Thursday, May 10, 2012

One of the Best Missionaries I Have Known

Today, I would like to focus on my uncle, Leonard Nicolay.  He passed away last night after taking a fall the day earlier at his home and breaking his neck. He was 95, I think: Roughly the same age as my pop would be, if he were still here.  Leonard was my mother's older brother by a couple of years and they were very close. So close that he endorsed her marriage to one of his best friends: My pop.

I spent a lot of time with my uncle, Leonard--more so after my pop died when I was 23-years-old.  He was like a surrogate father to me in those years. We worked together in the roofing trade and would spend the days talking about his experiences own growing up and his experiences with my mom and pop. He was a treasur trove of information in that regard, verifying some of the outrageous stories pop used to tell me about his phisical feats and various sundry deeds. And, more importantly, we talked philosophy and religion.

Leonard was the first in my family to convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  I remember him in my earliest years as a bit of a worldy guy. For example, I don't think was a church-goer, and he owned a bar and smoked cigars, among other things. Whe I was eleven-years-old, he and his family joined the Mormon Church.  As he told it, he was visiting afriend of his who was married to my pop's cousin when the LDS missionaries came by asking if the family there would be interested in hearing their message about the Book of Mormon and Christ visiting the Americas after His reserection in Jerusalem.  The people in the house said "no", but my uncle said that he liked to read and would be glad to take a copy of their book. 

The rest is history, as they say. Leonard read the book, believed it, had the missioary discussions, sold his bar, quit smoking and was baptized with his family. This was remarkable, since organized religion was something that he seemed to be skeptical of. Leonard caught fire with respect to his new-found faith: He immediately went about trying to share his testimony with whoever would listen to him.  He had great success as a missionary, eventually bringing his parents, several siblings (including my mom) and bunshes of nephews and neices for several generations. When you consider that not a few of my generation and younger filled full-time missions and had pretty good success sharing the Gospel, hundreds benefitted by Leonard's missioary zeal.

I mentioned that he liked to read. In fact he was a voracious reader, reading everything he could get his hands on concerning relgion. He became a wonderful scriptorion. This was not an easy thing, whe you consider that he only had one eye--he lost it as a child when another child threw a stick at him--and he was near-sighted in his remaining eye. I have to say here that he could be pretty scary to ride with when he was driving.

As far as physical challenges wnet he had several. Due to other work accidents, he had a leg shorter than the other by a couple inches and a left arm that could not extend out all the way. Yet he was one of the fastest shinglers I ever worked with.

He was an inspiration to me in may ways and I am grateful to hime for the personal support he gave to me and all of my family through the years. He drove me to Utah when I left for my mission and helped me a bit financially in getting some of my first recordings done in the early 70s after my mission.

Uncle Leonard, you were a great man and I will look forward to meeting you again on the other side. Give the family a big hug. I know that you have met the Savior and He has said "Well done, good and faithful servent!" Of course, there is a lot of missionary work to do in the spirit world too, as we LDS know, and I know that you will be a busy man.