeing all the wickedness in the world, just made him more determined to live the gospel and avoid all the mistakes other people were making in their lives.
After the war, Elden went back to Utah State University and graduated with a degree in vocational agriculture. He was the only one in his family to graduate from college.
Elden took a job teaching vocational agriculture, farm mechanics and industrial arts at Hinckley High School in Millard County. The school closed in 1953 and then he taught science, biology and math at Delta Junior High and Delta High School. During the summers he worked for Union Pacific Railroad in 1954 and as a park ranger at Lehman’s Cave National Monument at Baker, Nevada from 1955-57. He attended summer school at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa , Murray State in Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State College in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The whole family with seven children went to Tennessee with him. Then he attended an academic year institute at the University of Utah and received his master’s degree in August 1961. You can see that he was very interested in his personal development and increasing his skills so he could provide for his family.
He started teaching at Olympus High School in Granite School District and taught there until he retired. He taught at Mill Hollow summer camp for Granite District. He also taught a summer biology class with Robert Liddiard. The class was six weeks long and was six hours a day. Most of the time was spent on field trips. The teachers would lecture while everyone was on the bus.
Elden has done a lot of genealogy research. He is really an expert on all the families in Worcester County, England where the Hurst family comes from. He and Joy have made two trips to England for genealogical research besides their mission to England. He has left us with several wonderful books about our ancestors. Some people who do not realize that the nature of family history research includes continual corrections have nicknamed him the “destroying angel” when his corrections have destroyed the pedigrees that they paid professionals to assemble. For example, there are some women who no longer qualify to belong to the Daughters of the American Revolution. He worked in the name extraction program for 31 years.
Elden has been blessed to hold many positions of responsibility in the church and completed all assignments faithfully. He is an example to all of us. He has also supported Joy in her church assignments.
His children know that we are loved and that our Dad would do anything for us. He helped us with our school work and encouraged us in 4-H, scouting, music lessons, athletic activities and other activities. He is always proud to see us excel. He has worked hard to support his family and to educate us and supported five children on full-time missions. We have all graduated from college. I remember him telling me on several occasions: “My daughter can do anything!”
I would like to close with this paragraph from his personal history titled: What counsel would you give this generation for living successfully?
Eat properly, live morally, rely on the word of our modern prophets and stay out of debt. Concentrate on your own personal development, rather than on the accumulation of physical or materialistic things. Remember the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself (Luke 10:27).
I want to bear my testimony that I know God lives. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and I am so grateful for His example and atoning sacrifice for us. I am thankful that the gospel has been restored and we are able to make sacred covenants which make it possible for us to be a family forever. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.