A Witt That Won’t Quit
Though bedfast with multiple sclerosis (MS), Leonard Witt thrives on his wonderful wit and his compelling gift of gab. And so do those around him.
For the past twenty years, since MS began to cripple his nervous system and weaken his physical body, Leonard has had to rely on his own faith, his devoted wife, Irma, and the memories of all the good things of his life to that point. As his health deteriorated, this very active and busy sociology professor suddenly found that confinement was more challenging than the disease itself.
But even MS is no match for the remarkable spirit housed inside his ailing body. He credits his wife for much of his contentment. With five children involved in a variety of activities, Irma has had a lot to do to keep things going, but her greatest concern is helping her husband feel involved in all that takes place.
“It takes a great deal of determination for Len to insist that the children lead as normal a life as possible,” she says, commenting on the challenges of adjusting to his illness.
The family’s home teachers have made arrangements with the high school to bring in videotapes of the athletic games involving the Witt children so Leonard doesn’t have to miss them completely, and the high priests group helps out with meals and support when the rest of the family is away for any period of time.
“I don’t worry about a thing,” says Leonard. “I’m surrounded by many wonderful people. I have absolutely no regrets. The things that keep me going are the things that matter: life’s meaning, faith in God, fun memories, my admiration and appreciation for others’ accomplishments, a sense of humor, nature’s beauty, and good friends.”
A memorable example of Leonard’s gift of gab and his wit once saved his life in a danger-filled situation. While working on his doctorate, he had a job in a finance company. As he came back from lunch one day, he discovered that the secretary was being held at gunpoint by a former delinquent customer, who came in to rob them.
Leonard still chuckles a bit nervously at the memory of that moment when he walked toward the robber—whom he noticed was very nervous—and said, “Dick, ol’ boy! What the heck are you doing here?”
Appearing disoriented, the robber thrust the .38 caliber pistol against Leonard’s stomach and said, “Hi, Len.” Leonard’s prayers were desperate, and he remembers saying, after a quick prayer, “What kind of crazy joke are you pulling on me anyway, Dick?”
Although the gun remained pointed at Leonard, the man said, “I knew this was your office, and I just wanted to play a little prank on you.” The two joked back and forth in an awkward sort of way, with the gun still thrust against Leonard, and the secretary began to think it had been a joke on her. She screamed at both men hysterically and left the room.
She immediately called Irma to tell her what was going on, and Irma explained that he would never joke that way, adding that he was still in great danger. Soon they had the police there to capture the man.
Leonard’s wit came to his aid on that day, and those around him today feel they are blessed by his frequent jokes and his good humor. But Leonard Witt doesn’t consider himself all that extraordinary: Life is just too full of experiences, he explains, to ever want to quit.—, Fort Washington, Maryland
Citius, Altius, Fortius. The words in Latin mean “faster, higher, stronger.” They characterize the aims of Marcus Stuart Howard, a member of the Glendale Second Ward, Glendale California Stake.
At the age of eighty-three, Brother Howard won a gold medal in the shot put and a bronze in horseshoe pitching at the World Senior Games, held October 1989 in St. George, Utah. And in 1990, he earned a silver medal in baseball at the Senior Sports Festival sponsored by the city of Burbank, California.
Always wanting to improve himself, Marcus has given his best to be precise. Whether he is throwing a ball with keen accuracy or making straight rows in his vegetable garden, Marcus Howard is pursuing and has always pursued excellence.
As a young man, he scored first place in the civil service examination on botanical species, qualifying him to work in landscaping for the Board of Education. With his sunny disposition and his love for plants and birds and nature, he coaxed flowers and shrubs to thrive around public buildings. Even after retirement, he worked hard at various jobs until he reached age eighty-one.
He and his wife, Helen Young Howard, had seven children and lived in Glendale for more than thirty-seven years.
Brother Howard recalls that the excitement of participating in the senior games was wonderful. “Your heart pounds, your stomach churns, your muscles ache, and you know you’re really alive. What fun it is to challenge yourself!”—, Pasadena, California
When adversity afflicted Grace Forsyth, of Sugar City, Idaho, she found the courage to make of that affliction a cable of strength and an anchor of faith. A mother, homemaker, and leader of women, Grace had learned to look well to the ways of her household and to not eat the bread of idleness. (See Prov. 31:27–28.)
But while she was returning from a welfare meeting in November 1977, Grace’s car was struck broadside by another car, driven by an intoxicated driver. Knocked unconscious, Grace received massive nerve damage and many broken bones. Months of hospitalization followed, then trips to specialists around the United States. In the thirteen years since the accident, Grace has not been free of extensive pain; yet, though homebound, she has managed to find ways to give to others while developing her talents.
“Much of my strength and endurance come from the constant prayers and blessings of family,” Grace says. “Two blessings, especially, have sustained me—one given by my husband, Marion, and one given by my son, Kirk. Kirk petitioned the Lord, asking that if the pain could not be taken from me, I would be given the strength to endure it.” Her faith in this blessing has been her anchor amid adversity.
Skilled at needlecraft, Grace has made hundreds of crocheted articles and intricately patterned afghans. She pieces quilts and designs her own patterns. Each of her seven children has one of her quilts, as do most of her twenty-three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
With the scriptures in her heart and love and compassion on her tongue, Grace teaches and blesses her family with an exemplary attitude. “Life is a challenge,” she tells them often. “With the Lord’s help, we must just do the best we can from day to day.”—, Rexburg, Idaho
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