Friday, September 21, 2012

Uncle Dennis

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John Dennis Higginson
July 25, 1936 ~ July 13, 2012

This is my Uncle Dennis, my Dad's oldest brother.
He passed away in July.
My Uncle Dennis was / is a great man who served others and lived a faithful life.
He loved the Lord and his family.

Uncle Dennis will be missed.
It was so sad that my parents could not be home for his funeral.
They are serving a mission in Canada and had to miss it.

Uncle Dennis, my Dad, Uncle Carol
Three of the brothers.

 Uncle Dennis worked construction and also built beautiful furniture.

 He served a mission with his wife in Nauvoo, Illinois making custom antique replicas of furniture that would be on display at the homes where they give tours.

He even built his own casket several years ago.

We attended his funeral up near Boise, Idaho.
This seated row are his family members who could make it.
His wife, my Aunt Sherrel, is sitting in the yellow dress.

 Aunt Sherrel
Uncle Dennis had parkinsons for many years.
Aunt Sherrel took care of him all of that time and served him.
What a testament of love that is.

His son Matthew wrote a beautiful tribute to his Dad and read it for all of us.
It made us laugh and cry.

 A beautiful song by Uncle David's family.
And beautiful music by Aunt Tam and Adam.

Someone put this photo of him on the casket.
What a great photo.

This is Uncle Dennis's son Matthew with my Uncle Carol.
Uncle Carol is the next Uncle in age to Uncle Dennis.
They have now had two brothers pass away within just over a year of each other.
So heartbreaking.

Matthew's wife put together these little bags of dried marshmallows.
Dried marshmallows were Uncle Dennis's favorite treat.

 Aunt Louise, Aunt Sherrel, ME.
I was saying good bye to two of my Aunts and Aunt Sherrel mentioned that we are the three widows in the family now. Each of them have lost their husbands in the past year and a half.
So we got a photo. I love them.

 Uncle Dennis with Aunt Sherrel.
This was the last time I got to see Uncle Dennis before he passed away.

We love and miss you, Uncle Dennis.

This is a tribute that my Dad wrote about Uncle Dennis.
I wanted to include it here.

Life Sketch of John Dennis Higginson
by: Lynn Higginson

    John Dennis Higginson was born on Saturday, July 25, 1936, in Boise, Idaho, the firstborn child of John Detton Higginson and Merle Dean Harris Higginson.  Like his father, he was John D. Higginson, but was always called Dennis.  Dennis was a beautiful baby, and was soon adorned by a full head of blonde hair with a natural wave in just the right place above his forehead.
    The birth of Dennis was only half of the joy that blessed the Higginson family in 1936.  That year his father, John Detton Higginson, finally acquired long-term and full-time employment in the car-repair shops of the Pacific Fruit Express, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad.  This dependable job followed years of standard depression uncertainty, and the need to range far and wide to find and work diverse and temporary odd jobs just to survive.
    Dennis grew up in Nampa, Idaho, at first in town at 311 Holly Street; second, in the country on Franklin Road, and finally, in the country on East Powerline Road.  He attended grades 1-6 at Lakeview School, grades 7-9 at Central Junior High School, and grades 10-12 at Nampa High School, where he was inducted into the National Honor Society and participated as a delegate at Boys' State in Boise.  Dennis was athletic and excelled in track and field events.  He was dominant in the high jump.
    Two years after Dennis was born, a brother, Carol D. Higginson was born in Nampa (1938).  Dennis was always very close to Carol, and their brotherly competition was a positive and endearing force. When they wrestled, Dennis handled Carol's passion and tenacity with good humor and laughter.
    Two years after Carol's birth, another son, Richard Lynn Higginson, was born in Nampa (1940).  Then three years later the fourth brother, David Lee Higginson, was born in Nampa (1943).  Merle, the mother of these four boys, had suffered a back injury in an automobile collision when Lynn was a baby, and afterward pregnancy was a torture to her.  Following David's birth the doctors advised her that any more children would put her life at risk.
    But, after a sermon on God's commandment to “multiply and replenish the earth” touched John and Merle's hearts, they parented four more children:  another son, Michael Dean Higginson (1948), at last a daughter, Cheryl Ann Higginson (1950), and then twins, Timothy Jay Higginson and Tamara Kay Higginson (1953), all born in Nampa.
    As is the case with many first-born children, Dennis grew up comfortable with high expectations, precocious responsibility, and a heavy load of chores.  There was (irrigation) water to turn, hay to haul, stock to feed, cows to milk, calves to tend, milk to strain and cool, milk cans to set out, clothes to wash, wash to hang out, and always younger siblings to look after.
    In addition, Dennis was committed to getting good grades at school.  Early on, he decided he would attend Brigham Young University.  He was encouraged to earn a scholarship to help with college expenses.  He was a model student, and always a favorite among his teachers and counselors.
    Dennis was also encouraged to work away from home to cover all his own expenses for clothes, school activities and supplies, entertainment and recreation, and transportation.  Dennis was never without a job offer, and was able to gain experience in many kinds of work.  A family from church hired Dennis for a while to be their number one farm hand.  He became so indispensable that they invited him to live with them for a season.  He worked for awhile at the Creamery in Meridian.  The companies he worked for in Nampa included the Amalgamated Sugar factory, Birds Eye Frozen Foods, and Kings Meat Packing Plant.  He also worked for Green Giant Company in Dayton, Washington.  This is only a sampling of all the jobs he filled in his youth.  They are too numerous to mention all.
    Dennis graduated from Nampa High School with honors, and was granted admission to Brigham Young University.  He had enough of his earnings saved to pay his way to the university.  While at BYU, Dennis prepared to accept a mission call.  At the appropriate time, he was called to serve for two years in the Central Atlantic States Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He completed his assignment and was honorably released.  Then he returned to BYU.  At first, Dennis worked on a Civil Engineering Degree, but soon his desires turned toward education, with a degree in Industrial Arts Education.
    Dennis married Rayma Sherrel Walker in the Idaho Falls L.D.S. Temple on 20 November 1959.  Sherrel was from Dennis's home ward, the Nampa 3rd Ward of the Nampa (Idaho) Stake.  Sherrel returned to Provo, Utah, with Dennis where they lived until he finished his last three years of school, and there they started their family together.  Their first baby was a boy, Kevin Dee Higginson, born in Provo, Utah (July, 1960).  Between Dennis's Junior and Senior years at BYU, he and Sherrel set up camp in the Uinta Forest and felled timber for the summer.
    Dennis graduated from Brigham Young University in June, 1962, with a B.S. Degree in Industrial Education and a secondary teaching certification.  Their second baby was a girl, Sheralee Higginson, born in Ogden, Utah (July 1962).  That summer Dennis worked with his cousin, Grant Gifford, doing the finish work on a new home Grant had contracted to build.  Then he and Sherrel and their two little ones moved to Prospect, Oregon, where Dennis filled his first teaching assignment, teaching Industrial Arts at Prospect (Oregon) High School.  While they lived at Prospect, Dennis taught school and worked summers for the National Forest Service.  Also, Dennis was called to serve as Branch President of the Shady Cove Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Dennis and Sherrel were always active in the Church.
    Dennis and Sherrel learned to deal with sorrow and adversity.  Their third baby was a boy, Kim Daniel Higginson, born in Medford, Oregon (September, 1963).  He was born with a congenital heart defect, and despite their best efforts to keep him, Kim was taken home to his Heavenly Father after only two and a half short months on December 5, 1963.  Burial plots were purchased at Cloverdale Memorial in Boise, where Kim was buried.
    Dennis taught in Prospect for a total of four school years.  The next stop for Dennis and Sherrel was Caldwell, Idaho, to which they moved in the summer of 1966.  During their three years in South-western Idaho, Dennis taught school one year in Caldwell.  Then he took a year off from teaching and helped log house logs from the mountains and helped Lynn and Karen add onto and get into a rustic little log house on their acreage west of Homedale.  Then Dennis contracted to build a new home in Nampa for a family named Rogers.  He hired his two brothers, Carol and Lynn, to help him.  Even though Dennis was committed to teaching school, he never got over the feeling that he could be a successful building or construction contractor.  During that year off from teaching, Dennis and Sherrel adopted a baby boy, Andrew Len Higginson, who was born in November, 1967.  They took Baby Andrew home to their house on Linden Street in Caldwell in February, 1968.
    His last year in Idaho, Dennis and Sherrel moved to Bruneau, Idaho, where Dennis taught school (l968-69).   Then, in the summer of 1969, they moved again, this time back to Utah.  At first they rented in Orem, and then purchased their first home.  Dennis took a teaching job at Cyprus High School in the Salt Lake Valley, teaching various Shop classes, including Metals Shop, a first for him.  When they moved from Bruneau to Orem, Sherrel was expecting another baby.  A baby girl, Rachelle Higginson, was born in Provo, Utah, in October, 1969.  She was born alive, but lived only twenty-four hours.  She too had congenital defects that made survival impossible.  After that sorrow, Dennis and Sherrel were impressed that they could not parent any more healthy children of their own.
    They were able to adopt another baby the next spring.  A lovable Navajo baby boy, Mathew Ben Higginson, came to their Orem home in May, 1970.  That fall, Dennis accepted a teaching position in Heber City at Wasatch Junior High School where his brother, Lynn, had been teaching English.  Dennis became a Junior High Mathematics teacher.  He had to take some additional classes at BYU, but all went well, and he spent the next nine years teaching Math in Heber City.
    Dennis and Sherrel moved their family to Wasatch County after a year of commuting up Provo Canyon, first to a rental home in Heber City, then to a Heber City apartment, and finally to their own newly-constructed log home up Center Creek, east of Heber City.  Dennis and Lynn went into a partnership logging out house logs from up in the Uintah Mountains east of Oakley, Utah.  They bought an old truck and man-handled the logs from the spot they fell on the ground to the bed of the truck without benefit of any mechanized equipment.  They bought forest service permits and babied the worn-out old truck until the log harvest was over.  Then they worked together for years in an expanding logging enterprise with other brothers and a cousin, Terry Raff.
    Even though Dennis and Sherrel had their rustic and appealing new log home, Dennis never rested until other members of his family had homes of their own.  For several years, summers were spent building new homes for David and Louise, Carol and Percy, Mike and Becky, Grandpa and Grandma Higginson, and the Wallsburg School House was remodeled into a terrific home for Lynn and Karen.  Dennis never held it over anyone's head that his expertise and experience made his contribution much more valuable than the “traded” labor of others.  It was Dennis's idea to name the the whole enterprise “Catfish Construction Company,” after the experience he had with Grant Gifford.  Members of the family gained many blessings from service offered so freely by Dennis, big brother and example to all of us.
    After all this building in Utah, Dennis and his brothers took a trip during the summer of 1978 and toured most of the state of Missouri.  Dennis received a strong impression that he should move his family to the Granby area of Southwest Missouri.  A great family migration followed that impression.  In 1979, Dennis, Lynn and Mike drove to Springfield, Missouri, and graduated together from Real Estate School, and then took the licensing exam and became Real Estate salesmen.  Then Dennis, Lynn, David and Keith Leavitt bought an existing real estate business and created Pioneer Realty.  This occurred concurrent with President Jimmy Carter's 20+ percent real estate loan interest rates, and more than half of all established real estate businesses nationwide went out of business.  Dennis left the real estate office and committed himself to the construction business.  Before he was through, his brother Mike had partnered with him and they built or added onto fourteen Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in Missouri and Oklahoma.  Dennis and Mike were very successful.  What they built was a credit to them and to the Church.  They finally retired from the construction business.
    At one time or another, every member of John and Merle Higginson's family had moved to, owned property, or had homes near Granby, Neosho or Joplin (Tam and Ken's stay was short).  Not long after Dennis and Sherrel moved to Southwest Missouri, Dennis was called to serve as Branch President of the Granby Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Twice, he also served on the Joplin Stake High Council.  From May 2000 to December 2001, Dennis and Sherrel served together on a full-time Senior Couple Mission.  They started in Colorado renovating and repairing Church ranch facilities, but spent most of their mission in Nauvoo, working with Nauvoo Restoration building pioneer furniture for the sites.  Without doubt it can be said that Dennis endured to the end.
    It is there, south of Granby, Missouri, in the beautiful home he built for Sherrel, that Dennis died on July 13, 2012, from the ravages of nearly fifteen years of Parkinsons Disease, his body and his mind only shadows of the power and the brilliance that had marked his life.  In her devoted care for and service to the ailing John Dennis Higginson, one would have to say that Sherrel too had endured to the end.

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1 comment:

Mindy said...

Thank you for writing this, and sharing pictures. I wish I had been able to be at the funeral, so this really helped.