On the Move in Milano
Tullio De Ruvo should know the Church organization in northern Italy fairly well by now. There are two stakes in Italy, in Milan and Venice, and he has served as executive secretary in both.
He was called to be executive secretary in Milan after he moved there because of an employment opportunity. In his mid-twenties, Tullio holds a responsible position with a firm that imports and sells high-tech electronics equipment. He and his wife Francesca (whom he met through Young Adult activities before his mission) now have a young son. But not long ago (1984–86) he was serving in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission.
Tullio joined the Church with other family members at age twelve after a strong spiritual witness of its truth. He recalls that when he was in his mid-teens, he found it difficult to hold to Church standards because of the influence of some of his peers. But at about seventeen, he began to turn back to gospel truths.
Shortly afterward, he was called into the army. It was fortunate that this came after he had begun his spiritual change. “It sounds strange, but my time in the army was probably one of the most spiritual periods in my life.” He spent many hours studying the scriptures.
His study was good preparation for a mission. In Utah, he found his gospel knowledge tested by anti-LDS people he met in proselyting. His mission became a period of much more intensive, broader gospel study for him. Hungering to know more, Tullio built a library of more than one hundred Church books before returning home to Italy.
His mission experience has left him very missionary-minded. An enthusiastic, outgoing person, he doesn’t hesitate to talk about the gospel at any opportunity. “If we could be more open with others in sharing what we have, the Church could grow much faster,” he says.—, Associate Editor
The Curtain Call Isn’t All
Joyce Smith still laughs about the time when, as a young girl, she stood up to give a reading and forgot her lines. After a minute or two of agonizing silence, she fled down the aisle and went home.
She has come a long way since then. Over the past forty years, Joyce has given many successful performances and directed outstanding productions.
Her commitment to excellence is well known in the Salt Lake Valley. Several years ago when she directed members of the Salt Lake Grant Stake in The Music Man, Elder G. Homer Durham of the First Quorum of the Seventy told her afterward, “I have seen this play performed in London and in New York, but this is the best show I have seen.”
Joyce believes drama can provide an invaluable service in the Church because it offers a great opportunity for everyone to develop and express their talents and fosters “a marvelous sense of family and unity which endures.”
Beyond praying with every cast at every performance, Joyce sends thank-you notes to everyone involved with a show. She obtains a commitment to excellence from the cast because she gives it herself. What gives the most strength to her talent and leadership, though, is her great love for people. Those she works with love to do their best to please her.—, Salt Lake City, Utah
Una Kathleen Hillier belongs to a rather select group in the Church. She is one of the few sisters ever to be set apart as a Sunday School superintendent. Normally, that has been a priesthood calling.
When the Hillier family arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1935, there was no functioning local Church unit. A Sunday School had been organized in 1917 but had disbanded in 1926. In 1937, another attempt was made, but within five months, the Sunday School superintendent moved. As is often the case when membership is sparse, there was a dearth of priesthood leadership. And so the mission president set apart Una Hillier, a young mother at the time, as second assistant superintendent “until such time as there are resident priesthood holders to fill these callings.”
For the next seven and a half years, the full-time missionaries came and went, serving as superintendents, but Sister Hillier provided continuity and solid leadership in her calling as second assistant. She served under eight superintendents, then for two and a half years she served as superintendent. When a priesthood holder was present to administer the sacrament, the Sunday meetings became sacrament meetings. Steadily, the growth in the area saw greater priesthood support, and Sister Hillier was released from her calling.
Now ninety-seven years old, Una has long been a force for good in the Victoria British Columbia Canada Stake, where, besides serving as Sunday School superintendent, she was at various times a Relief Society president, a Primary teacher, a Gospel Doctrine teacher, a teacher trainer, a Junior Sunday School coordinator, a visiting teacher, and a chorister.
Visitors to the elderly Sister Hillier today are often treated to lessons on local Church history. Una is a living chronicle of the early days of the Church in Victoria, and she’s a lesson in faith and endurance to all who visit her.—, Victoria, British Columbia
Playing professional football with the Oakland Raiders brought Burgess Owens some unforgettable experiences, both on the field and off. One of those off-the-field experiences—and it had nothing to do with football—changed his life.
“My wife, Josie, and I were drawn to Todd and Kathy Christensen, because they were family-oriented,” Burgess recalls. “But I never asked them about religion because I grew up thinking Mormons were racist. I didn’t want to dislike the Christensens, so I just didn’t ask them anything. But after I spent a Thanksgiving dinner in their home, something happened.”
That year, 1982, Josie had remained in the East during the National Football League players’ strike, and Burgess was going to be alone for Thanksgiving. Invited to a number of friends’ homes, he chose Todd and Kathy’s. While there, he met the missionaries, and he “left with a positive impression.”
Several weeks later the strike ended, and Josie returned to California. She and Kathy resumed their friendship, and Kathy invited Josie to attend church with her the next day while their husbands were away for a game. “When I walked in and saw all the children, I felt so comfortable, and so did our daughter, Sumner,” Josie recalls.
When Burgess returned from a road trip, Josie adds, “I told him, ‘This is it. I loved it.’” Josie then described her experiences at church and encouraged him to attend. The next week, they attended together and began taking the missionary discussions. By the seventh discussion, they were ready to be baptized—except for one thing. Burgess began to have some questions about why blacks had not been able to hold the priesthood until 1978. He was directed to the mission president, who, without even knowing what his questions were, told Burgess, “The Lord will give you just what you need to know to make the next step. He expects you to have the faith to take the second step.”
Burgess had grown up in Florida, where he had been troubled by what he thought of as “hypocritical philosophies of ‘love thy brother, but don’t accept thy black brother.’” It was this concern that had kept him and Josie from pursuing religion at all, until their first daughter was born.
“But something kept us going this time,” Brother Owens adds. “I realized that I had a small testimony. Though it wasn’t as strong as it is now, I realized that it wasn’t my place to try to figure it all out at once. I am always growing, gaining wisdom. It occurred to me that if I had to be certain about every single detail, we couldn’t take the next step. I had had sufficient witnesses from the Spirit and had seen enough. I knew enough that what I felt was true and good, so we were baptized. It was the best decision we’ve ever made.”
After Burgess retired from football, he and Josie started a family business in New York, where they now live in the Plainview Second Ward and where Burgess serves as a counselor in the New York New York Mission presidency. “Our friendship with Todd and Kathy,” Brother Owens says, “has taken on an eternal significance, as has our own marriage and family.”—, Provo, Utah
Wheeler the Clown
“I loved those clowns,” says Dave Kelley of Rose Park, Utah. “I always wanted to be one.”
“Those clowns” Dave is referring to are the clowns who visited him in the hospital. Born with spina bifida, Dave has a 90-degree curve in his spine. From the time he was four until he was sixteen, his life was filled with one operation after another. He spent as much time in the hospital as he did at home. Today, Dave, as Wheeler the Clown, has fulfilled his dream, and he performs in the same hospital where he once stayed as a child.
Because of his wheelchair, few people took Dave seriously nine years ago when he started asking how to get into clowning. But that didn’t discourage him. When he noticed a small ad in the newspaper asking for clowns to perform in the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City, he knew this was his chance. He went to the meeting and took the suggested seminars. “I bought some whiteface makeup, a clown outfit, a wig—and Wheeler the Clown was born,” remembers Dave.
“When I rolled myself down Main Street for the first time as Wheeler, I knew I was addicted. I loved making people laugh.”
Dave has encouraged his entire family to become clowns. His wife, Arlene, also in a wheelchair, becomes Balloonee. Their two children, nine-year-old Frank and five-year-old Clarissa, also don their costumes and join in the fun. Frank becomes Chuck L. Berry, a sad-faced tramp clown, and Clarissa becomes Baby Bubbles, a white-faced clown with a wide smile.
Always ready to take on a challenge, Dave accepts his Church callings willingly. Currently Cubmaster to twenty-five boys, he plans the pack meetings and attends Webelos Woods, Cub Country, and day camp. He even participates on the overnight campouts. Arlene serves as a visiting teaching supervisor.
Rarely without a pocketful of balloons, Dave is ready to clown with or without his costume. One afternoon after a doctor’s appointment at the hospital, Dave noticed a young boy and his mother near the burn unit. “He was bandaged up to his neck,” says Dave, “so I pulled some balloons out of my pocket, blew them up, and twisted them into an animal-figure for him. The boy smiled at me. Then his mother said, with tears in her eyes, ‘That’s the first time he’s smiled since the accident.’ Now, that’s what clowning is all about.”