By Albert Madsen, July 1998
[Prompted by conversations and memories shared at the Madsen-Lauper Reunion in June of 1998.]
One would have to have a very large research grant to be able to locate and identify a family which has been more disassociated than the one to which we belong. And I've always wondered why such a condition has existed for so very long.
I've often wondered whether it began with the names of the Madsen brothers and sister i.e. Hans Franklin, Harry Waldemar, Minnie Maria, Axel Angus, and Julius Viggo, (or Veggo depending on the recorders). Uncle Frank probably fared the best with the most straight appellation. Dad always claimed that Waldemar was ascribed to royalty. Minnie Maria fitted Aunt Minnie because she was always an up and fun person and she grew into her name. I always thought that Axel Angus might more appropriately be the title of a Scotch golfer, and Julius was a hold over from Shakespeare, and Viggo had no meaning except it was somehow a familial name. The anxiety these names might have created must have been cause for the separation of our generation, and it might even have affected the siblings themselves
For a person who doesn't even remember why he arose this morning to presume to think back 50 to 70 years with any accuracy is a stretch of credibility. My memory of Uncle Frank and Aunt Florence are few and dim. I was in their home once or twice in Provo. Both were well entrenched in the Music Department at your friendly "Y" I vaguely remember a couple of daughters, who I think were adopted, and I can't even provide a name. My last experience with Uncle was in the parlor of our home where he and Aunt Florence had come to visit. I was taken in and stood next to the piano, and with a few chords I was invited to sing. The effort was vain and nervous, and the Master soon concluded that much would have to transpire before I was ready for the choir. I fooled him however for in later years I could please Lisle Bradford, and Professor Giles at the "U". He might have embarrassed me into wanting to succeed. This was a slim acquaintance. I don't even remember the occasion of their having died, one in '71 and the other in '77. I had moved to Sacramento in 1960 and this had moved me even farther from any family activity.
This very day I was visited by two dear friends in our Stake. Libby mentioned having been in the Madsen home in Provo many times, and remembered with great affection the love and kindness offered them by Uncle Frank and Aunt Florence. My friends understood how to sing and were taken by the Madsens to many singing assignments. I m certain that the Madsens maintained a constant influence for good among the many students who came and went and continued to expand upon their training as my friends have done all of their lives.
"Minnie Maria Madsen" represents the complete alliteration. It proves that Grandma Madsen had a good sense of literary humor. Aunt Minnie was a lovely, shiny, hyper, fun kind of woman. I was always amazed at the complete balance that was effected between her extrovert enthusiasm, and the quiet, steady, laconic posture presented by Uncle Ben. What a wonderful kind man. Since the Williams lived but a few blocks from home over on 13th South just east of 11 th East, I found myself in her home on several occasions. This was of course in my childhood. Irene, Helen, and Ray were all older than I and this didn't make for a close relationship. As I grew more aware, I always felt that Irene was the most beautiful young woman I would ever see;a credit to her mother. We all grew a little and the Williams moved to 20th East, South of 21st South. Visits there were few and sparse.
I've tried to fit Aunt Minnie into the grim poverty and harsh conditions which my father described as their early life in Idaho and later in Lehi. She must have been an even greater survivor than her brothers, and she brought out of it beauty and laughter and a lot of class.
Of all of the family I probably had the greatest association with Uncle Axel. Dad and he had regular visits and we found ourselves at the "B" Street home. Aunt Emily died on my 8th birthday, July 31, 1929. Even though I was that small I can still call up a memory of her face. The family was divided and we had very little interaction at all except with Uncle. I remember his taking our family on two very wonderful trips. We tied everything onto his Essex and went to visit the Southern Utah Parks including the Grand Canyon. The other trip took us to Yellowstone and of course we passed through Rexburg and I was given a tour of the approximate location of the old family home. I was able to meet and know Uncle Niels and Aunt Mable, but I never really knew exactly how that relationship really worked. The same with the Laupers who came to our home. There seemed to be a program of "don't ask -don't tell." Anyway it was on these trips that Dad and Axel really enjoyed each other. And I obtained a real appreciation of what a great man my Uncle was. Dad always said that there wasn't a word we could produce which his brother couldn't define and there were occasions which he was sought out for that kind of help. I always marveled at the academic brilliance which was packed into the brains of those men which was put there by their having read everything they had ever found which had a cover around it. Theirs is a great example of self education. All of them had a dedication to the Church and to the requirement of living all of the Gospel principles, which stood them well all of their lives, here and hereafter.
It seems that nearly each winter Axel and Dad would make their journey to Southern California and there would join with Julius for what I suppose was their "big time." The last time I saw Uncle Axel was in Phoenix where he and Dad every kind of difficulty and adversity and yet never lost their faith or hope. They all had a tremendous capacity for work. They lived the Gospel They served their families and their fellow men. And in their own quiet way they were all absolutely brilliant. My dear cousins. Thanks to them we have some great genes and a rich inheritance from some very wonderful and remarkable people.
I've left my father, Harry Waldemar to the last since I had the privilege of knowing him the best and for the longest period of time. The history left by him and the others describes the abject misery of their birth and early hardships. I guess they were all refined in the fire of necessity, and each determined to live and rise up led by their determined mother. Dad spoke Danish to the day he died, and I'll always regret that I didn't insist on being taught. All of them had to overcome the language difficulty and then teach themselves everything they would come to know. I don't know any group of people who could have been better educated without the benefit of much formal schooling. I never saw my father but what he was reading something. He could recite endlessly from every source imaginable. I suppose the scriptures were first, and then followed by the classics and fiction and current events. Mother took him with her to live with her parents when my Grandfather hurt his leg in a RR accident. This was not to be easy living in his father-in-law's home and there having his family. Mom insisted that she take care of her father.
Dad worked for the Western Leather from before my birth and until he retired. He had me work for him for the summer after I graduated from East High. My wages consisted of the privilege of learning how to work. And my father was very exacting for he already knew how. I leaned how much he was respected for his honesty as a business man. Everyone seemed to love my dad.
Dad was a Bishop's Counselor when he married Mom, and he was always active in some calling in the Church. He was my teacher through all the Aaronic P.H. steps. He was a TEACHER He was a great Bishop and he visited every member of his ward on his Birthday. .. sometimes up to 5 on one day.
All of the Madsen siblings were "good with their mouths." Whenever Dad gave a talk he always had some devise or visual aid to help people remember what he had to say. And yet he would tell me, People might not remember what you say, but they will always remember what they feel." He spoke at a thousand funerals. I always wondered who would do his. His friend Brother Monson shared his memories with us.
I always wondered why we had no relationship whatever with the other "good" side of the family. I knew Mary Madsen at the U as a friend. She married Homer Ellsworth. I knew Richard Jr. as a fellow merchant in Sugarhouse, but not as a half relative. When we held Mom's funeral Richard Sr. came to pay his respects. My Dad didn't know him, and I had to make the introduction. So much for congenial remnants of polygamy.
If I had to provide a summary of my impression of these wonderful people I suppose it could be done in a few words. They were all survivors. They learned to overcome almost [text missing...]
[...text missing] had come to visit Grant when he was at Luke AFB. I rode a bus up from Tucson and the four of us spent a great day together. The brothers went back horne, Grant to his duties, and I returned to Basic Flying School. A strange turn of events brought me to Luke AFB in May of 3945. I think Grant had been there as an Advanced instructor for all of the War. We had a chance to live together and we did so until October when we left to be separated. This provided me with the opportunity really to become close to one of my Madsen Cousins. We did everything together. He had a great friends in the Church in Phoenix. We partied. We would come home and swim until we were exhausted and then were Abby to sleep in the desert heat. I was able to fly with him which experience I will always treasure. He was an absolutely superior pilot. Even when we flew home a few times, and when we were flying inverted down 8th avenue just above the trees, I felt I was in the hands of an expert. My own ability was pale by comparison. His death was so untimely and created such a loss to the family. And it was really hard on Axel.
Uncle Axel was the speaker at my missionary farewell, and I was appreciative of that. Again I was in California when he passed on at a rich old age.
Uncle Julius was the family entrepreneur. It was said that he took their wedding gifts as merchandise for the opening of a sales business. I remember being with him and Aunt Connie in Logan. She was a Benson with roots in that County. Both of them were really a joy to be with. They balanced each other in a great jovial way. Their travels took them to Pasadena, and in addition to more business ventures they became interested in theater work. I think it was there that they met the Hales who would later join them in Springdale. When my Nancy was a baby some 50 yrs. ago, we took a little trip to the Parks and had the pleasure of being entertained by Julius and Connie. I remember they had a presentation prepared by the Hales in a barn theater and it was wonderful. Julius had dreams of constructing an outdoor theater in that area in the mouth of Zion's Park where good things could be presented and where missionary work could be accomplished. He was the Bishop of the Springdale Ward. We met J.R. and Connie Rie and we spent a little time together. Uncle Julius loaned us his jeep and we took ourselves on a great tour of the park. Julius had filled a mission either in Samoa or New Zealand. Uncle Frank went to Norway. How this was accomplished out of their mean circumstances I have trouble imagining. Uncle Axel and Frank went into the Army during WWI and went to France. Uncle Frank stayed and attended the Paris Conservatory of Music and gathered up his education and degree. Where was this latent ability generated in the two room shack in Sugar City? When I think of these things I stand all amazed.