Alvin Lisonbee (1927-2009) Rest in Peace
December 10, 2009 5 Comments
I’m deviating slightly from the usual theme of this blog for a good reason: a friend of mine passed away recently and he deserves some mention here. The reasons are a little complicated but it’s mainly because in a sense, for me, he is fashioned in the image of many of those represented in Joseph Smith’s funeral sermons. Among the departed individuals Joseph remembered in his (all too few) reported funeral addresses we find the rank and file Mormon. Those who we do not as a rule discuss for their lives of faith. Though at the time of their deaths they may have had some minor notoriety.
Al may have lived the life of a publically anonymous Saint, but in his family he was a hero: a pillar of strength and support to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Highly thought of among members of my ward, he was a steady achiever, doing whatever he was assigned, no matter how it linked with his native talents. His acts of anonymous charity to people he happened across, most of which we will never know, are rather legendary in his family.
Al contracted polio in the pre-vacine era. It’s difficult to imagine the horror the word polio inspired in parents of the period. Al survived but lost the use of a leg. It didn’t stop him from milking the cows on his Arizona ranch or moving through the rest of the chores. He became an accomplished musician, a fact many of his later acquaintances were ignorant of simply because of his modesty.
Al was a nephew of LDS artist Minerva Teichert and she helped Al pursue a college degree. A voracious reader, he was a fan of Nibley and in fact Hugh was the elders quorum instructor in Al’s Provo ward as he moved through his BYU education. Given the way Hugh ignored lesson manuals, that must have been fun.
Anyway, I liked Alvin Lisonbee, and I flatter myself a little in saying that perhaps the feeling was mutual. I hope to greet him in another place and time. To his wife and family, I express my sorrow for their loss.
Al’s life reminds me of something Brigham Young said that I want to quote here as a postscript to my brief appreciation of Alvin.
While speaking the other day to the people, I observed that “the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” neither riches to men of wisdom. I happened to cast my eyes upon Ira Ames, who was sitting in the congregation, I knew he had been in the Church a considerable length of time, I have been personally acquainted with him for twenty years. My eye also caught many more of the first Saints at the same time. These men know that “Mormonism” is true, they have moved steadily forward, and have not sought to become noted characters, as many have; but, unseen as it were, they have maintained their footing steadily in the right path. I could place my hand upon many in this congregation, who will win the race, though they are not very swift, to outward appearance, and they make not great pretensions; they are found continually attending to their own business. They do not appear to be great warriors, or as if they were likely to win the battle. But what is their true character? They have faith to-day, they are filled with faith, their words are few, but they are full in integrity. You will find them to-morrow as they were yesterday, or are to-day. Visit them when you will, or under whatever circumstances, and you find them unalterably the same; and finally when you have spent your life with them, you will find that their lives throughout have been well spent, full of faith, hope, charity, and good works, as far as they have had the ability. These are the ones who will win the race, conquer in the battle, and obtain the peace and righteousness of eternity.
Rest in Peace, Alvin Lisonbee. Godspeed.