My folks joined the Followers of Christ when it was still possible to do so. They were not raised in the group. Mom’s uncle (Elmo Welch) married a woman in the church. Her name was Irene and her younger brother married Walter White’s sister. It was in this roundabout way that Walter White came into her life.
The day after Christmas, 1960, my great uncle Elmo, his wife Irene, and their two children, Charlie and Edna, were in a terrible automobile accident. Both Elmo and Edna were killed and Irene and Charlie were hospitalized.
Elmo’s side of the family – the Welches – arrived at the hospital along with Irene’s side of the family. Irene’s family were there to have Irene and Charlie removed from the hospital, while the Welch family members were there to ensure that Charlie, at least, was left in the hospital. My mom had grown up knowing her aunt and uncle and being best friends were her cousin Edna. Mom was even living with the family at the time of this tragedy and they had never informed her that they were faith healers. My grandfather had warned them that if they spoke to his daughter about their religion, they wouldn’t be allowed to see her.
A nurse came out and asked the family members to donate blood for Irene and Charlie. Mom followed her family members to go along and do what she could, when she was stopped by Walter’s sister, who told her that they wouldn’t want her to give blood. That was the first she learned about their religion.
A few weeks after this tragedy, Mom dropped out of college (she had been studying to become a nurse!) and moved to Oregon City to help care for Irene and Charlie. Every evening members of the church were there, including Walter White. The men sat around talking about religion. My mother hadn’t grown up in a religious home and she found this fascinating. A month later, she asked Walter to baptize her.
About a year-and-a-half after she became a full-fledged member of the church, she met my dad. Their meeting is controversial, and I will leave the full disclosure of this to those who decide to read my book. But, needless to say, Dad was not a Follower. He was a sailor and was in Portland for the annual Rose Festival.
In October, just a few months after their first date, Dad was granted a leave of absence and returned to Oregon, where he collected my mom and they eloped. Shortly after their elopement, Mom brought her worldly husband to church. He was wearing his Navy uniform.
Dad’s first experience at church was negative because during this service, one of the elders stood on the pulpit and espoused the great idea of an adult man marrying a fifteen year old girl before the end of the calendar year so he could claim her as a dependent on his taxes.
Dad soon had to return to his station in Japan and Mom was left in Oregon filling out required forms and awaiting a passport so she could join her new husband.
Mom and Dad stayed in Japan for the first three years of their marriage, then Dad was sent to Chicago to push recruits. It was when they lived in Illinois that Walter flew out to visit them and talked my dad into leaving the Navy and moving to Oregon to join his flock. It was a decision my dad has never stopped regretting.
All of this happened fifty years ago. In fact tomorrow is my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. I’m so proud of them for staying together through thick and thin and being good role models to their children and grandchildren. My parents are amazing and I don't want to think about what life would be like without them to support, encourage, and help me, my siblings, and all of our kids. The older I get, the more I need and want my parents to be around. I love you Mom and Dad - happy anniversary!