Portraits

By


David Fewster: Sending a Clear Signal

When Viking Radio began broadcasting in Humberside, England, in March 1984, the first voice broadcast was that of David Fewster, high councilor in the Hull England Stake.

Today, David is morning-time host as well as director of programming. Though more and more Church members are beginning to appear in various areas of British public life, David is still the only full-time LDS radio broadcaster in Britain. He says, “I consider this a privilege and an honor to represent, in a sense, Latter-day Saints in the media.”

When his mother’s sister died from asthma at age twenty-two, David and his family searched for the answers to some of life’s hard questions. They invited the local full-time missionaries, Elders Berrett and Godfrey, into their home to teach the gospel to David, then ten years old, and his father. Both were baptized, and David’s mother, already a member, returned to Church activity.

“It has been one of my biggest frustrations that I can’t personally thank those missionaries. We lost touch, and I have no idea where they are,” he laments.

As a new member of the Church, David lost no time in becoming involved. He was one of the first in Britain to take home-study seminary. Mutual played its part, too. “I received all four of the Liahona Awards,” he recalls. “It was the highlight of my life.”

Another highlight occurred when he married Kathleen Fountain, whose family lived in the Hull area. David and Kathleen had been invited to be best man and bridesmaid at the wedding of their best friends. They met at a pre-wedding meeting. Soon they had decided to follow their friends into marriage. “There was something very special about Kathleen, right from the outset,” David comments. “When my mother asked me if I planned to see her again, I immediately replied, ‘Yes, she’s going to be my wife.’”

Now members of the Beverley Branch, in the Hull stake, David and Kathleen have four daughters—Louise, twelve; Helen, nine; Sarah, six, and Rebecca, three. David, an only child, quips, “Living in a household of females has really been an education. It’s good that I get up at 5:30 A.M., otherwise I’d never stand a chance of getting into the bathroom!”

David’s interest in radio began the summer he was fourteen, when he and friend Timothy Lindop built a “radio station” in Timothy’s bedroom, transmitting to a speaker in the Lindop kitchen. The boys broadcast all day long during the summer holidays, interspersing chat with music. “Mrs. Lindop was really a good sport,” David remembers. “We had only one hour-long tape of music, and we played it over and over again.”

His introduction to radio work as a profession came when, as a hospital volunteer, he broadcast a daily live program for the radio station at the Warrington General Hospital in Cheshire. This assignment covered twelve years.

The next step was free-lance work for Red Rose, a Preston-based station. “I had invited their program manager onto my hospital show and, on the air, he invited me to apply for a job with his station,” David remembers. He began work with Red Rose in 1982, then moved to full-time work in Wrexham with Marcher Sound in 1983. When Viking began broadcasting in 1984, David returned to his home town of Hull for this new assignment.

David has developed such a following of faithful listeners that when he had a leg injury and was confined to bed at home, the station was flooded with calls asking why he wasn’t broadcasting. So Viking hooked up a broadcast-quality line to David’s home so that he could continue his programming.

“My Church membership is well known at the station,” David says, “and I frequently get into very positive discussions about the Church with staff members.” Some think it strange that someone with high ideals and standards can work within the “pop music” world. In reply, David just shrugs his shoulders and suggests that perhaps pop music audiences need that influence as much as any.

From time to time, David’s work has placed him in some unusual situations. He occasionally produces documentaries for Viking Radio, and recently he broadcast interviews with convicted criminals from within a maximum security prison. Earlier he produced a series entitled “A Day in the Life,” detailing various occupations, which found him perched precariously over the North Sea in a helicopter with an air-sea rescue unit. Another time, to help demonstrate rescue techniques, he agreed to be “rescued” from a house after the fire brigade set it afire. “At least I got a certificate out of it,” he recalls. “They said that the fire reached 500 degrees. I couldn’t get rid of the burning smell for weeks.”

In addition to his service on the Hull stake high council, David is the public communications director for the north of England. In this assignment, his knowledge of the media is put to good use, helping in the important task of bringing the Church “out of obscurity and out of darkness.” (D&C 1:30.)

David sees the media as an essential tool for spreading the gospel. “The most limiting factor in missionary work,” he says, “is the current public perception that Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians. We can best change that misconception through effective use of the media—and that’s my intent!”

He helped to do just that last Christmas when he produced and narrated an hour-long Mormon Tabernacle Choir “special” to a prospective audience of some 30 million. “In the program it was made very clear that Latter-day Saints are Christians,” David explains.

Then he concludes, “The Church means everything to me. It has brought our family closer together, helped me find a companion for the eternities, and has been an all-important anchor in my job. In the future I want to give to others what I have gained—a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

[photo] Photo by Bryan J. Grant

Bryan J. Grant lives in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where he is Public Communications Director for the British Isles/Africa Area.

Marilyn Romriell: Creativity Is Her Antidote

After changing into a swimsuit, seventeen-year-old Marilyn Romriell from McCammon, Idaho, charged to the side of the Lava Hot Springs pool to dive in. She must have slipped, for the next thing she remembers is a stunning blow to her head, then sinking to the bottom of the pool, unable to move. She was brought back to the surface, by a lifeguard and a Scoutmaster, who administered artificial respiration until a doctor arrived.

For thirty years now, Marilyn has been completely paralyzed from a broken neck. The dreams and plans of a lifetime had changed in an instant. But Marilyn Romriell has not changed. She has great faith in a loving Father in Heaven and in a Savior whose suffering has given her life meaning and perspective.

When Marilyn was first released from the hospital, she was confined totally to bed. Her family placed her bed in the living-room doorway so that she could communicate with visitors and be part of the comings and goings at the front door. As time passed, her horizons broadened as she was able to be strapped upright in a wheelchair some of the time. In this position she has learned to type on an electric typewriter by holding a stick in her teeth to strike the keys. This has enabled her to keep a journal through the many years since her accident. “The things we do, the books we read,” Marilyn wrote in a journal entry, “are reflections of our thoughts and what we as persons are like.”

Just prior to her accident, Marilyn had completed her junior year of high school. She was intent on earning her diploma, yet couldn’t attend school. But with incredible determination and help from her teachers, Marilyn was able to finish her studies at home and graduate. Then she took some college classes by correspondence, with family members doing the foot- and handwork.

In her own way, and with help where needed, Marilyn has spent many hours in various Church positions and activities. She considers that one of the most important achievements of her life was earning the Golden Gleaner award from the Church, formerly awarded to young women. It was difficult meeting the requirements, but ultimately she was ready and the General Board approved.

Marilyn has served the Church and community in usual and unusual ways. She has been instrumental in encouraging many students to enroll in seminary and has written hundreds of letters to missionaries, college students, and servicemen. Through the years, she has sung in the ward choir and been active in the local Single Adult group. Her love extends to everyone, including the children at the school next door, who come often to Marilyn’s home to practice reading aloud to her. Although Marilyn can enjoy the “freedom” of her wheelchair for a few hours at most, she uses those hours well. She has been able to take advantage of the blessings of temple attendance. In addition to her Church activities, she was assistant coach for a local softball team for eighteen years.

In 1979, Marilyn started on yet another ambitious project—she signed up for a painting class. With her wheelchair, long stick brushes that she holds in her teeth, and custom-made palette, easel, and clamps, she has created breathtaking oil and acrylic portraits of the beauties of the earth. Today, after years of preparation, her paintings are reproduced on greeting cards. The inside is blank so it can be used for any occasion; Marilyn’s remarkable story is printed on the back.

In addition, Marilyn writes inspirational prose and poetry. One of her poems, “Friendship,” was published in a national magazine.

Marilyn loves to visit and reminisce. Everyone who comes to see her enjoys a lively conversation. One time the subject might be the scriptures, which she studies diligently as she turns the pages by means of a rubber-tipped stick held between her teeth. Another day’s conversation might center on world happenings, which Marilyn keeps abreast of by watching television.

Marilyn’s countenance radiates love and cheer, and her gentle humor makes all who meet her feel at ease in her presence. “I know the Lord has a mission for me,” she confides. Anyone who knows Marilyn knows how productive her life has been. Her lively sense of humor is reflected in the message of a sign that hangs above her bed: “I am not loafing.”

To those around her, Marilyn Romriell’s life is an inspiration.

[photo] Photography by Jed A. Clark

Virginia B. Allen lives in the McCammon, Idaho, Marsh Creek Ward, where she is an extractor in the genealogy extraction program and editor of the ward newsletter.

Ellis Tolman: A Scout for All Seasons

“Well, howdy there, Sister Hull.” The stranger’s voice boomed out of his smile as he stood in my kitchen. “I just thought I’d bring you a few tomatoes from the garden. You weren’t here so I brought ’em inside for you. Some nice zucchini in the sack, too.”

I had just walked in, and there he was. After getting over the initial shock, realizing he wasn’t a burglar, I became acquainted with perhaps the most interesting person in my new neighborhood. He had been practically an institution in the Pocatello (Idaho) First Ward since 1910.

John Ellis Tolman, now in his eighties, seems to have walked out of another, far simpler time. His clothes are timeless—a blue cotton work shirt, denim bib overalls, leather boots, and a bright red bandanna around his neck. When it’s cold outside, the scarf is pulled up to mask his face like a western bandit’s.

Brother Tolman’s appearance is crowned with a flat-brimmed Mounties’ hat, the type Scoutmasters wore in the 1930s. When the sun is bright, he dons sunglasses. It doesn’t matter to Brother Tolman that the modern glasses don’t match the rest of his outfit. Most mornings he carries over his shoulder a long stick with a big gunnysack attached to one end as he walks east, past our window. Hours later he returns, walking westward, the sack bulging with empty aluminum cans.

Brother Tolman is the proud possessor of Scouting’s Silver Beaver Award and has been a dues-paying member of the Boy Scouts of America for more than fifty years now. He is a Boy Scout who lives the Scout law. He and my son Sam were soon close friends.

A Scout is thrifty …

“People are very wasteful,” he told me one day. “But if you gather aluminum cans faithfully, in about a period of a month and a half you can gather about fifty dollars’ worth of cans. In about four months’ time I can save enough from selling cans for my wife and me to go to Sacramento and back. The pop and beer drinkers pay for it.”

Did he feel it a personal duty to keep the town clean of cans? I asked.

He smiled. “Somebody’s got to do it.”

A Scout is clean …

Frequently, Brother Tolman waxes philosophical. “Let me tell you something about this here gathering cans,” he told me. “If you’re going to be a can collector, you gotta open yer eyes and keep ’em open, and keep yer eye on the can. If you play baseball, or any kind of ball, isn’t that what you gotta do? Keep yer eye open for that ball, every second.

“Same thing with cans. Look out fer cans and nothin’ but. Soon that’s the only thing yer eye’ll stop on. Like Scoutin’ the hills fer rabbits … ‘Cept with cans, you look for every weed and telephone pole a can might be hidin’ behind. And concentrate on what yer doin’. Don’t stop to count how many you got in yer sack or it’ll never fill up. That’s clock watchin’.”

A Scout is brave …

In coldest winter storms Brother Tolman diligently gathers up what cans he can find, kicking them out of the snow while the rest of us huddle inside around a fire.

A Scout is friendly …

We have had flowers and vegetables from the Tolman garden, and so have many others, especially widows. We have had rhubarb tonic (as my husband calls it), raspberry bush starts, and homemade fudge.

One winter morning, years later, as he walked by without his sack over his shoulder, I called and invited him in from the cold. He said that his back was bothering him, so I asked what he would do. “I’ve got to get busy,” he answered. “I’m going to do a little wood-burning. Tell me the date Sammy got his Eagle Award, will you?”

A few days later he knocked again, late enough to be sure Sam would be home from school. He had a glorious smile on his face and was carrying a ten-inch cross-cut slab of red cedar, beautifully varnished. On it was emblazoned Sam’s name, the date he received his Eagle Award, the complete Scout Law and Oath (and everything else he could burn into it pertaining to Scouting ideals: “Be Prepared … Do a Good Turn Daily …”).

This is something to help you remember your duty, Sammy,” Ellis Tolman said proudly. “I’ve made them for my grandsons, too.”

A Scout is …

On and on. There isn’t a Scout Law Ellis Tolman doesn’t keep.

Eleven years have passed since I first found him standing in my kitchen. His step has slowed some, but I still have to pick up my pace to keep up with the aging Boy Scout. Most mornings I still see him in his overalls, thirties-style Scoutmaster’s hat, red bandanna, and sunglasses, carrying a gunnysack on the end of a long stick as he walks downtown to fill it with cans careless people have thrown by the wayside. As he said, somebody’s got to do it.

[photo] Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff

Marilyn Nash Hull, a homemaker and free-lance writer, is now a member of the San Jose (California) Third Ward.