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Mary Ann Grow Worthen - Memories of my Grandmother By James Asher DeLand

Received from Joyce Stewart

Mary Ann Grow Worthen

Memories of my Grandmother


James Asher DeLand

I came home from my first hitch in the United States Navy in August 1933.  Grandma (Mary Grow Worthen) was living in Hunter, Utah. Grandma was taking care of Uncle Ben's family of five boys. Their mother Jessie was hit by a careless driver and killed three years before while walking to the Hunter Ward house for choir practice.  Grandma raised the boys until Uncle Ben got a job in Los Angles and got settled.

At this time Grandma only had about 10% of her eye sight, even with glasses. She had a pair of reading glasses that looked like binoculars; with them on she could read the paper. She couldn't recognize anyone on the street except by their voice.  Even though she could not see, she would travel all over the country by herself.  She would ride the Tooele-Salt Lake Bus.  She would stand at the front gate of her home, the bus driver would stop and ask Grandma which direction she was going in.  If she was going to Magna to visit Aunt Julia or Aunt Sale, the driver would help her across the street.  If it was to Salt Lake he would help her on the bus. She didn't ask favors of anybody. She was as independent as a pig on ice.

When I got out of the Navy my wife and baby girl Pat came back to Magna.  Grandma would give us fresh milk every day for the baby.  So we saw Grandma every afternoon for many months.  Grandma loved to talk about the early days in the state; about the pioneers and the church.  Uncle Bill Treseder and the boys used to kid her about the church, so she didn't talk much about it.  My wife Ann was not a member of the church and was interested in learning more about it.  Grandma spent many hours telling about the early history of Utah and the church.  Grandma said she was her father's favorite and tagged along with him where ever he went so she got to know many of the early leaders of the church.  She never tired of telling stories or incidents that she either saw herself or was related to her by her father.

Grandma loved to talk about her father building the Tabernacle and delighted in telling and retelling the story of how the shape of the dome was decided on by President Brigham Young.  This is the way it was told to her by her father, Henry Grow.

I was walking down Main Street and just as I reached South Temple I was hailed by President Brigham Young who was walking west on South Temple.  President Young said "Henry, I want to talk to you about the lattice-truss type of construction you are using to build bridges; could it be used to build a large assembly hall; a great Tabernacle?  I asked President if he had any idea of the type of building he wanted.  As President Young and I were talking he was swinging his umbrella around and it opened up. President Young looked up at the umbrella as if suddenly inspired.  He pointed at the umbrella and said, "We will build it like that but with no post in the center, a large dome shaped roof"¯.  He stood there as though in deep thought, then his face lit up with a great smile and he turned to me and said; "Brother Henry, I want you to design and build this great Tabernacleā€¯.  I protested saying I was not worthy to be called or to accept such a responsible job.  President Young asked me why I wasn't worthy and I said, "Brother Brigham I just don't feel right unless I have my morning coffee"¯. President Young said "God bless you Brother Henry and your coffee too"¯.  Aunt Sale vouched for this account when I talked to her.

Later after Grandpa Grow and President Young had agreed on the final design, President Young was asked at the breakfast table what the new Tabernacle would look like and that is when he sliced a hardboiled egg in half-length wise and stood it up on tooth picks. Since then that is where President Youngā€™s decedents have said that was where the design came from. Some even credited Truman Angell with the design of the dome.

Grandma would astound us with the way she could throw a meal together; especially with her being blind and having to taste or smell everything. She would keep a box of roach powder on the same shelf as her spices. We would tell her she would poison herself someday, but that didn't bother her. One of her special belly warmers for cold weather was Oxtail soup with dumplings or braised Oxtail joints. She kept her milk and butter in an outside cellar, with a sod roof and screened window and door. There was water running thru it in a small ditch; always cool and fresh.

I remember from the time I was a little boy how every year Grandma would cook up and bottle her famous rhubarb syrup. That syrup would cure most anything you might think of. It was the only medicine I know that was pleasant to take. But, oh boy, her spring tonic was just the opposite. It was made out of sulfur and molasses, ugh!  

When my wife Ann began to get serious about the church, some of the neighbors were giving her contradictory information about the gospel. My wife went to Grandma and asked her to teach her about the church. Grandma reacted typical of her. She said to me; "Jay you drive us to Salt Lake City and I will take Ann to see President Heber J. Grant. That way Ann will know she is getting the right answers to her questions"¯. My wife was a Catholic and was shocked to think anybody could go to the President of the church and talk to him. Grandma said "I played with Heber on the streets of Salt Lake, I knew him when he was so poor his shirt tail hung out a hole in the seat of his pants"¯. When we got to the President's office Grandma said to his secretary; "tell him Mary Ann Grow Worthen wants to see him"¯. When we went in to the President's office Grandma said to him, "My grandson's wife is confused by the different views she is getting from the people in the ward, so I brought her to you so she can get the correct answers"¯. President Grant being the great and kind man he was took the time to instruct my wife in the truths of the gospel. He did this on several different occasions.

The last time I saw Grandma alive was August 1942, the day before I returned to the Navy. She came out to Aunt Sales to tell me goodbye. We were having a family dinner and I was feeling pretty blue about leaving my family and some of the family was against me for going and leaving my family. Grandma came to me and kissed me and said, "God bless you Jay, I'm proud of you"¯. I will always be grateful to Grandma for those words. Never again did I doubt I was doing the right thing; Grandma told me to get busy and lick those Germans and Japs and get the war over with. When it came time for me my wife and children to leave everyone came out side to say goodbye except Grandma. She gave me a big smile and a cheerful "take care of yourself"¯. I went outside but remembered I had left my hat in the house. As I stepped back in to the house I saw Grandma silently crying; big tears running down her cheeks. She heard my footsteps and quickly brushed the tears away. She asked who it was. I told her I had just forgotten my hat. I said goodbye again as I left the room she started to cry. This was the first time I ever saw Grandma show her feelings. She was always in control of her emotions so people didn't think she was a softy.

In the spring and summer of 1943, I was in the Aleutian Islands with my naval squadron. We were getting ready for the attack on Attu Island. The island was successfully retaken from the Japanese and we returned to Seattle to re-outfit and get in shape for the Kiska Island campaign before cold weather set in. It was a busy time, working around the clock with little time off. All leave was cancelled. On the night of August 12th I received a telephone call from my wife telling me Grandma was dying and wanted to see me. I told my wife I did't think I could get leave but would see what I could do. I talked with the Engineering Officer and the Personnel Officer; both said it was impossible to get leave. I requested to see the Executive Officer. The Lord must have been on my side because the Executive Officer said if it was cleared by the Red Cross I could have a 10 day leave. The Red Cross worker was a member of the church from Lehi, Utah. He put a call in to the Salt Lake Red Cross who checked with Aunt Julia and that night I was on my way home. Because of the conditions of the war I was delayed getting to Salt Lake and Grandma died an hour before I got there.  My wife told Grandma I was coming, so I think Grandma died knowing I was trying to get home.                      

Her services were held at the Deseret Mortuary with Bishop John Bawden of Ragtown as the principle speaker. Bishop Day of the Hunter Ward presided and I think Sister Wilkins of Hunter sang. The songs were; In The Garden,  A Pilgrim, Going Home and Oh My Father. Then we took Grandma to Pleasant Green Cemetery to be buried by her two sons.

Linked toMary Ann Grow

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