Ed Rawley: A Steel Grip on Family History
Hooked on serving others and hooked on family history—this is an apt description of Ed Rawley of Bountiful, Utah. Instead of two helping hands, he reaches out to others with two helping hooks.
A volunteer librarian at the Church Family History Library in Salt Lake City, he teaches classes on how to use computers for family history. His knowledge of obscure historical facts also helps many in their research.
As a navigator in World War II, Ed was aboard a B-24 that crashed while on a low-altitude check flight. He had no chance to bail out and was pinned under a 2,000-pound gun turret in a roaring inferno that was fed by gasoline from the ruptured wing tanks.
“I tried to inhale deep breaths of smoke, hoping it would render me unconscious and free me from the agonizing pain,” he recalls. But as the plane burned, “The gun turret shifted and I was able to free my burned legs. By now, my hands were too badly burned to be of assistance, but by wiggling on my back, I was able to work my way into the cockpit and out through a jagged hole in the fuselage wall.”
Despite extensive surgery, Brother Rawley lost both hands. “At the time, I believed I’d rather be dead than be like that,” he remembers.
Ed’s wife, Virginia Kay, a cadet nurse, met him during his recovery. Ed remembers her as an angel of mercy who helped him regain his independence. “When Ed makes up his mind to do something, he does it,” says Virginia. “Almost nothing intimidates him.”
Upon recovery, Ed became so expert with his hooks that his official assignment was to assist other amputees with their prostheses. On 26 June 1946, he and Virginia were married.
After obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife biology, Ed spent thirty-four years with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “My hooks were a definite advantage as I worked with steel cages and traps and sharp-toothed, biting animals like marten,” he recalls. “Wildlife people have been known to lose a finger or two, but not a hook.” Then he adds, “Hooks are handy for washing dishes in extra hot water or for retrieving pans out of the fire.”
Besides his vivid sense of humor, Ed has a natural sense of community as he goes out of his way for others, such as working with Boy Scouts of all ages. Though not a member of the Church, he was a very active nonmember. When his youngest son, Scott, was eight years old, he asked, “Dad, why don’t you join the Church?”
Ed replied, “Son, if you’ll stick close to the Church and fill a mission, I’ll let you baptize me when you come home.” When Scott returned in June 1982 from serving in Japan, he did just that. Ed was baptized on the thirty-sixth anniversary of his wedding, and the family was sealed one year later.
Since his retirement from wildlife management six years ago, Ed has served happily at the Family History Library. He’s a man with many talents and broad knowledge. Being a stamp collector, for instance, he knew of a philatelists’ book about ghost towns that helped a man who was researching family history in Nevada.
Ed is more adept with his hooks than many are with their hands. He’s built a kayak, which he and his three sons used. He does wood carving, art, photography, golf, and team pistol shooting, besides his stamp collecting.
“My eternal companion has been the positive answer to my questions since the day I dragged myself from that raging inferno forty-three years ago,” he says fondly. “Her inspiration gave me an attitude of self-sufficiency so that I could accomplish what I thought was impossible. My whole life has been guided by the Lord, so who knows what I can yet accomplish with his help—and with these hooks?”
Dora D. Flack, a member of the Bountiful Twenty-fourth Ward, Bountiful Utah Heights Stake, is serving a mission with her husband in the Family-to-Family Book of Mormon Program.
Jarvis Seegmiller: Adding Life to Old Age
It has been said that inside every old person is a young person wondering, “What happened to me?”
A member of the San Diego North Stake Thirteenth Ward has long been a pioneer in searching for the answer to that question. To friends and family, including his wife, Roberta, and their four children, he is Jay Seegmiller. To the medical profession, he is Dr. Jarvis Seegmiller, professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. He is also director of the university’s Institute for Research on Aging, which he helped found in 1983, and the author of more than 370 scholarly papers on subjects relating to human biochemical genetics and rheumatology.
Brother Seegmiller’s interests have not always included geriatrics. He earned his first degree in chemistry after being inspired by Henry Eyring, whom he met as a teenager. “I will be grateful forever for Brother Eyring’s exemplary faith, in combination with his vast knowledge of science,” says Brother Seegmiller. “That was so important to a young scientist like me at the time.”
During World War II, Jay worked at the National Institutes of Health. After his release from the service, he went to the University of Chicago Medical School and interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In 1972, he was elected to the highly select National Academy of Sciences on the basis of his distinguished contributions to science. He is a pioneer in the use of tissue cultures to study human hereditary diseases. He recently returned from a sabbatical at Oxford University, where he worked on identifying how defective genes lead to biochemical abnormalities that cause disease.
In his study of genes and the aging process, Brother Seegmiller has become “convinced that Latter-day Saints have the advantage when it comes to knowing factors that lead to a healthy, long life. The gospel sustains both spiritual and physical life,” he says.
He points out that since 1900, the over-65 age group has increased from 4 percent of the U.S. population to 12 percent. “At the Institute,” he says, “our goal is not to increase life span; it is to learn how humans can develop a healthful long life so that we can live out our lives in comfort.
“Old age need not be synonymous with disease and disability. I don’t believe, for example, that it is the Lord’s will that people must live with terrible debilitations like Alzheimer’s.”
With this in mind, Jay Seegmiller may study healthy, aging Latter-day Saints. “Many Church members have traced their pedigrees back four generations, with the birth and death dates of every ancestor. We can pick out families with an unusual number of members with long life spans and try to determine what genetic factors might be at work,” he says.
Although sixty-eight years old, Dr. Seegmiller says he still feels like a young man. He certainly displays a youthful energy and enthusiasm when he talks about his work and about the Church. He has served in two bishoprics and as Sunday School president.
“I find a great many opportunities to talk about the Church and our healthy life-style,” he says. “Even before people meet me, they seem to find out that I’m a Mormon. I’m proud of it.”
Julia Mavimbela: Sowing Seeds in Soweto
Hanging prominently on a wall of Julia Mavimbela’s house in South Africa is a photograph of a white man with white hair. The picture is a curiosity to visitors who know Julia as a nationally recognized leader and champion of rights for the disadvantaged, especially black women and children.
When visitors ask why the picture hangs there, Sister Mavimbela smiles. The picture, she explains, is of the late President Spencer W. Kimball. And then she bears her testimony, often beginning with the words: “In the struggle for peace and justice, we must know who our friends are. This man, Spencer W. Kimball, was our friend. He was the Lord’s prophet, your prophet and mine.” Then she explains the 1978 revelation on priesthood and its significance for all black people.
Such discussions have led to the baptisms of many of Julia’s friends and acquaintances in Soweto, a township at the edge of Johannesburg. She serves as president of the Relief Society in the Soweto Branch and serves her community in many ways.
Sister Mavimbela is a missionary to all she meets. Not long ago, neighborhood children had gathered at her home as the missionaries showed some Church films. She spontaneously finished the evening by teaching more than fifty children the entire first verse of “I Am a Child of God.” None spoke English regularly at home, but many were learning it in school. After a few minutes of instruction from this gifted woman, the little impromptu choir sang robustly. When they concluded singing, Julia asked them in Zulu, “How many of you will go to your homes right now and teach this song to your families?” Every hand shot up. Then she told them when and where the Church meetings were and invited them to bring their families and come and sing again.
Born 20 December 1917, Julia Nqubeni was the youngest of five children. Her parents were schoolteachers; her father died when she was four. In school, she was required to learn both English and Afrikaans, in addition to her native Zulu tongue. As Julia acquired knowledge of the seven languages she now speaks, she became acutely aware of the immensity of the illiteracy problem among her countrymen—a problem she has worked tirelessly to eliminate.
At the Kilnerton Training Institute, taught by whites in high Afrikaans, Julia was offered a position assisting the matron of the school while pursuing her own degree in child and man psychology. The matron subsequently became ill, and Julia virtually ran the institution of more than three hundred young women. In 1940, having obtained her credentials, Julia became one of the first black female school principals in South Africa.
At seventy-two years of age, Julia is still teaching and serving with the vigor of a woman much younger. Her hair is graying, her face etched with fine lines from her smile and from years of working outdoors. Her hands are creased with knowledge of the soil and the handles of tools. Her way is simple, her voice soft and sincere.
At times, she is eloquent, as she was in her speech at the 1975 regional conference of the National Council of African Women, now called National Women of South Africa: “I give thanks to God that He has made me a woman. I give thanks to my Creator that He has made me Black, that he has fashioned me as I am, with hands, heart, head to serve my people.
“It can, it should be a glorious thing to be a woman. It is important for women to be aware of their common lot. It is important for women to stand together and rise together to meet our common enemies—illiteracy, poverty, crime, disease, and stupid, unjust laws that have made women feel so helpless as to be hopeless.”
In 1976, during political unrest throughout South Africa, Julia, a widow with five children, sold the store she had run since her husband’s death to focus more on her children’s needs. “In addition to negotiating with national and community leaders, I began organic gardening with four- to ten-year-olds, since many of their parents were out of work in the political disorder. Children began showing their parents gardening skills, which led to many new family gardens.
“Most families did not have enough ground for even a tiny garden. So we arranged to clean up a rodent-infested piece of ground. The owners would have been subject to a fine for failing to keep the property clean, so instead of making us pay to garden the spot, they allowed my little group of families to clear it and plant there. This was the beginning of family gardens.
“As others watched us struggle with the overgrowth of stubborn weeds, they too became involved, and I moved from corner to corner of Soweto replacing the useless and the ugly with the beneficial and beautiful.”
Besides growing vegetables to eat, Julia insisted there be flowers: “Where there was a blood stain, a beautiful flower must grow.”
Her gardening, work with health organizations, and efforts with women’s groups saw Julia repeatedly elected president of the National Women of South Africa. Women for Peace is an organization Julia founded to sponsor activities and playgrounds and to protect the rights of citizens before the law—particularly the rights of young people.
Of her many honors and associations, none has meant more to Julia than her first meeting with the missionaries in October 1981. At that time, it was still unusual for whites and blacks to interact. Within two months, however, she was baptized. Two of her daughters and several of her grandchildren have since joined the Church.
Sister Mavimbela sings in the Johannesburg stake choirs and continues to lead the Soweto Branch Relief Society. She has been sealed in the Johannesburg temple to her husband, John, and she attends there regularly.
The gospel, human rights, literacy, and self-sufficiency are the causes that define her life and fill her days. When asked how she came to be so concerned about other people, so eager to share, she says it must have begun when she was a young girl. Julia remembers a game she played with her little friends as they ate their lunch. “We played house, with that rock over there being the kitchen, this rock being the living room, and another rock over there being another room. Then we would each lay out the meager items in our lunches in the different ‘rooms’ and would ask each other, ‘What do you have there in the kitchen?’ and ‘What do you have there in the living room?’ and we would share our lunches in this playful way. I believe that was the beginning of my loving to share.”