Today, the 27th of October 2015, is the 100th birthday of my grandfather, Leon A. Westover.

I had hoped by now to have more of his personal history compiled. In the absence of that, I would hope that you would log in and spend some time looking over the Leon A. Westover Collection of photos and by reading the ongoing project that is the history of my grandmother, Maurine R. Westover.

Grandpa was a complex man. I think in many respects he was misunderstood. Of course, I speak of him from the perspective of a grandchild. I have just my own memories and those shared with me to fully evaluate his life.

I suppose you’re wondering what the story is of the picture posted above and why I chose that image to accompany this post. Why didn’t I use the image of him in his classroom or the image of him as a missionary or young married father? I guess because the picture here shows the perspective of a child — I’m guessing one of us kids shot this picture, since my Dad is the one holding all the fish — and because it shows Grandpa photobombing the shot long before that was a term. Grandpa could kid around and have fun. He was a relentless tease. Things like that don’t get talked about much in histories.

He was part of that Greatest Generation we so often hold up in admiration and respect. His story is a little different than most but it is worthy of review and respect. When you consider where he came from and what he accomplished his was truly an incredible life.

I have many enduring memories of Grandpa. He and I would talk baseball frequently. We shared a love of history. And he tried his best to convince me, while yet a teen, that computers were worthy of my time and attention and could be a future pursuit. My Dad would sometimes joke about his father’s ability to see the future but on the computer Grandpa had it all exactly right. He was ahead of his time.

But if I had to recall one particular topic most consistent in my conversations with Grandpa it would be family. He spoke of it often. He admired those he was related to and he cherished his heritage. The Westover Ranch was very important to him and for a child who never even visited the ranch when I was younger he certainly made an impression upon me about it. So much so that when given the opportunity to provide a little service and contribution to the ranch in recent years it has been mostly out of love and respect for him that I’ve gladly done so. I know on these things I have his approval and encouragement.

As I have aged I have come to appreciate Grandpa more. After all, I knew him from about the age I now am until he died. In years it isn’t long. But it was long enough to make me admire him and to love him greatly.

I am hoping during this 100th year of the anniversary of his birth we accomplish more on this site to archive the details of his life. Grandma has done a great job of telling us so much but how wonderful it would be to find whatever record that Grandpa left behind.

For my children I would tell you this: get to know Leon A. Westover. He wasn’t a perfect man. He was a great example of a man who always tried, who was faithful to the ideals he was taught by parents who raised him through no small amount of adversity. He lived a young teen life during the Great Depression and with great faith brought forth a young family. He served — relentlessly. He worked multiple jobs for years at a time and even in later years sacrificed his resources for the sake of his children and grand children. He served a mission early in life — and another late in life. He embraced the value of education and instilled that in each of his children, a fact I know he was proud of. He was the first of his family to graduate from college.

There is much from him to be learned.

In the coming year I am hoping we get the contributions of others who knew him to help write his story for his grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. We love you.

For the past several months I have watched my father go to work on his mother’s history. My Grandma, Maurine Westover, was a shining example of one devoted to the work of genealogical research, temple work and family history.

In the early 1980s while serving as a missionary with Grandpa at the Martin Harris Farm Grandma took to writing her own story — more than 12,000 words of text telling of her life from 1916 forward. It is wonderful.

A few short years later she was diagnosed with a terminal disease and my Dad, who had the means of broadcast-quality television recording equipment through his work, asked Grandma if she wouldn’t video tape her memories even though she had already made the effort to write them down.

Not only did she agree but she embraced the idea wholeheartedly. For several hours over a period of a couple of years she sat in a recliner and just talked — answering questions to individuals unseen on the screen.

Those recordings have for the most part remained under wraps. I believe my Dad had them digitally transferred and gave them as a whole as Christmas gifts a few years back to a few individuals. But until now there has not been a wholesale method to share them or to place them in context with her other records.

Now there is.

When Dad began the process of working on her history his first effort was to populate the history with images Grandma and Grandpa had taken and collected over the course of their lives. Most of these images were digitized at a family gathering at Keith’s house in Atlanta in 2009 — hundreds and hundreds of images we all worked to salvage.

As Dad dropped in the pictures he added a couple more elements — here and there his own comments have been added to Grandma’s manuscript. He also asked Aunt Evie to help him remember the layout of early homes and properties and together they added drawings to accompany the story Grandma was telling.

These efforts changed the record considerably. Grandma’s 12,000 words now spanned more than 150 pages in Microsoft Word and yielded files so massive they crashed the computer time and again.

Dad and I started to talk about the project and how to get it into the hands of the rest of the family — including the video. The only way that really works is by way of this website.

So slowly, page by page, we are editing and adding the video Grandma sat for nearly 30 years ago — and posting it all here. Over the course of the past several days we have extracted more than 40 video segments that go with Grandma’s manuscript.

As we look at it now it is a stunning record. And it is all her.

While the written manuscript tells her story the pictures and the video make it come alive. You can see her smile, laugh, and with great energy tell the story of her life and the people in it. It is like she is here again. You get a feel for her personality and for what was important to her.

These videos have the added gift of having Grandpa jump in here and there. He changes the tone by not only adding his perspective but by being himself — and the dynamics of their relationship emerges. Aunt Aldyth makes an appearance in a segment remembering Christmas as children. Frequent she and Dad are heard off screen making comments or asking questions. Because of this it gives the video in places the feel of a visit to my grandparents’ living room.

I can recall being present when some of these videos were recorded.

They were made at a time when I had regular contact and frequent visits with my grandparents. But it has been almost 30 years since I have heard their voices or felt their presence or heard them laugh. Seeing these videos brings them back.

Of course, instead of seeing them as a 20-something young man I’m now in my 50’s and have the life experience lens to seem them through now — and what a revelation it is!

Seeing Grandpa in his rumpled shirt — which may or may not be buttoned correctly — while at the same time seeing him in tears talk about giving a ring to Grandma during their courtship brings a delicate combination of emotions to me.

How simple it all is and yet how precious a record to have so that my wife and children can get to know these wonderful people who just happen to be my grandparents and theirs, too.

As of this writing I’ve only posted through their meeting and courtship – less than half of what Grandma originally wrote in her manuscript. But I feel a need to highlight it now. For as long as it is taking to edit the videos and put this all together it will take others out there a while to catch up to me.

But I want you to see it.

This is how telling your own story is done. In our modern age in technology there is no reason why each of us can’t leave behind a comprehensive record that uses text, images and videos in telling our story. Grandma here is showing us the way — as was her way with lots of things.

To see this you’ll need to log-in and go to her profile page. The links to her record are beneath the pictures.

It is difficult to put pen to paper and begin to adequately convey the impact of my Mother and her teachings on my life.

The bond between a Mother and son is unique, special and, in my case, sacred and tender. I have always been a “momma’s boy” but not in the sense that most in the world view that term.

Being her first born and as she mentioned to me many many times growing up, I did not come with an instruction manual. Mom became a Mother at the tender age of 17. How young that was. Yet, how wise was her counsel and how effective her parenting skills. My siblings will look back fondly at the many creative discipline techniques my Mother deployed and, yes, the vast majority of them were directed towards me. I deserved them. I was the instigator of many conflicts and disputes within the family in those early years.

Why? Upon reflection and now having raised a family of my own and watching my own children raise my grandchildren it appears every family has, to quote Reggie Jackson, ” a straw that stirs the drink”. There is no doubt that I tested my Mother’s patience and yes, I deserved every punishment ever delivered. However, I also know that Mom loved me and that I played a very special role in her life.

Quite simply, Mom and I grew up together. Weird as that may sound, it was very true. As I have grown older, I have thought many many times that the difference in age between myself and my youngest sister is 11 years and the age between Mom and I only 17. I was in my 50’s when Mom was in her 60’s. We not only grew up together, we grow old together as well. As such, Mom was not only my teacher, mentor and Mom, she was my friend and confidante as well.

The exploits and stories of my youth have been chronicled by my siblings in their writing and memories of Mom. But it is their recollections of times past. For me, my fondest and most sacred memories and experiences with and of Mom have occurred during the 35 years when I did not live with Mom and Dad.

How grateful I was and am that my childhood was so fun and for the most part carefree. Mom and Dad worked very hard to make sure we had a wonderful childhood filled with wonderful memories, traditions, core values and teachable moments that would serve us well when we ventured out on our own and began to raise our own families. What a rare and special gift to know with certainty that my parents not only loved me, but would literally do anything for me, forgive every fault and make any sacrifice to insure their children had what was needed.

Mom as a mother provided me the example of what I wanted as qualities in the mother of my children. Loving, caring, willing to sacrifice and a strong love and faith in our Father in Heaven and the importance of family.

Mom as a wife provided me the example of how a marriage should be.. Love, laughter and kindness. Patience, a true helpmate, unconditional love and forgiveness. Family first. Selflessness not selfishness. The importance of marrying your best friend.

Mom as a Nana provided me the example of how a grandparent should be: fun, eccentric, reliable and loving. And most importantly an example and role model that provides your grandchildren a link to the past, someone to reach out to when times are tough in the present and finally someone who prepares them and instills within them the importance of an eternal family and a desire to live large, dream big and go for it.

Mom, thank you. Thank you for your teaching, patience, laughter, love, discipline and faith. Thank you for your example, your long suffering and willingness to endure to the end so that your children and grandchildren could see that there is indeed a plan in place that allows us to be together as a family forever. Mom, I love you and look forward to seeing you again. Enjoy your next part of your journey. Heaven became a bit more lively with your arrival. Let the party begin!

There are lots of benefits to being the youngest in a family of five children. Aside from claiming the Favorite Child title, I reaped the benefits of being much younger than my siblings so that when they were all leaving home, I was also beginning my “new life as an only child”. Mom and Dad were all mine.

As we gathered during the final week of Mom’s life and started to reflect on her journey and our part in it, we pulled out the photo albums and noticeably absent were my photos. Mom was pretty meticulous about chronicling her children’s moments but like Dad told me this week when we looked at the photos, each time she added a child, she did less and less with her hair. And so it was with these photo books. By the time I came along, she was up to her elbows in diapers, baseball games, Boy Scouts, teenage drama and more. Who had the time to paste photos in a book? It doesn’t upset me NOW that I am not in the albums although I remember when I was younger being a little disappointed for not being well represented. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t well documented in photos or that I didn’t get to experience things like my siblings. My brother asked me if I had felt neglected or that I had missed out on stuff. No, I don’t feel that way. My experiences were just different. I missed out on NOTHING.

One of the advantages to being an “only child” is that it was much easier to bring me along on their adventures. If you can call photographing the outside of a Longs Drug Store an adventure – Mom & Dad may argue that it was just a job but for this kid, it WAS an adventure. I was always in the car going someplace with them. In hindsight I think I must have studied Dad when he photographed these stores because he was always looking for the best angle. Let’s be honest Longs stores pretty much all looked the same and to get them to stand out he tried to photograph them at the right time of day, or at the right angle so the background would compliment the photograph. Mom was always at his elbow lending her advice about the photos as she lined up the Polaroid test shots across her lap and dashboard of the car.

These Longs photography road trips were pretty frequent and many times very early in the morning before the store was officially open. Dad needed “customers” to fill the shots and that was up to Mom and I. We’d grab a cart and we’d walk in and out of the store over and over again while he clicked away. So we’d talk, usually about mundane things and I can’t really recall any subject in particular but it sticks in my mind because this was something I was doing with her – just me. And I we did it A LOT. I didn’t think it at the time but you know what? It was fun. Mom was fun.

I could go on and on about the different trips that I got to take with Mom & Dad. Because there were so many from road trips to Arizona, to hanging out in Hawaii to flying to New York to attend a trade show to driving around New England to hit every single covered bridge in Vermont and filling up trunks with shoes they had purchased at every single outlet center they could find. We were traveling beasts. It was pretty cool. With some of the trips, I’d miss school. In order to miss school and still get decent grades, Mom would negotiate with the teachers by promising that I would write a report about the things I saw and experienced. I wasn’t too excited about the report writing but then there we were on a redeye flight back home – all three of us assembling the reports with photos and captions.

If I could describe Mom it would be as “my champion”… she would back me up in almost anything. When I thought I wouldn’t get to go to the Senior Ball, and then at the very last minute was invited to go, Mom took me out of school and we spent the day in San Francisco hunting down a prom dress.

When I met a guy in an online chat room she warned me about how he could be a hatchet murderer and when I told her his last name was Fluck, she didn’t miss a beat and declared, “Ah, crap! You’re probably going to end up marrying him.” Well, she was half right. I did marry him and thankfully for the rest of us, he was not a hatchet murderer.

When I planned my wedding, not only did Mom design all of the flower arrangements but with a picture of a wedding dress I had seen in a magazine in hand, she and Dad hunted down the only shop in California that carried it and drove hours to get there, see it in person and then call me in Tennessee to let me know they loved it and were buying it. I am pretty sure that is NOT how you buy a wedding dress – sight unseen, not tried on, etc. – but I had faith in my parents that they knew what they were saying. And they were right. The dress was perfect.

Mom may have been super supportive at most times but she wasn’t shy about giving her opinion. She was very vocal about the dangers of how I met Mike. And even after the wedding and we had moved into our first home, she and I had words about him. Mom came to visit us in Tennessee and I honestly can’t remember what her beef was but I do remember standing up to her. I remember telling her that I was not only an adult and capable of making my own decisions but that I had chosen Mike and it wasn’t up to her anymore. It was probably the most heated argument we had ever had…seriously…it was a “we’re driving in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, stop the car, I am getting out and walking” kind of fight. She knew I was serious. And she never again said another word. But I kept that experience tucked in the back of my mind for future use if necessary. I never had to bring it up again.

When Mike died, Mom grieved almost as much as I did. We would talk about him and she would say to me, “Mike was my friend. He listened to me.” That touched me because it not only spoke of the man Mike was but it also meant Mom never stopped learning. Mike knew that he had his work cut out for him to win Mom’s approval and in his “Mike Way” he did that by fostering a friendship with my mother. Mom learned that people are not always as they seem and when given the opportunity they would rise above any expectations and surprise you. Mom loved Mike very much and she would provide me perspective about who he was, what he felt and why he did the things he did. Her words of wisdom in regards to her son-in-law would temper my anger and frustration. I will miss that the most because I am not done dealing with my feelings in regards to how Mike died. I still need her wisdom.

I could probably write a book about my memories of Mom.

In the mid-1980s, Mom LOVED going to boutiques. These were basically home-grown flea markets that people would set up in their garages or living rooms to sell their crafts on the weekend. We went to these boutiques nearly every weekend during the fall months. Eventually mom would get involved in her own boutiques so she could peddle her homemade afghans and padded photo albums. She would partner with some other ladies she knew from church. I would sit there all day as they would chit chat in someone’s living room. Mom would always put a pot of apple cider on the stove, throw in some cinnamon sticks and let the aroma fill the house. It was a marketing technique that worked. To this day whenever I smell that smell it reminds me of sitting there drawing pictures to pass the time while Mom tried to sell her wares.

If there was something iconic about Mom, it was her hair. Dad would tell me stories about how long, thick and dark Mom’s hair was when he met her in high school. I remember thinking “how could that be?” For as long as I have been around Mom has sported a wig and she has pretty much looked the same for ALL OF MY LIFE. The story goes that sometime way back when, someone got the idea that maybe Mom could do more with her hair if there wasn’t so much of it and so her mother – my Nana – one day did something to thin out my Mom’s luxurious mane of hair. My guess is that the plan backfired and whatever Mom was left with wasn’t what she wanted the rest of the world to see so she hid it beneath a wig. Mom was meticulously private when it came to her wigs and we not only didn’t speak of the wigs but not a single one of us was allowed in the room when she groomed her hair.

I can admit now – probably because she is gone and I won’t get a chickpot pie in the face in retaliation – I did sneak a peek a few times when I was a kid. Sorry, Mom.

When Mom had her stroke in 2010 and things got more difficult for her to do, I became Mom’s hairdresser. I know it was very difficult for her to allow me to see her this way. And I must have looked like Luke Skywalker when he took off Darth Vader’s mask the first time I removed her wig. This single daily act of service that I provided Mom is my favorite memory. Mom trusted me to brush what was left of her hair – and it really wasn’t that bad. But I get why she hid it. What was left was a mere reminder of what once was – she still had, even into her 70s dark strands peppered with gray. It was long and thinner but it provided me a glimpse of the girl she that she still was – spunky and fiercely opinionated.

Styling Mom’s wig was a challenge. I could never quite get it how she could get it and I am amazed at how she was able to turn what showed up in a box on our doorstep into what eventually lay on her head. I would style it very much how one would mold clay. And towards the end, I think she cared less and less with how it looked. She just enjoyed the looks of frustration on my face and my reactions when I would come home from a trip and see the state her hair was in. I would ask in horror, “WHAT did you do to your hair?” She would just laugh. And I think that is the best way to deal with what you can’t control – find the humor in it and laugh.

When I think about all these things and other memories that have come flooding back, I can say with certainty that Mom AWESOMED THE CRAP out of me. She is my role model in every way. If my own daughter can look back on my life one day with the same reflection that I look at my mother’s life, then I know I did ok. And I will have Mom to thank for that.

If I had to describe my Nana in one word it would be “spunky”. She was full of spirit and passion and something I see so much in my sister, Amy. She was a great example of showing us how to be proud of who we are and standing up for ourselves.

When I was little I remember visiting the old Concord house and seeing the “white room”. I was always in awe over its perfection with its perfect vacuum lines. As a little girl I was itching to go mess them up. Now as an adult I find no better satisfaction then to see those vacuum lines on my own floors.

Just because she had a room that was off limits, except for special visits and occasions, doesn’t mean going to Nana and Granddads was a “you must act proper” experience. She let our imaginations grow and we were able to play to our hearts content. They were just fine with epic lightsaber battles taking place upstairs.

Nana didn’t just give me a love of vacuum lines but between her and my mom I found my love of cooking. I loved going to Nana’s to make or eat, whichever was fine with me, her famous Nana fudge. I loved sitting around her counter, getting out the kitchen aid mixer, and making sweet treats. It’s a memory I have started passing down to my own children. The fudge is not just fudge, its Nana’s Famous Fudge in our house. Nana made holidays and family gatherings important and loved having the family around her.

As we grew to be teenagers, Nana was never afraid to tell us when we were getting out of line or when our latest hair style was not her favorite. She had her opinions and she was never afraid to let us hear them, and we loved her for that. Nana and Granddad always made us feel special and cheered us on, whether it was my sister Darcy, and her writing, Amy in her athletics, or me, in my music, they were always there to tell us how proud they were.

I secretly kept every note and letter I have from them for birthdays or just because, they always meant so much to me. I love looking at Nana’s handwriting and silly pictures she drew on my cards.

I loved following the stories nana found on her genealogy hunt and am so grateful to be a part of that history. Walking into the temple and doing family names always had so much more meaning to me. I was so grateful for those experiences.

During my last visit with Nana she said, “Are all of these people here for me?” The answer is yes, Nana. Yes, they are all there for you, to love and thank you for finding them. She created a beautiful family legacy here on earth, but in heaven, it’s because of her that our family can be eternal.