Countdown 365: #234 – 40th Anniversary of LDS Mission

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

My passport photo for my LDS Mission, taken in February 1976

There are some events in one’s life that are turning points…big decisions that impact the remainder of one’s life.  Today I celebrate the 40th Anniversary of one of those events.  It was 40 years ago today that I entered the Language Training Mission (LTM) in Provo, Utah to learn Japanese and prepare to serve as an LDS Missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission. This singular event would literally have a myriad impacts on the direction of my life, the life of my wife and of my children.

Prior to this event only three real others were as momentous…my mother taking me away from my father and moving to New Mexico (something that I had no control over but had a massive impact on my life), my decision to convert to the LDS Church in 1975 (and thus be asked to leave the house at age 17 as a result) and then the actual decision to serve versus the decision to take what would have been a high paying job in 1975.

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT - Feb. 8, 1976

Speaking at my Missionary Farewell in Murray, UT – Feb. 8, 1976

Pondering life's choices as a young missionary

Pondering life’s choices as a young missionary

With each decision made at a crossroads in life (or a fork in the road of life if you prefer), a whole string of consequences unseen is set in motion (until the next crossroad, which then again leads to another set of unforeseen life events). But this mission to serve the Lord in Japan (not to mention all of the service to the Japanese people) had a profound impact on my life, my testimony, friends I have made and, ultimately my career choices. And, as I approach my 60th of year of life, I can look back and consider all of the things that WOULD NOT have occurred in my life had I not made that one decision. Honestly, I am awestruck.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries.

Over the course of my mission I wrote over 1000 pages of journal entries and dozens of letters home to family and friends.

So, on February 12, 1976 I was taken to Provo and it began.  I wrote on Page 1 of the first of my many journals about this event:

“Today was my first day.  It was really great. We had many inspiring talks and learned much about the mission and mission fields.  Elder Stewart Simons from Cyprus High and Elder Marc White from Murray were my fist companions. Elder Marc and I went to school together, so its a real blessing. Its been a tough, long, hot day, but a very meaningful one.I’m so grateful to serve the Lord.”

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

My two LTM Companions as they looked in 1976. This was scanned from my Missionary Journal.

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

Hanging with Elder White and Elder Simons at the Provo Temple on Feb. 18, 1976

I learned from both Elder Simons and Elder White.  It was nice to have one of them as someone I knew.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  Later on in Japan, Elder White became my zone leader and we grew very close.  We have stayed in touch casually over the years.  He was a real blessing to me.

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT

Our LTM Group in Provo, UT (L-R: Sister ?, Elder Bartholomew, Elder Bateman, Elder White, Elder Call, Elder Hadley, Elder Simons, Sister Hawley and me)

I was one of many in the group to enter the LTM that day.  The LTM was in an old Catholic School in Provo that the Church had purchased.  This was before the days of the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and just shortly after the days of the Japanese LTM being in Hawaii.

In my District I had four other Elders including Elder Bartholomew from Rancho Palace Verdes, CA; Elder Bateman from Edmonton, AB; Elder Hadley from Sandy, UT (who I am still in contact with after all these years); and Elder Call from Heber City, UT. (see the photo above)

On February 14, 1976 I wrote: “I am so happy that I’m here at this time to be able to work together with other elders and learn Japanese and the Gospel of our loving Father. The LTM is really an experience with 20 elders to a room, two districts to a room. I am really learning to love other elders. Especially those in my district and especially Elder White and Elder Simons. I’ve learned many new phrases and words.  Today we learned our testimony and a simple prayer.  I’m trying to memorize it, but its hard. I do have my testimony memorized.  I am praying muchly now so that I may be closer to the Lord.”

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Being welcomed at Nagoya Airport by the Mission President Satoru Sato and his wife, along with some other Nagoya Elders already serving. April 14, 1976

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

Boarding a train in Nagoya to head to my first branch in Kanazawa

I could go on and on about the experience in the LTM.  It was a learning experience in so many ways. But, eventually it was over and on April 13, 1976 we all left for Nagoya, Japan.  I had never been on a 747 and never flown overseas. (I’ll actually write more about this on my Countdown Day #173).

During my missionary days I served in the Japan Sea side towns of Kanazawa, Fukui and Takaoka, as well as in Ogaki (near Gifu – where my daughter Amaree served part of her mission in 2001 and 2002), Nagoya and the lovely town of Fuji City at the base of Mt. Fuji.

I met an extraordinary number of wonderful Japanese Latter-day Saints and myriads of other lovely Japanese people.  I learned about Buddhism and Shintoism.  I learned and excelled at the language.  It was a wonderful experience.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Accompanying a blind investigator on a train. Like today, I almost always had a camera with me.

Following are a few more photos from my mission.  I have hundreds. My first “selfie” is also included. My mission was a blessing in my life in so many years.  I am humbled and grateful to be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of beginning this amazing adventure and am really touched by all of the sweet memories flowing through my mind as I reflect back.

A few years ago we had a Missionary Reunion in Salt Lake City and I was able to catch up with many of those with whom I served during my two years from 1976-78.  It was wonderful to catch up with them and see where their lives had taken them. Some have been very successful, others not so much.  Some of those with whom I served have gone inactive or even left the LDS Church.  These things happen.  But, I cherish the friendships and, even today, stay in touch with many of these former missionaries (Thank you Facebook!!), even those that are no longer associated with the church.  A mission does amazing things to one’s life.

Always writing and pondering.

Always writing and pondering. Ogaki, Japan 1977

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976

My first companion in the field, Elder Fullmer from Utah. This was in Kanazawa in April 1976 (Dig those 70’s era neckties!!)

Riding a train - an almost daily occurrence in Japan

Riding a train – an almost daily occurrence in Japan

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

My fist selfie! Took this in the mirror at a barber shop after the bird landed on my shoulder.

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

Fooling around with the Ogaki Elders in 1977

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

With Elders and some members in Takaoka, Japan in the winter of 1976

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters - just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

Lazing in bed on a cold morning (we had no heaters – just oil stoves that had to be turned off at night). This was in Fuji City in January 1978

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

On top of Mt. Fuji, April 1978, just before I left for home.

Street "Dendo" (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

Street “Dendo” (Proselyting) in Ogaki, Japan in 1977. I wrote all of the Japanese on the poster while dressed in the Yukata

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

With companion Elder Lee Richan. We had become very close friends over the years. He passed away a couple of years ago (2013)

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

The busy Mormon Missionary on a hot summer day in Japan in 1977

 

Countdown 365: #304 – Joe Kravetz, My Adoptive Father

Joe Kravetz with David, ca. 1959

Joe Kravetz with David, ca. 1959 in Albuquerque, NM

Today is the 82nd birthday of Joseph Daniel Kravetz (born 4 December 1933), my adoptive father.  Adoption is the act of legally placing a child with parents (or parent) who are not its natural parents. As I have noted in other posts in the pasts, I have effectively have two sets of parents — my natural parents (Joe Laurienzo and Orene Goldberg, aka Jennierose Lavender) and my adoptive parents (Joe Kravetz and Marjorie Tudor). Of these four, Joe Kravetz had a major and long term role raising me as his adopted child from about age 2 to age 17 and then, of course, has always had the role of my father, despite any ups and downs we have had over the years.  I am truly grateful to him for all of the sacrifices he made in the challenge of raising me.  Much of who I was came from him and my adoptive mother Marge.

Joe Kravetz with his father Alexander in the early 1950s

Joe Kravetz with his father Alexander in the early 1950s

Joe Kravetz was the third of four children born to Jewish immigrants Alexander Kravetz and Jessica Evelson.  (Ironically, my real father Joe Laurienzo was also a child of Italian immigrants and my natural mother Orene was a child of German/Lithuanian Jewish immigrants). Joe was born in 1932 in Ossining, NY and spent all of his youth growing up there.  His father Alexander emigrated to the United States on the ship George Washington, which departed from Bremen, Germany on 20 July 1914 and arrived in New York on 3 August 1914.  Family tradition says that Alexander walked with a couple of others form his home in Minsk, Russia (now Belarus) to Bremen, Germany where they got on the boat.  They left to escape persecution (think “Fiddler on the Roof” — in fact, Alexander was a tailor!!)

Minsk (currently in Belorus) to Bremen, Germany is about 770 miles

Minsk (currently in Belarus) to Bremen, Germany is about 770 miles

Jessica Kravetz in the 1960s

Jessica Kravetz in the 1960s

Joe’s mother Jessica Evelson (probably spelled Jewelson) also left from Bremen.  She came from Vilnius, Lithuania and arrived in Philadelphia on 4 August 1913 on the USS Neckar.

JoeKKindergaten1938a

Joe Kravetz in Kindergarten ca. 1938. I believe he is the one on the right in the middle row with the white shirt and white shorts and curly black hair.

I don’t have many photos of him as a young.  The photo on the right is the oldest photo I have of him.

He has always had black curly hair and this picture sure shows that head of hair.

He had an older brother Louis, who is still alive and doing well in Houston, Texas. His older sister Evelyn Levy (she married Gordon Levy) was born on November 29th, 1931 and died April 28th, 2005 in Tarrytown, NY.  He also has a younger sister Sylvia who lives in Silver Spring, MD.

Over the years I had numerous opportunities to meet them and many of their children, my cousins through adoption.

Joe never talked much about his life growing up in New York. There was much pain in the family because many of Alexander’s and Jessica’s family lost their lives in the early purges of the 1920s and 30s and then later in the German holocaust of World War II.  I am sure that life had to be tough growing up.

Joe Kravetz in fifth grade in 1944.

Joe Kravetz fifth grade class in 1944. I am assuming he is the one in front on the left

Joe with his brother Lou in 1957

Joe with his brother Lou in 1957

Joe and siblings: (L-R) Sylvia, Joe, Evelyn and Lou.

Joe and siblings: (L-R) Sylvia, Joe, Evelyn and Lou in October 1997, Tarrytown, NY

My life with Joe Kravetz began in December 1958 when he married my natural mother Orene Goldberg.  Just about one year earlier, Orene left my natural father Joe Laurienzo.  She returned to her home in Albuquerque, NM as her staunchly Jewish mother wanted her to marry a nice Jewish boy.  Naturally, as a young child of two I didn’t have any say in the matter.  No blame is being made here…things happen and the fact that I ended up being the adoptive son to Joe Kravetz was, in many respects, a blessing to my life as it put me on the path to where I am now.  Had I stayed in Cleveland, my life would have taken an entirely different direction!! Following is a clip from the Albuquerque Journal in Dec. 1958 (today was the first time I have ever seen this!!!)

Newspaper clipping announcing the wedding of Orene and Joe (Albuquerque Journal 19 Dec 1958)

Newspaper clipping announcing the wedding of Orene and Joe (Albuquerque Journal 19 Dec 1958)

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958

Photo from Joe and Orene Wedding 21 Dec. 1958 – Don’t know all of the people in this photo, but Joe and Orene are in the middle.  To Joe’s right is Marion Goldberg and her husband Ralph Goldberg (my natural grandparents). To Orene’s left is grandmother Jessica Kravetz, brother Louis Kravetz.  I believe that the gal on her knees in front of Orene is her sister Maxine.  I think that the one to Maxine’s right is Joe’s sister Sylvia (I believe).

JoeKMilitaryFrom 1954 to 1956 Joe Kravetz served in the US Army as a radio operator.  He did his basic training at Ft. Hood and then was assigned to a facility in Albuquerque. He was discharged in 1956 but then served in the reserves.  Indeed, one of my earliest memories as a child was him coming home to our small duplex in his uniform with a duffel bag.

I don’t know much more about his military service, but do know that is how he made his way to Albuquerque in the first place. And, as a member of the synagogue there, he was ultimately introduced to and married Orene in 1958 and was apparently happy to inherit a son as part of the package.

Joe Kravetz on a visit to New York ca. 1959

Joe Kravetz on a visit to New York ca. 1959

Hanging with Joe Kravetz around 1962??

Hanging with Joe Kravetz around 1962??

I don’t have many memories of those early years.  I know that eventually, Joe made his way in to retail, working for Payless Drugs in Albuquerque. In July 1960, he and Orene had a child, my half-brother, Aaron.

I do know that Joe loved to take drives to the mountains and see the scenery.  He was also an avid hiker.  He also liked to take pictures.  Fortunately, we have lots of photos of the kids growing up.

However, he was gone a lot due to work and so time with him was rare. And soon it became worse as he and Orene got divorced in 1961 and I was again without a parent.  Aaron and I were left with babysitters most of the time in 1961 and 1962 as he worked as a single parent to raise us…a rarity in the early 1960s. (Note: an interesting article I came across noted that 1960, only about 32 million Americans, 18 and older, were single (either divorced or widowed or always-single). That was 28 percent of the adult population. By 2013, there were 105 million single Americans, accounting for 44 percent of the adult population.)

Playing with Dad in the 1960s

Playing with Dad in the 1960s

Joe Kravetz late 1950s

Joe Kravetz late 1950s

Joe eventually met and married Marjorie Tudor on 13 October 1962.  She was a divorced single mother with a son, Danny, who was only 2 weeks younger then me. So, we were then a family of 5.  We got a house in what was then called Snow Vista (in the NE Heights of Albuquerque just off of Route 66).  By this time Joe was doing well with Payless Drugs (which by then had become Skaggs Drug).  Here are a few photos of Joe over the years.

As can be seen in the photo on the right, he was a handsome man in the 1950s.  Very active and rail thin, which he has been throughout his life.

I have no idea what his aspirations were for life back in the 1950s and not sure how his marriage to Orene and taking on the role of a father changed things for his future.  He never kept a journal and didn’t talk much about those kinds of things, so I am afraid we’ll never know for sure.

Joe in the 1950s doing what he liked best...hiking

Joe in the 1950s doing what he liked best…hiking

Joe Kravetz around 1959

Joe Kravetz around 1959

Joe Kravetz on Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. He took me on this hike

Joe Kravetz on Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. He took me on this hike

Joe with David in 1958, soon after he became my adoptive father

Joe with David in 1958, soon after he became my adoptive father

Joe in Denver, probably on a hike in the Rocky Mountains, ca. 1968

Joe in Denver, probably on a hike in the Rocky Mountains, ca. 1968 (That was his favorite sweater)

Joe with David, Aaron and Danny in 1963 or 64 (in Albuquerque)

Joe with David, Aaron and Danny in 1962 or 63 (in Albuquerque)

By 1964 Marge and Joe had my brother Gary. We were then off to Dallas.  Not long after that he was transferred to Denver, where, eventually, my youngest sibling, my sister Sherry, was born. (Even by this time I was still not aware that I had been adopted)

Joe Kravetz with David, Gary, Aaron and Danny in Dallas in 1964

Joe Kravetz with David, Gary, Aaron and Danny in Dallas in 1964

Sherry and Gary with Dad in 1974

Sherry and Gary with Dad in 1974 (Gotta love those socks!!)

Joe and Marge in 1978 in Jemez Springs, NM. By this time they were divorced but posed for this photo.

Joe and Marge in 1978 in Jemez Springs, NM. By this time they were divorced but posed for this photo.

Dad and me on a hike in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico in 1978, shortly after I returned from my LDS Mission to Japan

Dad and me on a hike in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico in 1978, shortly after I returned from my LDS Mission to Japan

Joe with my siblings Aaron, Gary and Sherry in the 1990s

Joe with my siblings Aaron, Gary and Sherry in January 1992

After more transfers to Great Falls and Bozeman in Montana and then to Sat Lake City (Murray) in Utah, things had gotten challenging.  Both Mom and Dad worked to keep the family together, but they didn’t see eye to eye on much.  I eventually left the house and joined the LDS Church and left on a mission. To this day I am of the opinion that God had prepared a way for me to get to Salt Lake and join the church and that this relationship with Joe was the mode of transport to get me there.  No sooner was I gone and he was transferred to a store in Northridge, CO (by this time Skaggs had become Osco Drug).  He and Marge were soon divorced and she went to Jemez Springs, where she had grown up, and took Gary and Sherry with her.  Aaron went with Dad.  Danny, who had mental retardation, was in a group home in Las Vegas, NM.

Joe hamming it up in front of Osaka Castle with my wife Julianne in 1990

Joe hamming it up in front of Osaka Castle with my wife Julianne in 1990

By 1979 I was married and in college.  Julianne and I made our way to Flagstaff and then, by 1984 we were in Mesa, where I attended graduate school at Arizona State.  All of that time I tried to stay in touch with my Dad. Then in 1987 we went to Japan and were fortunate enough for him to visit.  He had never really been to a foreign country before, so this was a big adventure for him.

Visiting the Gold Pavilion in Kyoto in 1990

Visiting the Gold Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan in 1990

In his later years, after retiring from Osco, we did keep in touch, but after his Japan visit, he rarely got to see his grandchildren. But, I do have a few shots of him with the grandkids.  The major opportunity came on a family reunion in New York in 1997.

Joe Kravetz with grandkids in 1989...Amaree, Solomon, Seth, Marissa and Chelsea

Joe Kravetz with grandkids in 1989…Amaree, Solomon, Seth, Marissa and Chelsea (in Mesa, AZ when we visited for the holidays from Japan)

Joe with family in 1997 in Tarrytown, NY

Joe with family in 1997 in Tarrytown, NY – Back row – Julianne, sister Sherry, Joe and me.  Front row – Marissa, Chelsea, Amaree, Seth and Solomon

Joe with kids at Cumberland Gap on Kentucky/Tennessee border

Joe with kids at Cumberland Gap on Kentucky/Tennessee border with Solomon, Chelsea and Seth (ca 1993)

Joe with my sister Sherry, her husband Brian and me and Julianne, Christmas 2012

Joe with my sister Sherry, her husband Brian and me and Julianne, Christmas 2012

By the mid 2000s Julianne and I were becoming grandparents ourselves, which meant Joe was becoming a great grandfather. By this time, unbeknownst to us (and perhaps even himself), he was in the early stages of dementia.  Living in San Antonio, TX and working for Barnes and Noble, he had a lonely life. He had become almost hermitlike in existence and I could never get him to even notice that he had great grandchildren.  For a number of years I was bothered by his seeming indifference.  Finally, on a visit to Texas 2011, I was able to see his condition first hand.  And it has gotten worse since then.  But, thanks to my sister Sherry, we were blessed with a visit by her family, along with Dad, during the Christmas holiday in 2012. Joe finally got to see his great grandchildren for the first time…all nine of them at that time (there are 10 now)

Joe with his great grandchildren, plus his granddaughter Savannah (Sherry's daughter) in Dec. 2012

Joe with his great grandchildren, plus his granddaughter Savannah (Sherry’s daughter) in Dec. 2012

Four generations of Kravetz...a rare photo - Seth, Rockwell, David and Joe... Dec. 2012

Four generations of Kravetz…a rare photo – Seth, Rockwell, David and Joe… Dec. 2012

Joe with his then youngest great grandchild Benson Matthews in December 2012

Joe with his then youngest great grandchild Benson Matthews in December 2012

Joe Kravetz 2012

Joe Kravetz 2012

Joe Kravetz in 2014

Joe Kravetz in 2014

Between 2012 and 2014 I made a couple of other visits to Texas and had occasion to see my Dad.  Once was another Kravetz family reunion in Galveston. Joe had become more aloof and unkempt and, for the first time in my recollection, had actually grown a beard.

His teeth were cracked, his toenails were long.  His memory was going (and still is). But he did look classy in a beard, in all honesty.

A selfie with Dad taken in Keller, Texas in July 2014

A selfie with Dad taken in Keller, Texas in July 2014

Dad and me in 1997 in New York

Dad and me in 1997 in New York

Now, as he turns 82, he is in a nursing home. A few months ago he fell (not the first time) and this time destroyed his hips.  He is probably laid up for the remainder of his life as the healing process is not going well. Sherry tells me he can watch TV but no longer knows how to use the remote to change the channel.  It is sad seeing someone essentially wither away.  My sister Sherry is to be praised for taking care of him the last decade or so.  But it got too hard.  He needed a watchful eye 24/7 and she couldn’t do that.

Joe Kravetz in Cumberland Gap

Joe Kravetz in Cumberland Gap

I am grateful to Joe Kravetz for all of the sacrifices he has made.  In many respects, he has had a challenging life, from the days of his youth through his three marriages, difficult children (at times) and then his health challenges.

I am certain that if not for him, I would not be where I am with my lovely wife of 36 years, my 5 awesome children and my 10 wonderful grandchildren.  None of that would have happened, at least not the way it is now, had it not been for him marrying my natural mother Orene and setting the ball in motion and then continuing on that path with Marge. Despite any differences and friction we may have had over the years, I can honestly say I love Dad, appreciate him and am grateful for his enduring spirit.  He has truly been a blessing in my life and I want the world to know.

Media #TBT: David Kravetz in Japan Times in 1990

In 1990 I was interviewed by the Environmental Editor of the Japan Times while on a business trip to Tokyo.  At the time I was working for Asahi Solar Corporation in Oita, Japan.  The Japan Times was (and still is) the main English Language Newspaper in Japan and was (and still is) distributed throughout the country,

You can see the entire article below. Click on the photo to get an enlarged version.

DavidJapanTimes1990

Countdown 365: #324 – Grandchildren Baptisms

GrampzJos

Grampz and Joselyn at her baptism on November 14

Today is a glorious day.  One of my grandchildren has made the decision to get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joselyn Love Noe, my 4th grandchild, will become the third grandchild to be baptized into the church.

The LDS Church doctrine has children baptized at the age of 8.

“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands (D&C 68:27)”

GrampzCharles

Grampz, Grammy and Charles at his baptism in Washington on August 1

Earlier this year my wife and I went to Washington to visit my oldest daughter Amaree and her family.  The main reason for the trip was the baptism of my grandson Charles Matthews, who was baptized on August 1 in Port Orchard.

This was a wonderful time and we got to spend a few days with the family traveling around Washington as well. You can read about all of those trips in my Less Beaten Paths travel blog, if interested.

I was baptized when I was 18 (in January 1975), in Murray, Utah after struggling to get approval from my parents. It was a conscious decision I personally made in my life and I am grateful to have done so.  My membership in the church has been a wonderful blessing to me (as I have noted in earlier posts on this blog). As a missionary in Japan from 1976-1978 I had the opportunity to teach and baptize many.

But there is no greater joy than to see your own posterity baptized.  All five of my children were baptized into the church, though a couple of them have strayed away. I love all of my children the same and there is a part of me that is glad that my children have the blessing to choose the direction of their own lives, even if it is disappointing to me.  I love them just the same.

Autumn and Grampz

Autumn and Grampz

At Joselyn’s baptism I was blessed to be accompanied by my sweet 10 year old granddaughter Autumn, the oldest of all of my grandchildren. She was dressed beautifully and was absolutely adorable.

She has not been brought up in the LDS Church and this was her first baptism experience.  She sat intently watching and listening.  I had my arm around her and she snuggled next to me. Who knows what was going through her mind. I was grateful that her mother Chelsea allowed her to attend.  Indeed, Chelsea would have been there as well had she not had to work.  The one thing about my family is that they support each other, even if it is something they may not necessarily agree with.  Our family motto – “The Family that Stays Together, Stays Together” – continues on into the next generation.  I was so glad that Autumn could be there to support her cousin.

I am grateful for the principle of baptism and count myself blessed to have children and grandchildren that have chosen to follow the Savior Jesus Christ and his teachings.

 

Countdown 365: #357 – Explorers in the Age of Discovery

Christopher Columbus in a park near my birthplace in Little Italy, in Cleveland

Christopher Columbus in a park near my birthplace in Little Italy, in Cleveland

Today is Columbus Day 2015. When I think of Columbus Day, obviously thoughts of Christopher Columbus come first. But ultimately, I think far beyond him and think about many of the other great explorers that reached out to the world especially in the age of discovery in the 1400s and some even earlier than that.

I am grateful for the bravery, vision and wanderlust in these individuals.  Certainly, they all took risks and many of them went exploring for their respective royalty, who paid them well in hopes of gold and in hopes of converting souls to their version of Christianity.

On this day I see many derogatory remarks about Columbus on Facebook, and perhaps some of it is true.  But, we cannot discount the efforts he made to reach out, as did many others.

A few that I am grateful to have studied and learned about….

A statue of Leif Erikson in Duluth, MN on the shores of Lake Superior

A statue of Leif Erikson in Duluth, MN on the shores of Lake Superior

Leif Erikson (b. ca 970 – d. ca 1020): Leif comes from Viking heritage and was likely born in Iceland, though he also lived in Greenland. Around 999 AD he made his way to what is currently known as Newfoundland, but did a great deal of exploring, eventually calling the land Vinland.

According to the stories written in the 1200s, he gathered a crew of thirty-five men, and mounted an expedition towards the land he had heard about from a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson described. Leif’s father Erik the Red was set to join him but dropped out after he fell from his horse on his way to set sail, an incident he interpreted as a bad omen. Leif followed Bjarni’s route in reverse and landed first in a rocky and desolate place he named Helluland (Flat-Rock Land; possibly Baffin Island). After venturing further by sea, he landed the second time in a forested place he named Markland (Forest Land; possibly Labrador). Finally, after two more days at sea, he landed in a luscious place with plentiful stores of salmon. As winter approached, he decided to encamp there for the winter, and broke his party into two groups – one to remain at camp and the other to explore the lands. After discovering grapes and vineyards, he named the land Vinland.

ZhengHeZheng He (1371–1433 or 1435): Zheng was a Hui court eunuch, mariner, explorer, diplomat, and fleet admiral during China’s early Ming dynasty. I first learned about him while in college in a Chinese History class at NAU. I was fascinated. Zheng commanded expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. Zheng He’s fleets visited Brunei, Java, Thailand and Southeast Asia, India, the Horn of Africa, and Arabia, dispensing and receiving goods along the way.  Zheng He presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain, and silk; in return, China received such novelties as ostriches, zebras, camels, and ivory from the Swahili. The giraffe he brought back from Malindi was considered to be a qilin and taken as proof of the favor of heaven upon the administration.  He had massive ships and it was said that his fleet had over 24,000 sailors.

Zheng He ship in comparison with Columbus

Zheng He ship in comparison with Columbus’s boat

FerdinandMagellanFerdinand Magellan (c. 1480 – 27 April 1521): Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who organized the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth.  From 1519 to 1521 he traveled around the world, many times facing extreme danger, bad weather and even struggled against his own Portuguese leaders.  He eventually died in the Philippines.  On March 16, 1521 Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to reach the Philippine archipelago. Magellan relied on Enrique, his Malay servant and interpreter, to communicate with the native tribes. He had been indentured by Magellan in 1511 after the colonization of Malacca, and had accompanied him through later adventures. They traded gifts with Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua who guided them to Cebu on 7 April.

The Philippine warriro Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island, Cebu

The Philippine warrior Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island, Cebu

Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards; both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians and were given the image of the Holy Child (later known as Santo Niño de Cebu) which along with a cross (Magellan’s Cross) symbolizes the Christianization of the Philippines. Afterward, Rajah Humabon and his ally Datu Zula convinced Magellan to kill their enemy, Datu Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan wanted to convert Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Humabon, but Lapu-Lapu rejected that. On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small attack force. During the resulting battle against Lapu-Lapu’s troops, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear, and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons.

Map of Magellan's travels

Map of Magellan’s travels

Ironically, I have been to Cebu (see my journals of visits in Cebu) and Mactan and visited the site where Lapu-Lapu’s troops killed Magellan. I am grateful to have set foot in a place where this famed explorer went.

Kids on an ship replia in Jamestown, VA

Kids on an ship replia in Jamestown, VA

These four explorers, as well as other greats such as Marco Polo (whom I will have a separate post on), Lewis and Clark (also a separate post) and John Wesley Powell (yet another post) have always meant a lot to me.

I love to travel and am thankful for the spirit of wanderlust and adventure borne into me. Like, Columbus, Magellan, Zheng and Erikson, I seek after new and unique places.  It is a different world today, but I have still been blessed to experience some of the same things – the smells and sights of China, the Philippines and Japan. The varied landscapes of the United States and Canada. The oceans and Great Lakes.

Visiting the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Philippines in 2005

Visiting the Chocolate Hills in Bohol Philippines in 2005

Truly, I have been blessed with the spirit of adventure and I am grateful to be able to walk the paths and read the stories of their encounters.  They have made the world a smaller place.

 

The Mothers in My Life – Mother’s Day 2015

mothersdayOn Mother’s Day I have a full heart to thank the Mothers in my life.  My life has had some interesting twists and turns, but there have been mothers all along the way.  Our first human contact is always with our mother. It is also one point of our life for which we had no control or say.  We were brought into this world by a mother…and for this, for our lives, we should have gratitude to a mother who suffered the pains to bring us forth into whatever the future holds for us.  So, today, Mother’s Day 2015, I celebrate those Mothers in my life…my mothers, my wife, who is the wonderful mother of my children and then, the mothers of my grandchildren.

Valentine-heartsMY MOTHERS

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

Mother Orene and me, as Carmen David Laurienzo in 1957

The first mother of note is my natural mother, born Orene Goldberg, she brought me into the world on October 4, 1956 in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was named Carmen David Laurienzo, named after my paternal grandfather, who was from Matrice, Italy.

Even at the time, Orene, my natural mother, suffered from emotional issues.  She had been sent to Cleveland from Albuquerque, to a Jewish Girls’ school and there met my natural father Joe Laurienzo and thus was the beginning of my life.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City.  She came to see me off on my mission.

With my natural mother Orene in 1976 in Salt Lake City. She came to see me off on my mission.

In August 1957 Orene left Joe and returned to her home in Albuquerque. Not too much later she met Joe Kravetz and they were married and he adopted me and I was renamed David Charles Kravetz. They had a second son, Aaron, in 1960, but shortly thereafter, Orene left again. I did not see her until much later on in my life. By then she had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender, which is her name today.  She is in her 80s and in a nursing home in California.  I have not spoken to her in a few years.   But, I am always grateful that she brought me into this world.  She is indeed my mother.

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

Marjorie Kravetz in 1978

After a couple of “motherless years,” Joe Kravetz met and married Marjorie Tudor, who had been married once before and had a son, 16 days younger than me, named Danny. Her son was mentally retarded, but she loved him. Marge, as she was called, was a religious woman.  Like Orene, she had grown up in a somewhat dysfunctional family. But she tried to get her life together and was active in the Jehovah’s Witness faith for many years and, as such, brought up her children in that faith.  Joe was Jewish, but was not active in the faith.  His job kept him away from home often and so she would take us to the Kingdom Hall.

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

Marge with David, Danny and Aaron in 1963 at Bluewater Lake in New Mexico.

The Kravetz family in 1978.  The only "family portrait" we ever had

The Kravetz family in 1978. The only “family portrait” we ever had

Marge had many struggles.  She suffered a number of health issues, including diabetes and weight problems.  After a few years she and Joe had two other children, Gary and Sherry.  So, our mixed family struggled on through a number of moves (due to Joe’s job with Skaggs Drug).  We left Albuquerque and over a period of 10 years we lived in Dallas, Denver, Great Falls, Bozeman and Salt Lake City.  During this time our family struggled with dysfunction as well.  Marge did all she could to hold us together, but it was tough-going for all.  But, she should be honored for doing the best that she could under the circumstances. Not until after he passing in 1982 did I realize that she loved her children.  Dysfunction in a family can blind one from understanding this.  She later divorced Joe and lived alone in her last years. The doctor said she died of heart failure.  I say she died of a broken heart.  I am sure she is happily engaged in a much better situation on the other side. She was indeed my mother in a nurturing way that I never understood until later in life.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950.  The mother of my wife Julianne.

Arlene Shepherd Bateman in 1950. The mother of my wife Julianne.

My third mother, and she truly was a mother to me in so many ways, was my mother-in-law Arlene Shepherd Bateman. Unfortunately, my relationship with her started off on slippery slopes and was rocky the first few years of my marriage. This was due to my immaturity and the many foibles and weaknesses that I had, some due to the instability of my first 21 years of life.

Arlene was the mother of six children, and my wife Julianne was their fifth.  Arlene was a good mother and raised her children in the Mormon faith as best as she knew how. Like any family, they had their struggles and challenges, but ultimately, in my opinion, I think she did an amazing job.

Arlene Bateman in 1997...this is how I best remember her.

Arlene Bateman in 1997…this is how I best remember her.

As the years passed, my relationship grew and I honored her as a mother that I never had. She came to love me and I felt the love from her that I didn’t ever feel from my first two mothers. Yes, even as an adult, I was chided often by mother Arlene.

For many years we were separated by distance as my family lived in Japan or across the country from the Batemans.  But we always felt her love and care.

Perhaps my fondest memory (and I am in tears as I write this), was standing next to her with her hand in mine as she lay on her death bed in Mesa, Arizona. Knowing her time was near, I expressed to her my gratitude for all she had done for me, I expressed my love to her as well.  And she said “I love you too David.” I will never forget that experience.  She was truly my mother in so many ways.  I am grateful she was in my life.

THE MOTHER OF MY CHILDREN – MY DEAR WIFE

A smiling Julianne - the love of my life

A smiling Julianne – the love of my life

I have written often about my sweetheart Julianne, and many times about how good of a mother she was (and continues to be) for our five children.

I marvel at Julianne’s nurturing ways, at her capacity to love, at her patience and her fun-loving ways. She is most definitely the greatest blessing in my life and, I would argue, the greatest blessing in the lives of our children.

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Our young family in Japan in 1988

Julianne with her two "young men" Seth and Solomon

Julianne with her two “young men” Seth and Solomon

As a mother, she struggled through the first years while I was in school and working, practically raising three young children single-handedly. She has also traveled the world with our family.  Her first venture across the ocean was as a mother of four, with a young baby, flying to Japan without her husband.  She was stranded overnight in Korea with the four children, alone and before the days of cell phones. She then spent four years in Japan dealing with tragedy (Seth was burned badly and she spent a week in a hospital with him not knowing Japanese), learning a new culture, dealing with the unique style of Japanese elementary schools and more.

Julianne and David -- I am grateful for my sweetheart

Julianne and David — I am grateful for my sweetheart

Upon return to the States, she then had to deal with life’s challenges. I had no work for a few months and later, I traveled to Kentucky in 1992 for employment on a short term contract and thus left her alone with five children for 8 months. And she did an amazing job of taking care of them…alone.

As the years passed she raised five awesome children.  She was the rock and foundation of the home. In many ways she was like a mother to me as well. Three children served LDS Missions, two graduated from college, two received Eagle Scout awards, four have been married and have children of their own.

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream -- lyrics by Antsy McClain

I Married Up, my life is sweet as a daydream — lyrics by Antsy McClain

For nearly 36 years, I have been “Married Up” to a woman I couldn’t have ever imagined even dreaming about.  She is a fabulous mother and an amazing wife.

I watch her now as a grandmother of nine (soon to be ten).  She is just as nurturing and loving to those dear grandkids as she was to her own children.

I see the love she has for all of us.  Julianne is a blessing to many many people.  And, most of all, she is a wonderful mother.

THE MOTHERS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

Hanging with two of my daughters who are mothers in their own right! Marissa (L) and Chelsea (R)

I cannot justifiably celebrate Mother’s Day without also celebrating the mothers of my grandchildren…my three daughters and a great daughter-in-law.  These woman (and yes, they are woman of courage and strength) are indeed a blessing to me and to their families.

These four ladies are raising some amazing kids.  Each has dealt with their own set of challenges, and each has done a great job handling them.  So, I want to honor each one with a brief note about them….for they too are mothers in my life.

David and Amaree

David and Amaree

My oldest daughter Amaree is also the mother to four of my grandchildren.  Amaree was the first of all of our children and it has been a joy to watch her grow up, get married and now raise her children.

After serving an LDS mission in Japan and then graduating Summa Cum Laude in Music at the University of Kentucky, Amaree married a fine young man, Aaron Matthews.For many years Amaree and Aaron lived in Montana.  Like any young couple, they went through some job changes, and some challenges.  Perhaps the greatest challenge was their youngest son Benson, who was born with a heart defect.  Heartbreak and challenge and a couple of operations later, we now look at little Bensie as a joy to all of us.

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

Amaree and her four children Kade, Charles, Olivia and Benson in 2014

A few months ago they made a choice to take a job transfer to the Seattle area so they could be closer to good medical services for Benson.  They are thriving in this new area and are loving it there.

We love seeing this little family grow.  Each of the children have grown curious with the world around them.  Amaree is always there for them and is a fabulously wonderful mother.

Amaree is certainly a mother in my life that I am grateful for.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

Marissa and her oldest child Joselyn.

My second daughter, Marissa, is also an amazing mother. She has always been artistically talented.  Like her older sister, Missy, as we call her, served a Mormon mission to Thailand. After her return, she had a small stint at BYU, but, her motherly instincts kicked in early and she chose married life over school.  She married Adam Noe just one week after her sister Amaree was married.

Since her marriage, Missy has brought forth three sweet children.  I feel so blessed to be close to her and to these adorable children.

Her artistic nature has led her to photography and she has done a splendid job of recording almost each and every move of her children.  She loves spending time with them, teaching them and taking them on trips.

Marissa with her family - husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

Marissa with her family – husband Adam and Joselyn, Landen and Lyla.

I have accompanied her on three trips with the kids, who know how to travel and love the adventure.

Not without her own struggles and challenges, Marissa has sought for ways to overcome them. She has a great husband and they live a good life here in Kentucky.

Marissa and her mother are best friends. They talk daily and enjoy their time together. It is a joy to see them and a joy to watch Missy raise her little family.  I am blessed to have Marissa as another mother in my life.

Chelsea Crabtree

Chelsea Crabtree

My third daughter Chelsea is also a mother.  She was the first of my children to get married, and at an early age.  Her daughter Autumn is the oldest of my grandchildren, at age 9.

Chelsea has been a fee-spirited girl. She struggled with English upon return to the States in 1991, having spent her formative years in Japanese schools and with Japanese friends and television.

She too was artistic and musical, a violinist in high school. She was not fond of school and even chose to not attend her high school graduation.  But, she has also worked since she was 16. In fact, she has been at Wendy’s for many years and has thrived as a manager.

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea and Autumn

Chelsea has also been a responsible mother. She has ruthlessly protected her child (I love how she always calls Autumn “my child”).  Though she went through a painful divorce and has had to deal with life as a single mother, she has found ways to make it happen. Her Autumn loves her to death.

As a mother, Chelsea makes every effort to shuffle her schedule and spend every free moment she can with her daughter. She has given Autumn endless opportunities to learn about the world around her, has taken on her numerous hiking trips and other adventures.  I am very proud to include Chelsea as one of the mothers of my life.

Holly Walker Kravetz

Holly Walker Kravetz

And finally, there is Holly Walker Kravetz, my only daughter-in-law. She is the wife of my son Seth and the mother of my grandson Rockwell (RockE) and soon to be the mother of grandchild number 10.

I actually knew Holly’s parents before I ever really knew Holly. In many ways, Holly is like my oldest daughter Amaree…a bit strong willed (but not in a bad way).  i am sure that she keeps my son Seth in line…and she should.

As a parent, I have always been uncomfortable with my in-law children in the beginning. They are always new to our lives and learning about them as they are instilled into our lives has been a challenge.  But as the years pass, I take great joy in watching them grow and I learn to love them as my own. Holly is now blossoming as a mother and wife. Like her “sisters” (my daughters), she has a very artistic side to her and is doing well with her art work, having even made a business of it.

Holly and Rockwell

Holly and Rockwell

But what I see most is her great efforts as mother.  Holly and Seth have lived apart from us for most of their marriage.  They have lived in Connecticut for a couple of years, so we rarely see them.  But, Facebook and Skype bring us closer together and we can see the love and nurturing.

Rockwell is a happy boy and appears to be very well behaved and very smart.  Much if this can be attributed to the great mothering he is getting from Holly.

We look forward to the birth of her second child, whom they know is a boy and have already selected Samuel as a name.  I am sure that Holly will be an excellent mother to him as well.

I am honored to be able to include Holly as one of the mothers in my life.

Three generations of mothers - Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

Three generations of mothers – Julianne, Arlene and Amaree

The world would be a terrible place without mothers. I am grateful for those that nurture their young and raise them to be good citizens, responsible adults and, ultimately, good mothers and fathers themselves.  I count myself blessed to have so many mothers in my life.

Life is good, especially when there are mothers involved.

40 Years of Blessings

David and friends from church as I prepare to leave for my LDS Mission in Feb. 1975 (Murray, UT)

David and friends Brett Davies and Scott Brown from church as I prepare to leave for my LDS Mission in Feb. 1975 (Murray, UT)

Today is exactly 40 years since I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These 40 years have been an amazing journey for me and I hope to use this blog post to look back on some of the highlights of what this singular event on January 26, 1975 did for me and ultimately for my family.

The Hawk Tawk newspaper from Bozeman Senior High School (ca. 1973)

The Hawk Tawk newspaper from Bozeman Senior High School (ca. 1973)

My awareness of the church, commonly known as the Mormon church, did not happen until my junior year in high school in Bozeman, Montana in 1973. at that time, I just finished the school year and was on the newspaper staff for the Hawk Tawk, which was the high school newspaper back then.

Modeling for an ad for the newspaper and the yearbook in Bozeman 1973

Modeling for an ad for the newspaper and the yearbook in Bozeman 1973

My journalism advisor (Ms. Helen Micka) assigned all of us something to do over the summer for the first and second issues of the 1973–74 school year. I received the assignment of attending the Wally Byam Caravan Club convention which is a huge airstream trailer gathering. Each year they haven’t national event and this particular year it was being held on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman.so, with camera in hand I began to attend this event.

My Wally Byam pass 1973 - yes, I still have it 402 years later!

My Wally Byam pass 1973 – yes, I still have it 402 years later!

In Bozeman, we lived about 7 miles out of town in an area known as Bear Canyon. At the entrance to Bear Canyon was a KOA campground that I frequented. And since this was summer and I was a junior in high school, I still frequented the campground, especially to go to the swimming pool or to go over to the campground office and play pool with friends. This particular summer there were a few campers with their Airstreams that did not stay at the main caravan area but selected to stay apart in their own area. One of these trailers was from Summit, New Jersey. It was a family of four, the Gilmans, who had decided to attend the convention, but wanted to stay off-site. I remember even now their two lovely high school aged girls.One was a senior in high school and the other was a sophomore at the time, if I recall correctly. As they were there for about a week I visited with them daily and even took them on a few little tours around the mountains of Bozeman.

David K Bozeman 1973

This is me in 1973 in my fancy dancy embroidered bell-sleeve shirt and with my favorite bike. I rode it everywhere. This was our house in Bear Canyon, outside of Bozeman, MT

Home in Bozeman, MT (ca 1973)

Home in Bozeman, MT (ca 1973)

One of the things I learned about them was that they were Mormon. The girls had no problems telling me about their church or their beliefs. They gave me a Book of Mormon (you can get one here today if you wish…totally free!) and I learned quite a bit about them. (Later correspondence with Sue Gilman in 2015 had her indicate that she was glad to play a small part in sharing the gospel. What she may not have realized is that he “small” part in sharing with me has led to the conversion of dozens of people. I served a mission and brought people into the church , some of whom later served missions. I had three children serve missions as well. Many of these converts will bring others to the church. Indeed, her little mustard seed has grown to a giant tree!!)

At that time I was desperately seeking for some sort of direction in my life. My mother at that time was a Jehovah’s Witness, my father was Jewish, but not at all participating in the faith. I had often gone to the Kingdom Hall for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but there was just not the feeling that I would expect to get in wanting the truth of the Gospel. And I was always seeking for the truth, prayerfully. After hearing about the Book of Mormon, I took it home because I was interested in religion. That was a big mistake! No sooner did I bring it home and my mother was adamant that the Mormons were a cult. She took the Book of Mormon from me and threw it away and told me to never deal with the Mormons.

Mom and Dad ca. 1974

Mom and Dad ca. 1974

After this event, the Gilman family left Bozeman and the Wally Byam event was over.  I pondered what they had said and continued praying for guidance and direction in my life.

An old photo of a Skaggs Drug.  My Dad worked for them for many years.

An old photo of a Skaggs Drug. My Dad worked for them for many years.

Ironically, my father, who at the time worked for Skaggs Drug in Bozeman, got a call and was transferred, of all places, to Salt Lake City, Utah. So, here we were moving to the heart of Mormon country just a couple of weeks after I had been told about the gospel by the Gilmans from New Jersey.

David ca. 1973 - I looked this way my Senior Year too.

David ca. 1973 – I looked this way my Senior Year too.

By the end of the summer we were now in Murray, Utah and I was preparing to go to high school. Many of the high schools in Utah had a building to the side of the schools that was set aside for LDS seminary. When I was registering for classes I was asked by the counselor if I would like to take seminary. I had no idea what it was, but I also thought this is a good chance to learn more about the Mormons and to possibly make some new friends since I was new in school.

My house in Murray, UT (ca. 1974)

My house in Murray, UT (ca. 1974)

School started and I was fully engaged in my classes, including seminary. Much to the chagrin of my parents I continued to study and learn about the Mormons. Unfortunately for me, because I was not yet 18, I could not gain permission from them to be baptized as they were still very against the church and its teachings, though they did like the people.

What I did discover through going to seminary was that, based upon my understanding of the gospel, this seemed like the true church to me. Mind you, I prayed feverishly about this. It was not something that I was doing out of peer pressure or anything like that.

Outing with church guys to Jackson Hole

Outing with church guys to Jackson Hole, WY  (ca. 1975)

By May 1974 I pretty much had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I had studied seminary, I had read the Book of Mormon and I had talked with many of my friends to learn more about it. I was engaged in church activities such as basketball (see a post about this) and youth programs.I was also taking the missionary discussions.

Church Basketball Team 1975

Church Basketball Team 1975

As summer came along, my mother and father were very displeased with my desires to join the Mormon church and they actually asked me to move out of the house for so doing. I was still 17 and was not able to get baptized without their permission, but I continued to struggle along while living on my own a couple of miles from home.

Finally, when I turned 18 I was able to start the efforts to get baptized. I retook the missionary discussions from the older brothers of two of my close friends (Jonathan Jensen’s brother Boyd — who was also the son of the Bishop of the Ward; and Brett Davie’s Brother Lynn).  These two, Boyd and Lynn, had both just gotten home from their missions and were great! I did those things that I was directed to do and by January 1975 it was time to get baptized.

Boyd Jensen (L) was one of the two that taught me in 1975,

Boyd Jensen (L) was one of the two that taught me in 1975,

Some of my friends had already left to serve missions for the church, but my best friend at the time, Jonathan Jensen, was leaving on his mission at the end of January and so I chose to have my baptism just before he left on his mission so that he would have that experience and I could be baptized by my best friend.

Best friend Jonathan Jensen, who baptized me.  This was him in 1976 just after I returned from my mission.

Best friend Jonathan Jensen, who baptized me. This was him in 1976 just before he left on his mission. (He will hate me for posting this photo…he never liked it)

Typically, when one is baptized in the LDS Church, it is by immersion, total immersion.  But on this fortuitous day, Jonathan didn’t get me all the way in, so we had to do it a second time, and then a third…UGH!!  He told me afterward that I probably needed extra cleansing!  No doubt.

Bishop Boyd Jensen of the Murray 20th Ward...he was like a second father to me.

Bishop Boyd Jensen of the Murray 20th Ward…he was like a second father to me.

Bishop Jensen and his wife Beverly (February 1976)

Bishop Jensen and his wife Beverly (February 1976)

With the Thomas Family and a friend in Feb. 1976

With the Thomas Family and a friend in Feb. 1976

Soon thereafter, Jonathan left on his mission to Sweden.  My other good friends were all pretty much gone as well.  So, I continued to work all through the summer.  At the time I was working for a record and tape rack jobber called Alta Distributing.  I got to travel all over Utah and Wyoming distributing records.  I did a good job for them and helped increase sales since I really knew the music (and I still do!).  I eventually moved in with the Thomas family, across the street from the Jensens.  It was nice to be near them.

David K in 1976

David K in 1975

I finally turned 19 in 1975 and could get ready for a mission.  By late October I was already filling out mission papers even though I had not been a member of the church for a year yet.  Technically, the rule was that I could not leave on a mission until I had been a member for a year, but there was nothing stopping me from submitting the paperwork before then.  In the meantime, I continued to work and save for my mission.

I honestly don’t recall exactly when I submitted the paperwork for the mission, but I do recall that it took forever to get my mission call.  By December 1975 I was really getting antsy about it.  To make things worse, Alta Distributing had decided to open a record store in Price, UT in 1976 and they had discussions with me about managing it.  In fact, one day the last week of December 1975 they offered me the position at a whopping $30,000/year.  That was almost too good to turn down…but I was waiting on my mission call. Finally, on a Friday, I told them that if I didn’t get my mission call over the weekend I would take the position.  And what happened?  I got it on Saturday and had to stew the entire weekend.  I fasted and prayed.

Oh, yes, I was called to serve in the Japan Nagoya mission.  Japan had never crossed my mind.  I thought for sure I would go to Europe!  In any case, after thinking about fish heads and rice, I decided on that Sunday I would serve. I let the guys at Alta know on Monday morning.  It was one of the most difficult choices I have ever made in my life, even to this day.  But it was the right one.

Missionary Farewell talk in February 1976

Missionary Farewell talk in February 1976

Leaving the Language Training Mission to head to Japan in April 1976

Leaving the Language Training Mission in Provo to head to Japan in April 1976

I spent two months in Provo, UT learning Japanese, but finally was able to leave, with about 18 others, in mid-April for a life changing experience in Japan.

This is the group I spent two months with in Provo learning Japanese.  We all took the flight to Japan together. (ca. April 1976)

This is the group I spent two months with in Provo learning Japanese. We all took the flight to Japan together. (ca. April 1976)

Welcome to Nagoya in April 1976

Welcome to Nagoya in April 1976 – with mission president Satoru Sato on the left

My experience in the mission field strengthened my testimony in the gospel.  It was wonderful being strengthened by others, many who have become lifelong friends.  Here are a couple more photos (of the 100s that I have) from my mission.

At Nagoya Station October 1976...my first transfer

At Nagoya Station October 1976…my second transfer – heading to Fukui

In front of our apartment in Ogaki, Japan in August 1977

In front of our apartment in Ogaki, Japan in August 1977

Elder Lee Richan became one of my most favorite companions and was a life long friend until he passed away in 2012. Here we were in Fuji, Japan in April 1978, just before I returned home.

Elder Lee Richan became one of my most favorite companions and was a life long friend until he passed away in 2012. Here we were in Fuji, Japan in October 1977, just before I returned home.

So, the mission ended and I returned home to the US in February 1978.  During my mission, my mother had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and become involved in the Baha’i faith.  Both she and my dad had softened up on my church membership as they saw through my letters home how things had been for me.  However, things were not so well for them.  While I was on my mission, they divorced.  My mom was living in a trailer in Jemez Springs, NM and my Dad had been transferred to Colorado.  Upon my return home, all of the family got together at the trailer in Jemez.  It was nice to visit all of them.  We also got a family photo, the only photo that all of us had been in together.

The family together in 1978 after my mission.  This was the only family photo we ever had together.

The family together at Christmas in 1978 after my mission. This was the only family photo we ever had together.

Mom's singlewide trailer in Jemez Springs, NM (ca. 1978)

Mom’s singlewide trailer in Jemez Springs, NM (ca. 1978)

It was nice to get them all together. Though my mother passed away in 1981, as a family we have only gotten together a couple of times since.  After visiting with them I went back to Murray to get life restarted.  I stayed with the Thomas family, got a new job with Alta and was back on track.  I also decided I would attend BYU, so I started that process.

In late July I moved to Provo.  Jonathan and some others had a house in Provo that I could live in, so I left Alta, moved to Provo and got a job at JC Penney as of August 1.  A whole new change in life.  And then a most unusual thing happened.  I went to church in a ward in Provo and, lo and behold, I ran into Sue Gilman, the same girl whom I met in Provo.  She was as surprised as I was!!  Obviously, she had no idea that I had joined the church. Personally, I think it was the Lord telling us both that He directs affairs and wanted us both to know that we had done the right things ultimately.  What a blessing that was!

While in Provo I had a few girlfriends and one quite serious relationship that ended up going sour.  But, I also ran into a girl at a bus stop that had my heart.  We had both missed the bus back in October 1978 or so.  Turns out that she worked at J.C. Penney as well and I got a ride into work with her.  She worked in the cafe, so I would occasionally go over an visit, but nothing serious ever happened.  She then went home for Christmas, which saddened me…all I knew was her first name…Juli.

My first photo with Julianne, in January 1979 in Provo, UT

My first photo with Julianne, in January 1979 in Provo, UT

Then, on January 4, 1979, school was back in session.  I was walking down the hall and she came up to me and said hello. WOW!  I got her number, called her for a date and the rest is history.   On January 15, 1979 I asked her to marry me in a cold snowy day, up in Provo Canyon.  We eventually were married exactly 6 months later.  And I know that this blessing would have never come had I not been baptized.

Wedding Photo - July 1979

Wedding Photo – July 1979

From our marriage, during the 1980s, we had five children.  I graduated from NAU and ASU.  We traveled to Japan as a family and lived there.  As our children grew older, we moved to our home in Kentucky.  So much has happened (which is all really another story).

My wife and children in 2009

My family in 2009

Kravetz Family Group 2102

Kravetz family group shot Christmas 2012. Includes children, grandchildren, father, sister and her family. The ultimate blessing!

Daughter Marissa readies for mission to Thailand

Daughter Marissa readies for mission to Thailand

Three of my children followed in my footsteps and served LDS Missions.  Amaree, my oldest, served in Japan.  In fact, she was one of the same areas as I was and attended the baptism of young boy whose mother I taught when I served my mission. Just another testimony to me that I made the right choice.  Marissa served in Thailand.  My son Seth got called to the Salt Lake City South Mission…yet another strange twist of events in my mind.  I lived there and joined the church there.  And on Seth’s final Sunday, I got special permission from the mission president to allow Seth to visit the Murray 20th Ward and speak in church as a guest speaker. He was able to express gratitude for me and also tell them what blessings they had provided through my baptism.  They could see the fruits of their labors.

My son Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City...returning to the site of my baptism

My son Seth on his mission in Salt Lake City…returning to the site of my baptism

In closing, it is amazing to look back down a 40 year old path and see all that has happened as a result of that one decision and one action in life. The path has not been easy, and was probably not intended to be easy.  I am sure there are many more challenges to come.  But the real blessing is seeing it in hindsight and knowing that good decisions ultimately bring about good results.

matthews0112So, 40 years later I still stand by my decision and am grateful to those that made it happen and grateful to God for all that has happened since.  My life has been blessed abundantly.

Feeling Blessed

Feeling Blessed

 

#TBT – Asahi Solar TV Commercial in Japan – 1990

DavidAsahiSolarHappy Throwback Thursday!  This is the first of my #TBT looks back on my work with me in Japan and around the US over the years.

Perhaps the most viewed item in my career, the following video includes the original Asahi Solar TV commercial from Japan, which aired all over the country for nearly half of 1990.

I have not written much about this video, though it has had extensive viewing since I posted it on YouTube a number of years ago.

Basically, at the time it was taken, I was the Director of International Business for Asahi Solar Corporation, which was Japan’s largest marketer of rooftop installed solar water heaters.  In the 1990s it was a big business.

Bunta Sugawara in one of his mob boss roles

Bunta Sugawara in one of his mob boss roles.  He died in November 2014

We had a famous actor from Japan, named Bunta Sugawara (8/16/1933 to 11/28/2014), who did most of our TV commercials.  He was (and still is) famous and was like a mix between the Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood of Japan.  The producers of the commercial didn’t feel that he was a fit for the theme of this particular commercial, though he was included in a bit part on it.

This particular commercial included a little doll called “Solar Bo” and was a bit too goofy for his liking.  So, they chose a big “gaijin” (foreigner) to do the part (that was me!).  I was to go to the Dentsu Advertising Agency’s recording studios in Tokyo and spent over 8 hours in a fake bathtub that was heated with an electric prod every hour, while they filmed the two 30 second spots.  We did a number of takes.  It was fun, but it was also grueling.  The video below contains the commercial as well as a collection of outtakes by Dentsu synched to the music of the Ghostbusters theme.  Yes, I am in a bathtub flying over Tucson!!

AsahiSolarClipAfter the commercial began to air, I had some minor celebrity as I traveled the country for Asahi on business.  People at airports and train stations would come to me and ask if I was the guy in the commercial.  It was fun and was an amazing ride!  Without further adieu, here is the video of the commercial and also the outtakes.  Enjoy!!