Good morning, brothers and sisters, I appreciate this time I have to say a few words about the life of one of my favorite people in the world. Orson Whitmer has been a part of my life for all the days I can remember. His influence flows through many of the habits and experiences I have had and will be with me for the rest of eternity. He has been my friend and my mentor for much of my life.
I am the eldest child Uncle Orson’s eldest brother Rex – Orson was only 14 years old when I was born. My first memories of hm were when he was getting ready to go on his mission to the Eastern States. It was an exciting time for our family and though I really didn’t understand what was happening, I was caught up in the hoopla. Two years later I was a little more aware and remember Orson’s return and the buzz it created in the family. Every time we went to my grandparent’s home I would hope to hear more stories of what it was like to serve as a missionary for the Savior. There were some tales that made me a little nervous: like when he and his companion spent the night in jail. But most of his stories were the type that would get a little boy thinking a mission might be a really fun thing to do.
Many of you may not know that Uncle Orson spent a lot of time overcoming sickness when he was a youngster. I don’t recall all the maladies he had but I suspect it was really frustrating for a man of his nature. To occupy his time, his mother (my grandmother) would bring home model airplane kits for him to assemble. When he had completed each plane, he would hang them from the ceiling of his room in some sort of attack position. While Orson was away on his mission, my parents visited the family home quite often and one day I discovered this wonderful room with all the airplanes.
Imagine my excitement when I realized that if you open and close the door to the room really fast, it would cause the bombers and fighters hanging from the ceiling to launch into a great battle. My grandmother warned me not to do it (after I was caught one time) but the temptation was too great so I persisted. I didn’t understand the consequences of my actions until, shortly after Orson’s return from his mission, I was escorted to his room to explain why many of the airborne battalion was damaged and in ruins. I think he eventually forgave me but I have always harbored a fear of retribution for my actions.
Over the years of our relationship, I have observed how Uncle Orson dealt with people – especially those whom he felt needed some extra help. After I graduated from High School, Orson and Leslie allowed me to live in their home while I worked and went to school. They had a large family and I’m sure it was not easy to suddenly have a teenage boy (Joyee and Orson Jr., Beckee and Eric were pretty young at that time) living in their home, acting much like a teenage boy will act. But they were patient and helped me see that I could be a better man than I had considered possible. Leslie even seemed to ignore my footprints on the ceiling as I learned to walk on my hands.
My time in their home gave me some other benefits. With the large brood they were raising, I observed the same love of family I had witnessed in my own family. My parents suddenly didn’t look so “stupid” because Orson and Leslie were doing many of the same things that happened in our home. The confirmation they provided helped me come to grips with some of my own relationship problems I had with my folks. My cool uncle help me see that my Dad was pretty cool also (but don’t tell him I said that).
Brothers and sisters, I could go on for hours with experiences that occurred while I was with my Uncle but you don’t really want to hear all that. What you really want you to know is that Orson Whitmer was a good man who loved God and took excellent care of his family. He made mistakes in his life and the consequences were often difficult for him to bear. But he also made innumerable wise choices and has left a legacy of goodness and faith that will be remembered by his children and all those who knew and loved him.
The value of a man like Orson Whitmer is found not in wealth or possessions but in the rivulets of godliness that run through the lives of those whom he has loved and served.
His value is seen through the kind eyes of his son Eric as he looks at those little girls he is raising. There is an Orson-like tenacity that is familiar as you watch the way Orson Jr. works and treats the customers he encounters in his business. Who does not recognize Orson in the tenderness Damon has for other people who are in need of a compassionate friend? And I can see and feel Uncle Orson in the way Debbee remains so faithful in caring for her aged parents. The joy for life breathes out of Seth and gives all a hint of the excitement Orson always had for living. And when you look in the tender, loving eyes of Beckee, they reflect the same brightness that gave her father the will to struggle through all the challenges of life – knowing that these are just the experiences of mortality that help us prepare for eternity.
Yes, we are sending off a wonderful man today. We will miss his presence, but his influence will last for generations through the lives of those he loved.
May God bless Orson to know how much we love him and may his family always be thankful for the goodness he has given them.
I bear my witness of the gospel of Christ – which was the foundation of all Orson ever did. Because of the knowledge we have, we know where we are going and what happens when we get there. Peace to each of you at this special time of year. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.