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Davis Journal

We’re humans – not categories

Oct 22, 2021 08:36AM ● By Bryan Gray

The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not The Davis Journal

Republican columnist David Brooks argued last week that Americans are increasingly dividing people into categories: hipster, evangelical, nerd, white or Black, etc.  “People,” he wrote, “are barraged with crude stereotypes detached from the complexities of reality and make them feel unseen as individuals.”

Yes, we live individual lives, rich and complex and interesting.  This is especially seen in obituaries which, every few years, I have reviewed in this column as portraits of diverse Utahns, intriguing and worthy of applause.  Here are glimpses of Utah lives contained in just one day’s obituaries.

One man, at the time of his retirement, was the most senior civilian in the entire U.S. Air Force. He was given full military honors.

Another military veteran, a fighter pilot, was flying one of the first three airplanes to enter Vietnam at the onset of American intervention in that doomed Asian war.  He later was the director of NORAD and was the author of the country’s Top-Secret War Plan Air Defense of North America.

A handful of obituaries requested that donations be made to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Missionary Fund.  One person asked that donations be made to the International Peace Gardens, while another man asked that his mourners enjoy a vodka and water in his honor.

One woman found “her greatest joy” in giving handmade dolls to children.  Another enjoyed bowling and took great pride in achieving a perfect 300 game.  One man’s “greatest achievement” was developing the Pilot Car Highway Program for numerous states.  Another took pride in “knowing every word” of every song by the rock group AC/DC.

Most women outlived their spouses, but one noted that her first husband passed away after only five years of marriage. She said he “did not survive one of the earliest open-heart surgeries.”

One man, a southern Utah banker, helped a woman who had just opened her own business. Frustrated that his bank turned down her loan application, he loaned her the money from his own personal funds – and several years later he married her!

One woman bred champion show dogs…Another was a connoisseur of apple pies, crossword puzzles, and QVC deals…Another rarely missed an opera…A man wore Denver Bronco apparel every chance he got…A woman made sure her cookie jar was always full.

One woman, who lived to be 100 years of age, moved to North Carolina and became the first female Republican State Senator.

A 93-year-old woman wrote movie and TV scripts including episodes of “Eight is Enough,” “The Waltons,” and “Baywatch.”  She also wrote the script for “Man’s Search for Happiness” (premiering at the 1964 World’s Fair) and the screenplay of “Johnny Lingo.” While working for Disney, she “met her husband at the corner of Mickey Mouse Lane and Dopey Drive.”

Another man lived much of his senior years on a sailboat journeying between the U.S. and the Caribbean…Another founded a mental illness support group after his son died of schizophrenia…One man researched and wrote the definitive story of the Mountain Meadow Massacre, one of his 25 books on Western history…And a lady was characterized as “making the best spaghetti, but always burning the garlic bread.”

Personal lives filled with memories and achievements and challenges. They were humans, not categories.