Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cole Wilkes On to Florida

Cole Wilkes, oldest son of Rob and Chardell Wilkes 5 offspring, has been called to serve the Lord and His children in the Florida Tallahassee Mission.  He notes he is excited to serve and feels more prepared since studying more intently and watching every episode of The District before he entered the Provo MTC on Wednesday, Oct. 12.  When he submitted his mission paperwork, he said he would “go where you want me to go, Dear Lord.  Just don’t send me to Florida where there are snakes and crocodiles.”  After recovering from his surprise at being called to the Sunshine State, the 2015 Desert Hills High School graduate was told most of his mission will likely be served in Arkansas.

Possibly the first missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Florida was Phineas Young, who served a two-month mission in 1845. The first missionaries were not well-received. From 1869 to 1929 law officers met each train arriving in Tallahassee and prevented Latter-day Saint elders from getting off. As late as 1895, history notes  two elders were arrested and given the choice to leave or pay a $200 fine. In 1898, one Church congregational leader was murdered. In spite of such persecution, missionaries continued to preach in Florida. The state's first official Church congregation was created in Jefferson County in 1897. By 1904 there were 1,230 Church members in Florida.

Church growth in Florida was slow until Latter-day Saints from the West moved there, drawn by a strong commerce and the aerospace industry.

Today church membership exceeds 152,000 in 251 congregations in 5 missions and two temples are busy doing the work of salvation in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Farewell, Brother Goettig

Manfred (Fred) Albert Goettig, 76, passed away October 4, 2016 at his home in Bloomington, Utah. Born May 12, 1940 in Kassel, Germany, Fred was one of three children of Konrad and Hilde (Flurer) Goettig, including his sister Hannalore and a stepsister named Claudia. As a small child, Fred was given the nickname of Jockel by his grandmother.  German for “rooster,” his Oma would sing “you are my little rooster, little rooster, my boy.”  After his marriage, his favorite nickname was Dad in response to his four children and two adopted children.  Later in life, he loved being called Opa by any of his 15 grandchildren.

Fred began his mortal journey during the great conflict of World War II.  His father was a train conductor who was away from home a great deal transporting supplies, so rarely saw his children. Fred’s mother was a professional chef and a baker of the finest pastries.  Fred was a typical boy growing up in a difficult situation. The war took him, his mother and sister to find safety in bombed out Koln where his mother's parents and siblings lived.

Most of his early memories were of life in Koln. Even as a young child, Fred thought of himself as a protector of others. One of his earliest memories in Koln is a great example.  During the morning hours he was behind his house playing in a dirt pile with his sister.  Suddenly air raid sirens went off.  In recalling this instance, he remembered grabbing his little sister's arm and running for their house.  As they ran home bombs began raining down from the sky in an attack on the nearby airbase.  During the raid a plane crashed into the field where they had been playing.  In the arms of their mother, they rushed to the basement of their 3-story home.  While sheltered in the basement, their home was hit by an incendiary bomb destroying everything above their heads. When it was safe, they ran together finding refuge in a nearby house.

Fred frequently commented that no child should have to endure war, recalling a time when he survived a bomb dropping on his house leaving death everywhere in the streets.  He recalled the horror of being taken from their home by the Gestapo and sent by train to a farm work camp in the city of Zahna by the Polish/Czechoslovakian border to help with the war effort. The town was captured by the Russian army, and Fred remembered soldiers lining up people and playing Russian roulette on him and his family members.  The soldiers also did other atrocities, which Fred struggled to talk about. After a time they were able to escape back to allied occupied Germany and back to Kassel. This escape was aided by a Russian soldier who befriended Fred’s mother making it possible to flee to safety by sneaking on a train and heading west. Even though he went through so much, one of the things he remembered most was when the American soldiers gave him and his little sister Hershey’s chocolate bars and showed kindness.

When he got back to Koln everything had been destroyed, but he never lost faith in his Heavenly Father or his testimony of the truthfulness of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He remembered meeting to worship on Sundays in a bombed out house.  The family’s knowledge of the gospel and the Plan of Happiness helped them through the hard times including the trials of war and life to follow.  Fred was about eight years old he was baptized in a river by an Elder Schmidt.  He told his family on the day he was baptized the elders had to break the ice to give him a place to have the baptism.

Soon after his baptism, Fred was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB), likely resulting from the after effects of war.  In those days, patients were treated in sanitoriums, so his mother put her 8-year-old son on a train to Switzerland by himself to spend a year recovering all alone and in a strange place.

His youth was filled school and friends.  After high school he went to a trade school to become a Tool and Die Machinist.  In February, 1960, at the age of 19 years he boarded the SS United States alone to immigrate to America.  He had not been on a large ship until that time so much of the trip was spent feeding the fish below with the dinner he just eaten.  Finally he reached the US.  In the New York harbor, he saw the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom which has welcomed immigrants from all over the world for decades. Fred wanted to become an American so he changed the spelling of his last name from Gottig with two umlauts to Goettig to be more phonetically correct.

He arrived in New York City with very little money to his name. He stayed with some family friends for a time, worked and then purchased a car and drove across the country.  Many people said their ancestors came to this country and crossed the plains in covered wagons.  Fred drove a car across the country and the only incident was when he fell asleep at the wheel and ended up in a corn field.  He quickly backed up and kept driving to Salt Lake City.

The gospel of Jesus Christ was so important in his life Fred knew he had to serve a mission.  He was called to the Austria-Switzerland Mission and set apart by then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.  While on his mission Fred learned many things and had many adventures both spiritual and interesting.  One such interesting story was regarding the flower Edelweiss. He loved Edelweiss, so while in Austria he climbed the hills like the von Trapp family and obtained for himself one of these protected flowers. This was one of his little indiscretions for this great man. Don’t tell the Austrian government.

As a missionary he felt he was not very successful or did he feel he had been a good missionary.  Many years later he and Dinorah went back to Switzerland.  While at the temple a man came up to him and asked if he was Elder Goettig.  When Fred said yes the man reminded him he had baptized him and his wife all those years ago.  He said he was now a stake president and his sons had all served missions, married in the temple and were bishops.  Fred learned from this experience how our decisions and actions impact others and how important a mission really is to even one person.

When he arrived home from his mission the Vietnam conflict was waging and he was told he needed to enlist in the war effort. If he returned home safe then he could become a citizen.  Fred wanted to be an American citizen more than anything, so he enlisted and served his new homeland.  He started out as a paratrooper in the Army, but before his platoon was sent to Vietnam he was transferred to Berlin, Germany as a translator and driver for a General.

When he was honorably discharged from the army he received his citizenship and then he was a true American.  Since that day he treasured his new country and displayed his undying patriotism for the United States. He would always say he was an American born in Germany.  Growing up people asked if he spoke to us in German or if he lost his culture.  He was full German, but wanted his kids to be raised as Americans.  He spoke German when he was angry or he hurt himself, but I those weren't traditional words used in proper settings.  One of the funniest proofs of his patriotism was when the family watched soccer and the coach for the U.S. team was a German.  When his team was not doing well he would yell at the TV to send the German sauerkraut packing back home.

While living in SLC he went to a party with his best friend Manuel and met the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He had gone to the party with another date and then noticed his future wife and quickly forgot about the date he had brought.  He asked his friend about her and even invited this beautiful girl in the red dress to dance.  He soon began dating Dinorah Del Carmen Aquirre, a recent immigrant to the USA.  Fred was still learning English and “Dino” did not know much of the language herself, but this little problem didn’t bother them.  He would often say they did not need words to understand each other because they used the language of love.  They dated for a few months, a time Fred said was filled with “interesting dates.”  On one date, Fred told Dino he was going to take her to his home in the Avenues of SLC but instead he took her to the cemetery. He stopped the car by one of the big gravestones and helped his date out of the car.  As they were walking, he put up the collar of his trench coat and placed some fake Dracula teeth in his mouth and proceeded to scare her.  Dino was so scared she demanded he take her home, although she later forgave him. After several months of dating they were married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple by President Gordon B. Hinckley on July 27, 1967. This began a new chapter of life together.  Their honeymoon included a 2500 mile drive from Salt Lake City to Santa Ana, El Salvador where he met Dinorah’s family for the first time. This adventure took them on a wild ride including hitting a donkey, almost going to jail, Dinorah thinking her new husband had left her when he went to wash the car … and many other adventures.

Throughout his life, Fred provided for his family, first by working as a tool and die machinist.  Eventually, he studied at the University of Utah obtaining a degree as a Radiology Technician.  For a time, he worked in sales for a large equipment company then purchased a rental store in St. George.  Eventually, though, he returned to the medical field working many years as a radiology technician and orthopedic assistant.
Fred didn’t consider himself a success by the world’s standards, but he left behind a great legacy of faith and testimony, an ethic of hard work, a determination to never give up and a beautiful family of four children – Edward, Claudia, Robert and Trisha - two adopted children and 15 grandchildren.  The greatest lesson his family learned from their father was his undying love and absolute faithfulness to our mother, his family, the Savior Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation. In the end, his greatest worry was not the end of his life or what he accomplished, but his greatest worry was for his beloved wife.  His love is eternal and his family knows he is waiting for them on the other side of the veil and hoping all will do whatever is necessary to be with him forever. 

Rest in peace, dear Brother Goettig, 'til we meet again!