Sweet “Pickles”

Brian Crane first got the idea for “Pickles,” his nationally syndicated comic strip about the elderly, while he was living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, during the early 1980s. “We lived in an old neighborhood near the temple with all these old people around us,” he says. “They were so neat. We just loved them.” Further motivation came because he noticed that, in general, “newspapers aren’t interested in the elderly, even though they make up the bulk of the readership.”

Brother Crane began drawing “Pickles” in 1987 but was rejected by three syndicates. The comic strip finally appeared for the first time in twenty-four newspapers on April Fool’s Day in 1990. Featuring characters named Earl and Opal Pickles, their grown-up daughter Sylvia, and Muffin the cat, “Pickles” is now carried by some 150 newspapers through the Washington Post Syndicate.

“I make sure to never show the characters drinking a cup of coffee or smoking cigarettes or doing anything I don’t think a Church member would do,” Brother Crane says. “I’ve never been happier in my life.”

The Cranes live with five of their seven children in Sparks, Nevada, a bedroom community of Reno. Their oldest son is on a mission, and a daughter attends Ricks College. Brother Crane served a mission to Uruguay and subsequently earned an art degree from Brigham Young University. He currently teaches seminary in the Sparks Second Ward, Sparks Nevada Stake.

[photo] Photo by Michael Lewis

Standing Tall

In the back of her mind, Dawnne Casey believes she will walk again someday. “But that isn’t as significant to me anymore,” she says, sitting in the office where she works as a technical assistant for the Provo, Utah, school district’s special programs for the disabled.

Using a wheelchair since age thirteen, Dawnne says that what is important to her now is getting the most out of each day. Not only does she help children through her day job, but she serves adults as well at an intermediate care facility where she works at night. She also serves as chairperson of a Utah state board of education advisory committee for students with disabilities and as Relief Society secretary in the Springville Utah Stake.

“She’s one of the busiest people I know,” says Jana Bliss, a school psychologist who has worked with Dawnne for the past ten years. “She’s also one of the most optimistic.”

A native of New Jersey, Dawnne says she learned optimism from her brother Michael, who was born with a deformed left arm. “Actually,” says Mike, “we both fed off the positive attitude of each other.” Mike was determined not to let anything stop him from participating in athletics. Fitted with an artificial arm, he played Little League baseball and football and received most valuable player honors three times. Later, he threw the javelin for Brigham Young University’s track team. Dawnne and Michael also have a brother who lost a leg at age thirteen.

Nadine Casey of Gibbsboro, New Jersey, says that positive attitude helped prevent her children’s disabilities from getting the best of them. “They were born with determination,” she says. Dawnne credits her parents for making certain she received psychological and spiritual rehabilitation as well as physical rehabilitation after she was paralyzed.

“The children at school love Dawnne because of her empathy and her understanding of their problems,” says Jana Bliss. “She makes others feel good about themselves. She is one of the strongest women I know. I no longer see her as a person in a wheelchair—I see her as a tall, strong woman.”Alf Pratte, Provo, Utah

Gospel Globe-Trotters

The overseas gospel adventures of Louis and June Eldredge and their six children began in 1966, when the United States government assigned Brother Eldredge, a civil engineer, to work in Bangkok for several years. While staying in a hotel there, family members met “George,” an orphaned teenager who would come to have great meaning in their lives and to the spread of the gospel in Thailand.

When the family moved 150 miles north to Korat, George joined them. Soon the Eldredges were welcoming dozens of Latter-day Saint servicemen from nearby military bases into their home. In 1967 the Eldredges decided to adopt George, whose real name is Anan, and on Christmas Eve of that year he was baptized by his new father. Soon the gatherings at the Eldredge home began to include many young Thais, and Anan taught them the gospel and translated hymns into Thai for them. When the first missionaries came to Thailand in 1968, Anan was asked to teach them Thai and help translate the discussions. After the Eldredge family returned home to California, Anan received a mission call to Bangkok and went back to his homeland to preach the gospel. Later in his life he supervised the translation of the scriptures into Thai and served as a mission president in Thailand.

Meanwhile, the other Eldredges were having further gospel adventures overseas. In the early 1970s Brother Eldredge worked in DaNang and Saigon, South Vietnam, where he served as a district president, oversaw membership and financial records, and worked closely with the few missionaries serving there. When the Viet Cong invasion became imminent, Brother Eldredge remained as long as possible in Saigon to negotiate with the United States Embassy for the safe departure of Vietnamese Saints. While assisting in the evacuation of members, two native Vietnamese Church leaders became trapped at a roadblock and were imprisoned for many years, though both eventually made it to the United States.

In 1975 the Eldredges went to Islamabad, Pakistan, where they worshipped with a small group of expatriates and shared the gospel with many people. Later, after spending a year learning French in Washington, D.C., Brother and Sister Eldredge went to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from where Brother Eldredge monitored projects for his work in twenty-four African countries. While there, the Eldredges attended Church meetings in a distant village and also held them in their own home. After Brother Eldredge retired, he and his wife continued to accept consulting assignments from time to time. In 1986 they went to Bangladesh to work until 1989, and in 1991 they served a full-time mission in Thailand.

Several Eldredge children and grandchildren have also served missions to Thailand; altogether, family members have contributed about 22 years of Church work there. “We like to think that the Lord used us as tools to prepare paths by which his work could be successfully accomplished,” says Sister Eldredge. Brother and Sister Eldredge are members of the Bloomington First Ward, Bloomington Utah Stake.

In the Spotlight

  • On the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Future Homemakers of America (FHA), Joyce Wolfgang Williams was named to the FHA National Leadership Hall of Fame. A former state president, state adviser, and chapter mother, she was cited for her professional success and community service and for being a role model for youth. She is a member of the Carrollwood Second Ward, Tampa Florida Stake.

  • Michael J. Stevens of the El Paso Ninth Ward, El Paso Texas Mount Franklin Stake, was recently honored by the National Academy of Management for producing the best doctoral dissertation in an international competition. While at Purdue University in Indiana, he wrote his dissertation on staffing work teams. Currently he is an assistant professor of management at the University of Texas at El Paso.

  • Tanya McKinnon of Randolph, Utah, was awarded the title of Miss Rodeo America 1996 in a national competition with 33 contestants. Last year the 21-year-old was named the 1995 Miss Rodeo Utah at the Days of ’47 Rodeo, and in 1992 she was the national Miss Rodeo High School. She is a student at Utah State University.