Friday, October 30, 2009

Lydia and Porter Merrell

Willis died of leukemia August 24, 1983. Willis's boss, Lee Barton, was Lydia's bishop. He suggested that Lydia go on a mission. It was great therapy for her because she had something to look forward to instead of just looking back and focusing on her loneliness. She served in the Tampa Florida mission.

After Lydia returned, Lydia was living in Manti, Utah where she and Willis had moved in 1963. Her youngest sister Linnie was living in Ephraim, Utah. Ross and Linne had moved to Ephraim sometime in the early 50's. Ross and Linnie were taking a trip out to the Uintah basin to see Emily, Lydia and Linnie's sister. They invited Lydia to go along.

While there, they stopped in Duchesne to visit Porter Merrell who had recently lost his wife. Lydia wrote about Porter, "Once before when I was with them (Ross and Linnie), they had stopped to see him. When our parents had lived in Bluebell, they had been friends with his parents. Porter had been a pupil of Papa's in school. As an adult, he had been our ditch rider. I must have seen him occasionally then, as I knew he had red hair, but I cannot recall a single incident concerning him."

Not long after, Porter called Lydia up and asked to come and visit her. He was 87 years old and she was 76. It was fall and, when Porter went to church in Manti, he was asked if he were in town because he was deer hunting. He said, "Yes, I'm dear hunting."

They were married Nov 27, 1987. Porter was very good to us as a step-father. His children, though, had a hard time accepting that their Dad had remarried. Mostly this was pretty underground but occasionally it would surface. Porter had a daughter who was a widow at the time of Porter and Lydia's marriage. She told Lydia that she would never remarry, intimating that it would be a betrayal to the memory of her first spouse. The irony of it was that she did remarry later.

Lydia's sister Ruth was also widowed by this time. I think Ruth was a little envious that Lydia had gotten to Porter before she did. Ruth was more of a flirt than Lydia and I suspect she thought that maybe she could have turned Porter's head. Sometime after Porter and Lydia got married, Ruth asked me if it bothered me to think of my mother having sex with a man who was not my father. As the mother of five children and totally straight faced, I answered, "I don't think my mother's ever had sex with any man." A child of any age just has a hard time envisioning that of one's parent.

Porter and Lydia were called to be ordinance workers in the Provo Temple. At 92 years of age Porter was driving two hours from Duchesne to Provo to fulfill this call. They would stay over-night and drive home the next day. One day when Porter was 96, he had a stroke and heart attack while in the temple. He surprisingly recovered very well from both. The only impairment he suffered was the inability to close his thumb and index finger on one hand.

Porter always planted a bounteous garden which he mostly gave away during the years I knew him.

In 1999, I learned that Porter was ill. I called my mother to see what was up with him. She said that they had taken him to a funeral and now he wanted one. At another time she said, "He's had too many birthdays." Porter died on Christmas day 1999. We said he had gone home for Christmas and didn't find it upsetting to associate his death with the holiday. He was three weeks shy of his 100 birthday. Lydia died the following fall at 89 years of age.

We were grateful for the companionship they shared late in their lives for twelve years. Although Lydia had found her marriage to Willis rewarding, Willis had never shared her interest in the gospel but she was able to share that with Porter. They were both active and relatively independent up to the end.

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