Life History of Viola Lauper Johnson
Describe your mother in looks and temperament.
Her coloring was brown/blonde and fair skin. Her eyes were large and very blue. I can still see her eyes, somewhat wet with emotion, on my wedding day as I kneeled at the altar. I looked up at her watching this most important event in the lives of my Joe and me. She was probably 5 foot 5 inches in her prime, although I remember her best as about 5 foot 2 or 3. For most of her years, she was shapely in body, with a fair waistline and bearing. In later years, she gained some weight and was somewhat round. She was strong of body and mind, a hard worker, something she did for all of her life - Work hard - TOO hard!!
Now for a little physical description of my parents: My father, Emile, was about 5 feet, 10 and one-half inches in his prime, having significant breadth in his chest. He never seemed quite as large as your Uncle Dennis - one with whom you are all familiar with - yet his stature would more resemble that of Uncle Dennis than any of the other of the Lauper Uncles. His eyes were blue, his hair was brownish with a sandy influence, but it thinned very early in his life. His sons often joked that he was the only man they knew who could get a hair cut without removing his hat. His facial features bore a strong resemblance to that of Uncle Marc as well as to your Auntie Alice Brown. If I were to name 3 outstanding characteristics, or virtues, which he possessed, they, would be: (1) His inherent Faith, which was truly outstanding: (2) His built-in National Loyalty (My, oh my, how he loved his Native Land. I can see the tears fill his blue eyes as he looked into mine, stating: "Oh, how I love my motherland, and if the Gospel were not true, I would have gone back many times."); and (3) his Love for his Family. He stated often that each of us was of paramount importance to him in his life.
My little Danish mother came with her grandmother, Else Nielsen, to this country. She continued to live with and was nurture and raised by that same little grandmother in the Scandinavian community of Sanpete County, town of Moroni, Utah. Mother Emma was about my coloring in eyes, hair and general complexion, and her height was very similar to mine. I never knew her with short bobbed hair. Rather I recall her throughout her lifetime with quite long hair which she wore in a bob at either the nape of her neck or on top of her head.
Both my parents were fortunate in having been born with strong bodies and good blood. I mention blood in that each of us can be thankful to have inherited an unusual "healing blood". They suffered many hardships and privations, but managed to survive serious accidents and illnesses. Father possessed unusual strength and could out-work, out-lift, and out-do any two men matched beside him. He was immodestly proud of his strong body, winning many contests in walking, swimming, and lifting. It was his pride in maintaining his fine body that led him to listening to the missionaries, for he heard them discussing the precept of the Word of Wisdom.
What were your mother's best traits?
It seems I've written a great deal about my mother; but I am always happy to recall instances of my mother and to share her experiences. She was a natural NURTURER. Motherhood meant almost everything to her. She made each of the several children of our large family feel so good, so needed, so loved. We all yearned for our humble home and Mother whenever we were away. She was a good student in the little schooling she had, an avid reader, a proficient speller; and had a love for poetry. My mother passed away on March 8, 1958. I sit thinking of her and how I loved her, and loved being her helper when I was a little girl.
How did your mother spend her time?
I am sadly amused as I read this question. My dear mother was completely occupied with cares in the home. Child bearing, nurturing, teaching, nursing, helping, attending to all needs pertaining to her children and husband constituted her life. Moreover, poverty prevailed in our household throughout the years, allowing for no conveniences, but much hard work day in and day out. Because my father, and the older boys as well, were occupied in the fields, it was necessary for Mother to also assume many of the outside chores - caring for some of the stock, chickens, etc. Her life was disadvantaged and difficult - her major respite and enjoyment was in the love exchange among our family. Her children were her pride, joy, and LIFE.
Did you and your father share any interests? Tell about your relationship.
My father had no formal education in America. He taught himself to read and write English by use of newspapers, the Dictionary - actually, any printed matter he could lay his hands on. He encouraged all of us children to improve our language skills by the same method and engaged with us. He possessed a fine tenor voice so we enjoyed family sings, mostly the hymns which we learned at Church. Gospel discussions were a real favorite with him. He knew and understood the principles and embraced them.
[Viola also describes some of the traits of her father, and how they were shared by her brother, Serge.]
Did your parents have any "sayings" - proverbs, adages, expressions???
Yes, many. To begin with, my father, a native Swiss-French man, never completely departed from his native language. He was never afforded any formal education here in America; moreover, he loved the French language and held to it. As a result, he, more-or-less, taught many phrases and words to my mother; and they would converse in French a good deal. As if this wasn't sufficient, they would use many phrases and words as simple 'by-words' in their instruction and conversation with us children. Then Mother would include some of her Danish to make it more interesting. In English, some of her oft used phrases include: "Never a slip `tween the cup and the lip"; "Never trouble trouble 'til trouble troubles you"; "Early to bed and early to rise...."; "Pretty is as pretty does". Mother taught me a Danish phrase which went something like this: "Je kan ikke talle Dansk, bit mein moder kan". Translated, it should be: "I cannot talk Danish, but my mother can". However, I am certain I have failed in the correct spelling. [Jeg kan ikke tale dansk, men min moder kan.]
Some additional stories of Viola's parents as recorded at the Lauper Family Reunion, 1998.
Where did your parents live when they were first married? Other places as well?
They began their married life in the then small community called Lehi, Utah, in a house located near what was termed "The Vineyard" - a small acreage where Father cultivated and raised grapes, a skill he brought from his early training in his native Switzerland. From there, they moved into Box Elder County, residing in a number of locations: Bear River City, Penrose, Mercur, Bothwell, Elwood (where I was born) and others that I'm unable to name. At length, they moved south and west into Millard County to more farming, and into a small community just north of Delta which was called Sugarville. Crop failures and discouragement caused older brothers to desert the farming ventures; and finally we all were in California - first in the Southern areas until the remnants of our family eventually found themselves in the Bay Area of Northern California. Our father had passed away in Ventura County and was buried there, so when our mother died, while living in San Francisco, we took her remains there also.
What was your parents' philosophy about rearing kids - discipline, rules, etc.?
Our father was the Patriarch, more authoritative; yet to my way of thinking, our Mother was Head of the Household. Along with her instinctive nurturing, she gave instructions, directions, corrections, and all sorts of Rules for Life. Father felt a most important rule was to learn and accept WORK. It was a necessary and vital measure for our survival. Our father appeared almost overwhelmed at times with the responsibility of a large family (although he recognized and believed his purpose to produce a family was a Gospel Law). He needed helping hands from his children from the start and insisted on it, even to the appearance of being harsh at times. Mother was of a softer nature and sheltered her little ones insofar as she possibly could. Our valuable legacy from our parents consisted of 2 important items: Our Faith and our Work Ethic. I am and have been thankful for both. Our father accepted every precept, and had a gift of Faith unequaled by any other. Both parents taught us the Gospel daily. Mother found ways and means to teach us morals, good standards, manners etc. While I cannot remember a 'set of rules', we each learned our boundaries through the above manner of teaching. We each were disciplined concerning our responsibility toward and performance of our chores and work. We were simply EXPECTED to adhere to and abide by many unwritten rules.
What makes each of your siblings special? Be specific.
This will be a monumental answer if I fulfill it in detail inasmuch as I am a member of a large family of children- 10 in number. I must first say that my prayers have always included expressions of gratitude for each of my siblings, for their lives of EXAMPLE along with their continual support of me.
Serge (1901-1994): My parents' first-born was always my big brother, my mother's first 'baby' but yet her support through many of the early days. He was given responsibilities beyond his years and 'twas necessary that he grow up quickly. He was a real source of physical assistance to our parents and family during his growing up years, and until he left the farm during his early 20's. Our mother always looked and hoped for comfort from this son; and both parents enjoyed much pride in Serge's accomplishments. Following Serge's service in the mission, he was forever in church service, with many, many years of leadership to his credit by the end of his life. [Viola shares some additional memories of Serge.]
Ivan (1902-1995): Ivan was smaller than his older brother, and although he performed a goodly share of hard labor with Father out of doors, his nurturing nature suited him well to help Mother some of the time with the domestic chores. He applied himself well to cooking and bread making, as well as major assistance with us younger children. I developed a true bond with this brother during young childhood when he mothered me and my afflictions concerning allergies and full bore eczema and other matters. He, too, was a thoughtful and considerate son to my mother for her entire life.
John (1904-1923): My parents' third-born was a fair-haired child (really, his hair was a beautiful copper color, very thick and very curly). He was more slight in feature and body, although he grew to be a strapping, tall, thin, and handsome young man until his untimely death. At age 19, he was kicked by a horse and died of major internal injuries. He was away from home working for a rancher, and tending his horses. He and the animals were not yet well acquainted at the time of the accident.
Felix (1907-1927): The fourth son was another source of joy to these proud parents, and he was such a fine specimen from babyhood into manhood. He was a strength on the farm and to the household, and although a good partner to John, he was a real pal to his sister Alice, who was next in age. His life was abruptly ended, at age 19 also, while on a hunting trip. Such a loss!! It brought compounded devastation to my poor parents, and each of us younger children felt this accident deeply. A very sweet young man!
Alice (1908-1993): My One and ONLY dear Sister. What an example and mentor she was to me in ever so many ways. We shared so much over a long lifetime; and she was with me during the last ten years of her life while I cared for her during her debilitating illness. The last years she spent hospitalized, but I still visited daily and gave her special care. She was saintly in so many ways - of honorable character beyond reproach, and full of faith and strong testimony of the Gospel. She was ever such a tender devotee to our mother, supported Mother in every way possible, and grieved mightily over her death. She supported me likewise, defended and protected me in all ways. Her reticent nature, along with a compulsion to be of service and support to the family were a couple of factors that probably resulted in her being somewhat alone and bookish. She experienced some crucial disappointments, but served us all through childhood as well as adult life. Hers was a life of service in our church also. She was a lifelong, excellent and dedicated teacher. She was stricken with a most heinous malady - a rare form of sclerosis. Her muscles and nerves degenerated, leaving her totally helpless and speechless during the final years. Her mind remained in tact, but she was trapped in a useless body. A most horrible death! I'm shattered to write of it.
Else (1910-1910): A beautiful 2nd daughter succumbed after less than a month of life. Mother was devastated, thinking that the infant had smothered; not knowing, then, of a tragedy which takes thousands of infants per year in death - Sudden Death Syndrome. We are all convinced, now, that this was the cause of Else's death.
Marcel (1911-1997) This wonderful brother, just one and one-half years my senior was my comrade, my mentor, my friend and support throughout my life. As children, we shared so much of our time, both at work and play. As adults, we were united in thought and purpose. He was the most dutiful son I have ever known of, and after our mother's passing, so much of his concern and attention was focused on me. He loved the Gospel and Missionary Service and was the best prepared missionary I've known. He served unstintingly and long in our mother's homeland - Denmark. He was perhaps the smallest in stature and size of any of my brothers, but truly one of the mightiest in Spirit, generosity and ebullience. He loved life and loved people - especially family .
It is still May 9th, 1997, and while sitting here this early AM writing these notes, I have received a call telling me of my dear brother Marc's passing just last night. He has been a pal, a close friend, an exemplary brother for all of my life. I have missed him dearly during the past 2 years plus, as he has been declining with serious health problems during this time - suffering from several miseries: i.e. prostrate, heart, stroke, loss of voice and hearing. Oh my dear Marc............ I feel lonely and somewhat spooky at the steady deterioration and loss of my once strong siblings who were so exemplary and such a vital part of my life. But he is at last in a more peaceful place, and his faculties have been restored. Now I, being the only one left of my siblings in sound mind, must dredge up all the good memories and 'feed' on those. This 'remembering' has been part of my life and a real source of comfort for Years. (There are additional memories of Marcel below.)
Viola (1913): I am # 8 in the family.
Dennis (1915-1999): This brother, 2 years younger than I, was described at birth as a beautiful, strong and robust lil' fellow; a joyful addition to the family. His childhood and youth were without incident of unusual mishap of any kind; a very satisfactory, healthy and lovable individual. He served as an excellent big brother and pal to the child which followed his birth by only one and one-half years. They remained very close throughout childhood and into maturity. Dennis has been a strength in our family, as well as in his own personal family - an honest, energetic worker, a wonderful servant in our church, serving in many leadership capacities.
As I write this (1997), Dennis has not finished his stay in this life. He lies in a mindless state in a care center, showing no recognition to what goes on about him. His pathetic state is called full bore Alzheimer disease. How I grieve about him and for him. What a tragic end to this wonderful brother and person.
Ralph (1916-1993): Ralph, the last born, was special in many ways. Mother's health diminished at his birth; and although he was well worth it all to our mother and to all of us, she suffered a long and frightening journey to return to any degree of normal health following his delivery. He was born a well and healthy baby, but did, in fact, experience several serious disorders. Nonetheless, he brought much happiness to our family circle and contributed much. He was always such a joy to our mother and forever remained her 'baby'. He produced a wonderful family, served well in church and other places; brought comfort to me and mine; but passed away "before his time" in my estimation. His fatality was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer. Thankfully, he was saved undue suffering by passing within 6 months of the onset of this disease.
Memories of my brother, Marcel F. Lauper - 23rd of May, 1997
Since the passing of my brother Marcel Franklin Lauper a few weeks past - on May 8, 1997 - I have had him in my thoughts daily. Ours was a lifetime of unique and tender associations, and the parting weighs heavily upon my heart. Even so, I cannot wish he could stay longer in the deteriorated health condition that has been his for the past couple of years; but am grateful that he could have his death wish in wanting to remain in his home - away from public facilities. He remained at home until son John and wife Frances took him to San Leandro Emergency to be watched while his "system shut down" within the last couple hours of life.
I have been drawn to my files and bundles of mementoes during the past two weeks, as I relive some of our experiences through much of his writing to me. And it is easy to dredge up ever so many happy memories. My daily chore on the farm when I was a very young girl was to take our herd of cattle out into the brush and greasewood areas, away from the hay and grain farms. At times, it meant driving them quite a distance toward something green or edible. Very infrequently, my two-year-older brother, Marc, was freed from other farm chores and allowed to accompany me on my task. When we could, at length, find a spot where the cows could gain some kind of nourishment, we would find a large enough bush to shade our heads so that we could like to rest for a bit. We would fantasize and exchange stories, and this dear brother possessed a wonderful imagination. He truly taught me how to DREAM. We made our day by dreaming of things we wished for, places we'd go, or things we'd do when.......... Marc continued his close and loving friendship throughout our lives, always there for me with any possible support or concern. He was so expansive in his keeping in touch with any & each of our family members; always full of encouragement and assistance if at all possible; and always so effusive in his praise for each and all. No one of our family members could exceed his tender, ever thoughtful, and extremely loving attention given to our mother to her very end. He was mindful of her daily. I know, for she lived with me and my family during much of her latter years. He was a good son!
I must mention one of his outstanding attributes: that of GENEROSITY.
I have been reminiscing about some of Marc's long and full life. He went from farm boy to the Golden State of California, to the Danish Mission where he served as an outstanding helper and leader for thirty-eight (38) months, was inducted into the service during the great World War II in the Air Force branch, met and married his wife on May 19, 1945 while still an airman. Together they became parents of five children - four daughters, one son, all of whom still survive. Throughout his entire life, he was in constant Church service, holding office as Bishop, High Councilor, Member of Stake Presidencies of the Auxiliaries as well as Mission, and well known for years as Mr. Seminary because of his lengthy service and teaching in that program. He established his own business of Furniture, Carpet, etc. where he and Frances met their payroll and associated expenses, along with support of their family and extended families, for some forty (40) years. He closed the furniture store in January 1993, with a steady decline in health thereafter. Marc managed several rather interesting trips during his busy life - to Hawaii, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, and back to his beloved mission land of Denmark. His was quite a life, but the end is very sad!
Marc was always such a happy, positive person who loved to visit, to converse, to laugh with almost anyone - more especially with family and loved ones. He loved teaching, preaching, missionary work, and quiet conversations on Gospel subjects. He was ever prayerful. Always on his consistent and constant visits with our sister Alice during her years of hospitalization, he would have prayer with us, and this became a trademark with him as observed by the nurses. The same was true of his continued visits with our brother Ivan in a Southern California hospital. He always brought his Priesthood Blessing and prayers of comfort. A good brother!! His last two years of life were really rough and tough. He could neither talk nor hear - no communication!! I am thankful for his present state of peace, free from impediments. Thankful for our combined faith.
Serge, his mission and relationship with his parents (additional memories written in 2005)
[These comments came up in the context and as an aside in another conversation.]
Serge, himself, was not really "sold" on the Mission experience and did not want to go, but he felt that he could do nothing that would please his mother -- ever -- if he refused to go. [See Serge's own discussion of this at the end of Chapter 1 of his history.] He was kicking his heels for the entire time he was on his way there and even while awaiting an interview with his Mission President, Brother Charles A. Callis, following his arrival in Georgia (the headquarters of his field). He, President Callis, humbled this young man (that experience is a poignant and worthy story in itself [See the story in Serge's own words in Chapter 2 of his history.]) and made an excellent servant of my brother. I would say that Serge's greatest influences in life, up to the time he had his own family, were his Mother Emma and this mission president, Brother Callis.
I regret that I did not hear him [Serge] pay credit to our father for the strong characteristcs and values that he inherited and learned from our father. Even so, he possessed much the same qualities as did our father. Perhaps the farm life was so unrewarding and difficult for this first and young son that he became somewhat embittered by it, never recognizing that he was learning and acquiring good solid habits: FAITH, determination, the value of work, persistence, strength, vision, the ability to lead and direct, appreciation of ones body and strength, endurance, and on and on. Yet these are the qualities evidenced in our father, inspite of his own handicaps: lack of opportunity for education in this, a foreign land, lack of training in skills to enable him to profitably support a large family, along with some major bad luck and hardships.