Newsletter of the early Brazilian Missions, #143
April 5, 2012
In this issue:
Tribute to missionaries who served God and Country during WWII
List of mission presidents 1935-1987
Dear Elders and Sisters,
We were saddened to note the passing on March 27 of Elder Harold G. Hillam, Emeritus member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy and former President of the Portugal Lisbon Mission 81-84, and a member of the Brazil Area Presidency, 1990 to 1995. We send our love and best wishes to Sister Carol Hillam and the family. An article and an obituary:
Any report of our reunion last Friday will be inadequate, but I will share some of the news as I observed it. Please excuse me for leaving out many names as I am going by memory and there were some 450 persons coming and going during the event.
Both Elder Claudio R. M. Costa and Elder Stanley Ellis of the Seventy shared not only their love for Brazil and the saints of Brazil, but their marvelous vision for the kingdom of God which has been established and is growing in beauty and faith. I wish all could have been there to be uplifted and feel of the power of their messages to us. They spoke with the spirit and power of General Authorities and both inspired and challenged us. Elder Costa is President of the Brazil Area since August of 2011, and Sister Margareth Costa was with him at the reunion.
“If you ever wonder if your missionaries ever did any good,” said Elder Costa (my paraphrasing), directing his remarks to Sister Catherine Beitler Humphrey, “I am the fruits of your missionaries.” He named the two sisters who taught him the gospel when he joined the church at age 28, when Sister and President Beitler were presiding in São Paulo. Elder Costa recognized and appreciated Elmo Turner, present at the reunion, as the president of the Missionary Training Center at São Paulo who hired him many years ago.
Both speakers spoke of Brazil as the “second country” in the Church, behind the USA, in the number of stakes and other markers of growth, and shared marvelous actual stories of the faith of the members. Elder Costa, who was the first mission president in Manaus, told of the early faith-filled efforts of the saints there who made 15-day trips to obtain their temple endowments. The new Manaus Temple will be dedicated in June.
I cannot name all who were in attendance at the reunion, but will note some. Seen at the luncheon—okay, it was a big feijoada feast—were Sister Geri Bangerter and family members, Nelson and Julie Aidukaitis, President Duke and Sister Alice Cowley, Elder Larry Y. Wilson, David and Diedre Paulsen, President Tom Jensen, Helio da Rocha Camargo, Jr., President David Beck, and President Wilford Cardon. In the afternoon a big group of Sisters, mostly from the Bangerter era met, I understand, and then Elders from that group and the Cardon group.
In the evening I also saw Gary and Rose Neeleman, President Jerry and Sister Patty Twitchell of the Curitiba Mission. President Lloyd Hicken (who served his first mission before WWII) met with a good group of his missionaries. Elder Darwin Christenson and Sister Sandy Christenson met with a large group of their missionaries from the Brazil SP North Mission. Ralph and Colleen Sorensen Chipman were there on behalf of the Sorensen family. President Roger Call and his wife Cheryl were there too.
I know there were others of note, but I could not see or visit with them all. A number of the mission presidents we honored by mention were absent so they could attend their own reunions with their younger missionaries. (See the list of mission presidents below.)
We had in attendance a few of the missionaries who served before World War II, including Wayne Johnson, Barlow Briggs and Lloyd Hicken. As part of our chapel meeting, we were able to pay tribute to them and those who served with them and then went into military service during the war. (See a copy of the tribute below.)
The next super reunion is planned for the Thursday before October General Conference in 2015—3 ½ years from now—so presidents, if possible, we hope you will be able to make arrangements and join with us on that evening.
I want to express my thanks to all who came to the reunion and even more so to all who made it possible. The setting at the Bountiful Central Stake Center was perfect, thanks to Denis Hawkins and Alan Hill who headed the organizing committee and did so much work before, during and after. Sister Lola Gygi Timmins was a source of so much of the tableware and table decorations and opened up her company’s large kitchen for the cooking of the feijoada. Sister Cleonice Hermansen organized a fine group of sisters and brothers who prepared the big pots of feijoada and farofa and all the fixin’s, including Fatima Silva and “Bete” Concha, Socorro Pragana, Osvaldo and Marcia Junot. Sister Ana Maria and Bishop Oswaldo Bueno de Moura and his mother and daughter were there early to decorate the tables and set up a large map of Brazil. Kim and Marlene Russell manned the check-in tables. In the afternoon Brother Roberto Viveiros showed and narrated a DVD with the history of the Church in Brazil; Tom Williams played Bossa Nova songs; and Kim Russell showed many interesting slides of Brazil and missionary activities there. Special thanks to Alan Hill for acquiring bastante guaraná for the luncheon. Other committee members included Larry Seamons, Mauricio Junot, Ray Taylor, and Dave Prows.
Thanks to organist Denis Hawkins, pianist Lex de Azevedo and conductor Karla Toland Rosenlund for help with the music at the evening session, and to Luiz Meneghin for a vocal number. We got to sing six hymns in Portuguese during the meeting, and it was good, loud and joyful.
Finally, I will say that “a good time was had by all who came.” We ate, we sang, we visited and there were lots of abraços all around.
For me personally, the General Conference weekend was a joy, as I managed to get into all five sessions and meet many, many Brazilians attending, including a number of Area Seventies from all over Brazil. I met for the first time Moroni Torgan, newly sustained as a General Authority and currently presiding over the Portugal Lisbon Mission, and Sister Rosa Torgan. Also his sister, Jaqueline Torgan Fusco and her husband Carlos. I met my first Angolan sister and her children waiting in line. And so many more.
I will admit that on Sunday morning I was standing outside Temple Square in the cold with many others, hoping someone would give me a ticket. Then a beautiful young woman came skipping up to me and said “Elder Gunn!” and gave me a big abraço. It was Larissa Blanski from Curitiba. Elder Doug Marker and I had baptized her grandmother Teodozia and mother Dora (then 9) in Apucarana, Paraná, in 1963, and I had visited the family in recent years during my trips to Brazil. I didn’t know that Larissa was living in Salt Lake City now. This was one more joyful experience for me, to meet her. It put frosting on the cake for my General Conference weekend. Oh, and she got me a ticket into the session.
I shared abraços with some Brazilians who know my brother Ronald in São Paulo (and so they treat me nice), including Elders Marcos Aidukaitis and Ulisses Soares as they gathered in the Conference Center lobby to visit among the many brasileiros gathering there.
You are aware that Sister Julie Bangerter Beck was released as general president of the Relief Society. I am sure that you share with Sister Gunn and me a profound admiration, respect and love for Sister Beck, who has been a wonderful leader. We count her as one of our finest alumni of the Brazilian missions. Did you know that when meeting with saints in Latin America and Brazil she gives her talks in Spanish or Portuguese? See a nice interview of her in LDS Living magazine, “Sister Julie B. Beck, Continuing the Legacy” online at
Elder Stanley G. Ellis was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, moving from the Second Quorum. Read about the newly called and newly released Brazilian Area Seventies at lds.org, Newsroom.
A Tribute: Missionaries served God and country in WWII
Brothers and sisters, I am not an historian. I write newsletters. But I hear some pretty good stories along the way, and enjoy sharing them. Please recognize that what I am about to share is incomplete and inadequate, but worth telling. It is about some of the missionaries who served in Brazil before World War II and some of what they did after their missions. I want you to hear their names. We honor them today by remembering who they were and the sacrifices they made for God and Country. You will recall that the Brazilian Mission was organized in 1935.
Six years ago I stood on Corcovado Rock, overlooking Rio de Janeiro— at the foot of Brazil’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, the magnificent representation of the resurrected Christ, arms outstretched, the marks of atoning sacrifice in his hands.
In my tour group was Barlow Briggs, then a spry 86 years old, who had been a missionary in Brazil as a young man. He recalled how one Sunday after church he and his companion rode the Corcovado train up to admire the statue, which had been erected only 10 years before. The next day, he said, bold newspaper headlines announced “Guerra no Pacifico!”-- “War in the Pacific!” Pearl Harbor had been bombed that Sunday. No more young missionaries would be called to Brazil.
Barlow’s mission president, 39-year old J. Alden Bowers who had served a mission in Germany ten years earlier, was a reserve artillery captain in the U.S. Army. He was replaced five months later and went almost directly to Europe, never expecting to come back.
President Bowers and his replacement, 67-year old William Seegmiller, who became a caretaker mission president, counseled their young American missionaries to return to the U.S. and serve their country. Many, many did just that—returning and enlisting in the armed forces or reporting to their draft boards.
Barlow signed on for Marine Corps OCS and was commissioned a Naval Officer to train gun crews on ships. John Koch used his mission German as an Army interrogator in France and Germany. Alma Kruger was a Sergeant in the Army infantry. Dick Platt shut down the Brazilian Mission in 1943 and served as a radio operator in the Air Force during the war. Mel Morris was an officer with the 7th Infantry Division and the Chemical Warfare Service, and later served during the Korean conflict.
Jim Imlay was a 2nd lieutenant in the Philippines. Ferrel Bybee would win two bronze battle stars in the Army and Davis Grant would serve in WWII and Korea.
I don’t know many of their stories. Mostly just what a widow or family member tells me or an obituary mentions.
Esbee Orin Myler, one of the earliest Brazilian missionaries, was in the Army. Ellis Packer was in the Army. Quentin Andrus, Rulon Haacke and Howard Taylor joined the Navy. Ray Zenger was an Army officer. That’s all I know about their service.
Ross Christensen served in the European Theater in the Army. Norton Nixon served in both Europe and occupied Japan in the Army. Wayne Johnson fought in Italy alongside Brazilian troops and retired a lieutenant colonel.
Jim Asper served with the 10th Mountain Division and received the Brazilian Service Cross in 1951. Because he spoke Portuguese, Jack Turner was sent to Washington DC and then guarded President Roosevelt at Camp David. Franklin McKean was in occupied Japan and went on to become a 2-star general in the Army Reserves. “Bud” Arnold enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and served 4 years at a disembarkation hospital. 5fr
Army soldier Wayne Call landed in Normandy six days after D-Day. Don Ashworth, also Army, entered the European Front at France on Omaha Beach the day after D-Day and went into Germany, and later served in Korea. Kenneth Boss served in the U.S. Air Force in the China, Burma and India Theater of the War. Howard Robinson was in Italy with the Army.
What impresses me was the courage of these men to serve God and then country, some at the cost of their own lives. David Herman Plewe was killed in action on January 6, 1945 in France. Arthur Carl Zollinger’s headstone says “Private, 161st Infantry, World War II.” He died on April 26, 1945.
While Dee Wilson was a missionary he lost his brother in the war, but Dee went on to serve in the Merchant Marines, as did LeGrand Forsyth and Ted Beck. Daniel B. Harrison was sought for his language skills and went back to Brazil to work for the U.S. Consul General. Nevertheless, he was drafted into the U. S. Army and served as a translator and interpreter during the war. Jack Tittensor was in Europe in the Army. Asael T. Sorensen landed at Normandy on D-Day plus two with the Army Intelligence Corps attached to Patton’s Third Army.
Some of these brothers instructed that they not be made to sound like war heroes at their funerals.
Willard Call served as a bombardier navigator during the war, and later as an intelligence officer during the Korean War and became an LDS Chaplain in the Army Reserves. Ralph Charles Gunn was selected to study Japanese and Military Intelligence at the University of Michigan and took part in the liberation of Europe and the occupation of Japan. John Rich enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941 and was a member of Carlson’s Raider Battalion in the South Pacific.
Ted Benson served in Okinawa and with the Army of Occupation in Japan. Later he was Secretary to the Joint Brazil U.S Military Commission in Brazil and was awarded the Order of Military Merit by Brazil. In Vietnam he was a decorated Green Beret commander.
Roger Rose went into France after D-Day with the Army Signal Corps. Heber Stevenson was in Casablanca and followed Patton across Europe. Earl Norman Keate was an artillery and intelligence officer in Germany and France, and said the German language he learned in Brazil helped save his life during the war. Captain Max Shirts and 1st Lt. James Faust served in the Army Air Corps in Intelligence and were at New Orleans and Baltimore together, and brother Faust went to Suez, Egypt, 83 days on a Liberty Ship. Lloyd Hicken piloted a B-24 Liberator on 27 bombing missions in the Pacific Theater from New Guinea to China.
You will recognize some of these names. As a rule, almost all of these men went on with lives of service to family, church and community.
Grant Bangerter was a U.S. Army Air Force pilot and training squadron commander. Major Calvin “Gail” Cragun flew 21 bombing missions as well as the Berlin Airlift and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Warren Cromar served in the South and Central Pacific theaters and was a Lieutenant Colonel when he died in 1953. Paul Harmon went to Harvard for officer training and served three years in the South Pacific in the Navy. Jay Smart was in the Army until the malaria he had contracted in Brazil returned. Lester Taylor served in the Air Force Intelligence Corps in the Azores during the war. Gerald Werrett enlisted in the Army Air Force and served during the war.
1st Lt. Hal Johnson was a bombardier on a B-24 and flew 43 missions in the South Pacific. Paul R. Merrell married and joined the Navy, earning five stars during many battles in the Pacific.
Ralph Jones assisted in the war effort in translation and espionage investigations as a Special Agent of the FBI. Master Sergeant Warren Porter served in the Military Intelligence Service as a translator and interpreter for Brazilian army officers being trained in the United States.
Brigham “Bim” Holbrook served in the American Embassy in Brazil and in the Merchant Marines during the war. Jay Byron Hunt joined the Army and served in the Intelligence Service in Europe as a German-speaking prisoner-of-war interrogator. He rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves.
I honor these missionaries-turned-soldiers, most of them gone now. They served God and Country.
I spoke with Mirl Hymas last week. He joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Recife when called into the Counterintelligence Service. He served the rest of the war in Africa and India. Robert Scott tells me he was in Okinawa on the USS Pine Island, a Navy sea plane tender. Lee Anderson says he went to France with the Army Transportation Corps to bring home the troops by ship at the end of the war.
“When all is said and done,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2003, “we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. . . . This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy.”
Barlow Briggs’ generation proved that. God bless those who so serve today.
Service information compiled by Alfred Gunn
Note: I am indebted to Frederick S. and Frederick G. Williams for the list of names of those who served in Brazil pre-WWII, found in their book “From Acorn to Oak Tree,” Et Cetera, Et Cetera Graphics, 1987, pp. 363-366.
Brazilian Mission Presidents, 1935 to 1987 period
Brazilian Mission 1935-1969
President Rulon Stanley Howells and Sister Mary Pierce Howells 35-38 and 49-53
President John Alden Bowers and Sister Amelia Pettit Wright Bowers 38-42
President William W. Seegmiller and Sister Ada Pratt Seegmeiller 42-45
President Harold Morgan Rex and Sister Diania Rex 45-49
President Asael T. Sorensen and Ida Lorene Mason Sorensen BM 53-58 and BSM 59-61
President Wm. Grant Bangerter and Sister Geraldine “Geri” Bangerter 58-63
President Wayne M. Beck and Sister Evelyn Beck 63-66
President Lloyd R. Hicken and Sister Alice Hicken 66-69
Brazil North Mission
President Hal R. Johnson and Sister Virginia Johnson 68-71
President George Oakes and Sister Jeannette Oakes 71-74
President Gustav Salik and Sister Ida Salik 74-75
Brazil Central Mission/South Central Mission/Brazil Sao Paulo South 72-87
President Sherman Hibbert and Sister JoAnn Hibbert 69-72
President David A. and Sister Pat Christensen July-October 1972
President Nelson Baker and Sister Lucille Baker 72-75
President Roger Beitler and Sister Catherine Beitler 75-78
President Wilford Cardon and Sister Phyllis Cardon 78-81
President John H. Hawkins and Sister Rebecca Hawkins 81-84
President Roger Call and the late Sister Janet Call 84-87
Brazil North Central Mission/Brazil São Paulo North 1979-1987
President Leroy Drechsel and Sister Ruth Drechsel 72-75
(and President of the Brazil Recife Mission, 1986-1987)
President Saul Messias de Oliveira and Sister Elvira Oliveira 75-78
President Harry E. Maxwell and Sister Carol Maxwell 78-81
President Darwin Christenson and Sister Sandy Christenson 81-84
President Robert R. Steuer and Sister Margaret Black Steuer 84-87
Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission 1975-1987
President Helio da Rocha Camargo and Sister Nair Camargo 75-78
President Max Leroy Shirts and Sister Nell Shirts 78-81
President Danilo Talanskas and Sister Marina Talanskas 81-84
President Cory Bangerter and Sister Gayle Bangerter 84-87
Brazil South and Porto Alegre Missions 1961 to 1970
President Asael T. Sorensen and Sister Ida Sorensen BM 53-58 and BSM 59-61
President Finn B. Paulsen and Sister Sarah Broadbent Paulsen 61-64
President C. Elmo Turner and Sister Lois Turner 64-67
President Thomas F. Jensen and Sister Sherma Jensen 67-70
Brazil South/Porto Alegre Missions 70-85
President Orson Pratt “Bud” Arnold and Sister Colleen Joy Arnold 70-73
President Lynn A. Sorensen and Sister Janet W. Sorensen 73-76
President Jason Garcia Souza and Sister Lindamir Souza 76-79
President Walter Guedes de Queiroz and Sister Neide Satico Queiroz 79-82
President Osiris Cabral and Sister Ivani Riveira Cabral 82-85
Brazil Recife Mission
President Harry Klein and Sister Maria Moreira Klein 79-82
President Paulo Puerta and Sister Rita Cundari Puerta 82-85
President Duke Cowley and Sister Alice Cowley 80-83
President Jerry F. Twitchell and Sister Patty Lynne Twitchell 83-86