Portraits

By Mervyn Dykes


Trevor Beatson: A Policeman at the Pulpit

“If you need help, ask a policeman,” countless mothers in many parts of the world tell their children. Trevor Beatson is living proof that this is good advice.

A police inspector for many years and police chief in the northern part of the Hutt Valley in New Zealand, Brother Beatson also served as a stake president for more than eight years. Recently, he was promoted to chief inspector and transferred to another area, which meant being released from his calling and moving to Whangarei in the Northland region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Trevor Alan Beatson was born in Ahipara, a tiny township near Ninety Mile Beach on the opposite side of the island. His was one of the few European families in an area where the Maori influence is strong, so he grew up with two languages and two cultures.

The second of four children in a timber-milling family, young Trevor grew used to hard physical labor and outdoor activity. “Often we would go fishing in the sea before school, and the fish we caught would be our breakfast,” he says.

His family were not members of the Church, but a family who lived down the road were. “They were regarded by the neighborhood as eccentric,” Brother Beatson says with a wry smile.

His Presbyterian parents didn’t attend church, but they sent him to Sunday school and other church services and made sure he knew the Bible. From them he also learned to appreciate the world of nature. “I spent a lot of time deep in the forests with my father, who knew all about the bush,” says Brother Beatson. “For every tree he cut down, he would plant about six.”

At seventeen, Trevor left home and school and joined the police as a cadet. After graduating from the Police College high in his class, he worked in Auckland. For a while, he supplemented his pay by wrestling professionally.

Then one day when he was twenty-four, he strode up the police station steps, walked through the door into the reception area, and met a Maori receptionist with a dazzling smile. She changed his life.

“The very first time I saw her I recognized something about her that was different,” he says. “It was something I felt rather than saw, but it was something I wanted in my life.”

Her name was Kay, and she came from Warkworth, a farming town halfway between Auckland and Whangarei. He soon found out that she belonged to the religion he and his friends had described as “eccentric.”

He was working as a detective with the fraud squad at the time. “I am not sure whether I set out to prove her beliefs wrong, or whether I tried to use my investigative skills to prove that her beliefs were right,” he says. Whatever his motives, the result was what he now describes as “a certain spiritual awakening.”

Trevor and Kay were married eighteen months later. In time, he joined the Church, and a year later they were sealed in the New Zealand Temple. Impressed by his wife’s dedication to the gospel, Brother Beatson decided that baptism would mean total dedication for him, too. That dedication showed later when, as a stake president, he often attended stake conference on Saturday night, then went directly to his office, changed into uniform, worked through the night, and was back to preside at the Sunday morning meeting—often without ever going home.

His country background had given Brother Beatson an affinity for dogs, and for several years he was a police dog handler. He and his dog, Adam, tracked down thieves and offenders of many kinds. Brother Beatson was shot at several times, stabbed once, and often came home bruised and bandaged despite his wrestling skills. One night the Scotia Place chapel in Auckland was broken into, and Brother Beatson and his dog were called to find a trail. They tracked the burglar to a nearby park, where he gave himself up.

Eventually Brother Beatson became chief dog trainer, a post he held for eight years. During that time he introduced drug and explosive detection dogs to the New Zealand police and trained dogs for use in Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, Hong Kong, Tonga, and Singapore.

Promotion in the New Zealand police force depends as much on passing examinations as it does on experience and performance. Brother Beatson continued his studies, and when he reached the rank of inspector he was transferred to the Wellington Police District.

There he helped plan and coordinate many of the major police operations in the area, including those for VIP visits, royal tours, political demonstrations, and the opening of Parliament each year. Early last year, he was placed in command of the Upper Hutt district, an area with a population of about thirty-two thousand people.

While serving as stake president, he saw a new stake center completed. He also helped establish a strong team of high councilors.

Brother Beatson has had no problems reconciling the two different worlds of his profession and his church work. Integrity and honesty are principles his father instilled in him, and he continues to live by them.

Miriam Giron: Still a Missionary in Guatemala

Missionary work meant so much to Miriam Giron that she couldn’t give it up, even when tragedy struck while she was in the mission field. Nor could she give it up when her mission was over and she went home to Guatemala City.

That is why, during spare time away from her teaching job and Church callings, she can often be found working with the lady missionaries in her area.

Her love for missionary work is not surprising. After all, it was through the influence of missionary-minded members that she found the gospel. And the example of the lady missionaries with whom she worked before and after baptism helped her decide that she wanted to serve a full-time mission of her own.

“I feel very grateful to my Heavenly Father for the opportunity to have known his Church,” she says.

Miriam Judith Giron was introduced to the gospel when a coworker of her sister invited the two of them to a missionary open house. Miriam filled out a referral card there, saying she wanted to learn more about the Church.

It wasn’t long until two lady missionaries called at her home. Miriam was impressed with their discussion of Joseph Smith and the need for a modern prophet. And when she read the Book of Mormon and prayed sincerely about it, she felt an assurance that it was true.

She was baptized in October of 1979, followed shortly afterward by her mother and two sisters.

When Sister Giron’s bishop first raised the subject of a mission, she was uncertain whether she wanted to go. But in 1982 she accepted a call to the San Jose Costa Rica Mission. Friends in her ward Young Adult Sunday School class sadly told her things would not be the same without her while she was gone; vivacious Miriam lent extra sparkle to Young Adult activities. But she replied that “the Lord needs me somewhere else for now.”

She served twelve months in Panama, and then was transferred to Costa Rica.

One day, as she was leaving her apartment for a meeting, her shoe caught on the stairs and she fell. It was obvious when she could not stand that her injury was more than minor. It turned out to be a broken ankle, and she was told she must curtail her activities for several weeks. That was discouraging; Sister Giron could feel her remaining time as a missionary slipping away.

Late the following day, when other missionaries told her the mission president was coming to see her, she feared he was going to talk to her about going home early. But the news he bore struck much more deeply. As gently as possible, he told Sister Giron that her mother had died suddenly from an illness.

Though her grief surfaced in tears, “in the room where we were, I felt a very special spirit of love,” particularly as her mission president reviewed gospel truths about eternal life.

Her thoughts turned to her family and what they would be doing in those moments. “For that short time, I was not in the mission, but at home.”

At this time, Sister Giron could have chosen to cut short her service and return to Guatemala, but she realized that if she were at home, there would be little she could contribute compared to the good she could do by finishing her mission. “Better to stay and serve the Lord until the last day,” she decided.

The knowledge that she would sometime be able to see her mother again sustained her in her choice. Sister Giron waited impatiently for the cast to come off her ankle and worked to make up for lost time until her mission ended in November of 1983.

She returned to her activities in the Villa Nueva Ward, Guatemala City Mariscal Stake, where she has enjoyed callings to work with other single young women, including service as her stake’s Young Women president. She works as a sixth-grade teacher while trying to save enough money to complete her university studies.

But when there is an opportunity she still goes with the missionaries to meet and teach investigators throughout the Guatemala City suburb where she lives.

“I have always liked to go out with the missionaries,” Sister Giron says. “It brings me a great deal of joy to be able to share the gospel again.”

[photo] Photo by Don Searle

Dorothy Varney: Seasons of Success

Hard work and success are no strangers to Dorothy Varney of Auburn, California. This dignified, soft-spoken woman has started two successful companies in the past ten years and is now at work on her third career.

A wife and mother of four, Sister Varney spent her younger years immersed in raising her children and being a homemaker, thoroughly contented with her busy life in the Los Angeles area. At age 50, with one teenager left at home and a husband facing early retirement, she suggested to her husband that she get a job. Much to her surprise, he agreed.

“I felt like everybody’s mother as I was interviewed by pretty, young secretaries,” she remembers, laughing. “So I decided that I would do something on my own, although I wasn’t sure what it would be. One day, while giving directions to someone from out of town, it suddenly hit me that I had been doing this all of my life. I was always the person people called to find out what interesting places were nearby and how to get there.”

Sister Varney began giving customized tours to small groups of tourists, taking clients in her own car and doing the narration herself. “Custom Mini Tours,” as she named the fledgling company, gradually expanded to using a station wagon, then a van, and then two vehicles driving in tandem, with Sister Varney pointing out the sights with a CB radio. As the business continued to grow, she began offering bus tours, with sometimes as many as twenty buses on different tours at the same time.

“As a tour guide, I had many opportunities to share the gospel,” she says. “I always kept pamphlets in the car to hand out to anyone who expressed an interest. Whenever the itinerary made it feasible, I would drive past the Los Angeles Temple and point it out. I always mentioned that if the group was interested in spending an hour at the Visitors’ Center, I wouldn’t charge for the time we spent there.”

The growth of her tour business brought Sister Varney in contact with tour agents for large cruise-ship lines. They needed a passenger-greeting service, she learned, someone to meet large groups of passengers at the airports, transport them to the docks, and get them settled comfortably on board the cruise ships.

That need prompted the birth of “Your Reps,” Sister Varney’s second business, which represented several cruise lines.

“Sometimes our schedule was quite hectic. We would no sooner finish with one large group than we would have to change into the blazers of a different line and start all over again with another group.” “Your Reps” flourished, eventually employing sixty people in three cities. Although running both businesses placed demands on her time and energies, Sister Varney always found time for her family and her Church callings, including Relief Society president three times and seminary teacher for several years.

“The Church has certainly influenced my business dealings with people,” says Sister Varney. “In starting my businesses, I sought guidance from the Lord every step of the way. Because I was fulfilling my Church callings, I had the confidence and leadership skills to accomplish the things I did.”

On the other hand, she feels her business experience has made her more effective in her Church callings. “The more people you meet, the better understanding you have of their problems. Becoming more open and tolerant has helped me in the counseling and teaching I have done in the Church.”

When Brother Varney retired seven years ago from his job as an electrical engineer, they sold the tour business and moved to northern California, where he went into partnership with one of their children. Two years ago they sold “Your Reps.”

But Sister Varney, who prefers to be self-employed, hasn’t slowed down. She has launched into a third career—writing.

“I’ve always wanted to be a free-lance writer,” she explains. And, true to form, she has approached it seriously, taking classes on the techniques of writing and selling newspaper and magazine articles.

For the last five years, Sister Varney has been writing a travel column for a local monthly newspaper, and she sold her first article to a major newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. She is now working on a book.

“When I was a young mother with small children, I couldn’t see beyond the immediate, constant demands on my time,” says Sister Varney. “I couldn’t possibly imagine that my life would ever be different or that I would still feel young and vital after my babes were grown and gone.

“Now, from my ‘advanced years,’ it’s easy for me to see that a woman can play many roles. I’m grateful that I played the most important one first—that of being a mother. That role must be played in the early years. You can’t start a family at fifty or sixty, but it’s not a bit too late to launch a career. It makes me want to tell young women, ‘Don’t cheat yourselves. Savor each season.’”

[photo] Photo by Hans J. Paul

Robert McGraw, a communications consultant, serves as teacher development instructor in his Sacramento, California, ward. He is also a member of a multiregional public communications council.