by Elder Richard Stucki
Gayle B. Sessions. .. after forty years I still remember the name, and face, better than that of any other companion. I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, just before a missionary conference there, with our Mission President, S. Dilworth Young, one of the seven Pres. of the First Quorum of Seventies. As we set in meetings, a dozen more or less missionaries working in Nova Scotia, Canada, a part of the New England Mission, I looked at the other older elders. some had polish, the gift of oratory, and other impressive qualities. One was a plain, sturdy looking country boy from Idaho, Elder Sessions. I pictured myself working with the impressive Elders, but hopefully not the farm boy. Guess who I got? ... the farm boy. The Mission Pres. knew better than I, who I needed for my first senior companion. And I was his first junior companion. At the conference I learned that in our mission, during the summer, we were going back to an old missionary practice, abandoned long ago, of traveling without purse or script. we viewed this with real apprehension. As conference ended, Pres. and Sister Young gave Elder Sessions and I a lift, in their car, to the town from which we were to begin our travels. He let us out, and we started down the highway into the farmland, late in the afternoon, with the pressing thought constantly growing. .. would someone give us a bed, and a meal that night! Before the summer was gone, we became thinner, but learned real faith, had many befriend us, made several meals from a hat full of blue berries picked from wild berry patches that grew along the railroad tracks and sides of the roadway, and held a number of fairly well attended meetings in the little school houses in the farm communities. We found some other wild berries, but not in great abundance. Once we struck it lucky and enjoyed handfuls of black berries from a large berry bush by the roadside. Lunch one day was a big turnip pulled from a garden. Along the sea coast one evening, supper was a platter full of small lobsters boiled in a bucket of sea water, at the home of a lobster fisherman. You'll never taste better lobster. People often declined to give us lodging, I am sure, because of the humble, cluttered and inadequate facilities in their homes, feeling ministers, especially, needed something better. We spent a few nights laying on the ground in abandoned sheds, or empty barns, one night on the benches of an opened church, to escape the cold night air, but most nights in a bed. He traveled very light with only a small suit case half full of tracts and copies of the Book of Mormon, an umbrella, maybe a light rain coat, a change of socks and underwear, but only the suit on our backs, plus a felt hat. when a light laundry needed doing, we would wash things in a creek running through a wooded area, dry them laid out on the ferns growing everywhere, and study while they dried. To get our mail we had to plan our travels realistically, keep the mission office informed of where we would be on a given day, and then ask in each community that had a post office if they had any mail come for us in General Delivery. On my birthday we walked several miles to a post office to check for mail. A box of cookies had come, but they were all crumbs, which we nevertheless greatly enjoyed walking back to the area we were tracting. Many communities had no power. The only bathroom was an outhouse, in most cases. Cooking was done on a wood stove in the kitchen. In these stoves tall, large loaves of white bread were baked with very thick crust. Slices of bread were usually eaten with butter and molasses. Delicious! We bathed, shaved, and washed up as needed, in the creeks running through the countryside. But one special bath I remember, in a house, before a meeting in the schoolhouse, we stood in a tub in the man's front room, which tub was filled with kettles and pans of water heated on the kitchen wood stove. Kitchens were usually the one warm room in the house and were large enough to accommodate a couch where a nap could be taken in the winter time in a room that was warm. I remember particularly well one morning, we had not received an invitation to stay with anyone the night before, so early in the morning while waiting for a proper hour to start tracting, we sat down to study by the rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. A panel truck from the nearby town drove up, and a man began throwing a variety of stale loaves of bread from some bakery into the ocean. I almost stripped and jumped in after them. The only reason I didn't was the strict instructions given us in the mission training classes to not go swimming in lakes and rivers, etc. during our missions. watching the loaves of bread float away was so hard to do when we were as hungry as we were. We noticed snail shells fastened to the rocks near the water. We remembered what we had heard about eating snails. So we found an old empty tobacco can, about a gallon size, rinsed it out, filled it with snail shells, gathered up some wood and soon had the snails cooking over the fire. When cooked, the snails bulged out of their shells so you could get hold of them and work them out of their shells. Rather than stale bread for breakfast we had boiled snails, and we didn't suffer any more that morning from hunger pains.
by Elder Richard Stucki
When I was reassigned with a new partner to work in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I met the Rushtons. He was a typical rough'n ready man. She was very spiritual. Their boy, in his early teens, was like his mother. They lived several miles out of town.
Sister Rushton had searched and prayed a long time for the true church. One day after such a prayer, her room was filled with a brilliant light. Moments later, two Mormon missionaries knocked on her door as they came tracting through the area without purse or script.
That fall, my companion and I made a weekly bus trip from Halifax to the Rushtons to have a cottage meeting with them. One such evening, on our arrival, we found Sister Rushton ill in bed. She had been having increasing pain and trouble in one of her legs which had been badly mangled when she was a little girl when a runaway team and wagon ran over her leg. She did cleaning for a living which aggravated the leg trouble. And with her leg getting so bad, she wasn't able to go to work. They needed the income from her work very much, since her husband wasn't working regularly.
Because she wasn't feeling well, we told her we would come back another night for our meeting. She asked us if we would give her a blessing before we left. She mentioned that the Elders had taught her in the discussion that the same Priesthood power had been restored that had allowed Jesus' disciples to heal the sick in their day and that laying on of the hands and healing the sick was again being practiced in the restored church today. We gave her a blessing and left with the promise we'd return in a week.
On our return visit we found Sister Rushton well and working without any of the pain and trouble she had been experiencing for a long time. The pain had left shortly after our blessing. As long as I was in the mission field and in touch with Sister Rushton, she reported that she had no further trouble with her leg.
Eventually we baptized Sister Rushton and her boy.
by Elder Richard Stucki
My companion and I were tracting late one winter afternoon along t short city street that came to a dead end at the last house, which sat up on a little hill, surrounded by a unusually nice and spacious lawn and garden.
We had had the usual responses that day of is interest, and no invitations in to talk. We were tired and it was about time for supper. However, since there were only a few more homes to call on, to complete that street, we persisted on, and soon rang the bell to the house I described.
When we announced we were Mormon missionaries... much to our dismay, the lady immediately invited us in, in the most cordial way. It appeared she was a widow, with a son, also at home, about our age. We had a long visit and were served something to eat as well.
Why the hospitality and warm reception remained a puzzle, until she said "I knew one other Mormon. An older man, and the only Mormon for many miles. It was years ago, and I was much younger. Whenever he was around and a crude joke was started, he would leave. When something vulgar was being talked about, he would quickly change the subject. He never used bad language or got drunk like the other men did. I feel that all Mormons must be like him."
Because of a man's example years ago, a lady invited two total strangers into her home, fed them, and treated them as trusted friends.
How I wish all of us were the examples this man was. If we were, the Church would move ahead at a much faster pace than it is growing now !
by Elder Richard Stucki
My first missionary companion proved to be a remarkable person. He grew up working on a farm. His mother was a widow. During the 2nd World War he was in the Navy. While ship mates blew their pay on shore leave, he put his in the bank for a mission. On being discharged, he spent several months digging post holes to earn the balance of the money he would need for his mission. Like others who had worked and sacrificed to go, he was out there to work, and he did. Gale B Sessions was his name.
Country tracting with him outside of Truro, Nova Scotia, without purse or script is talked about in another chapter. During that time I remember one conversation with him as we walked down the roadway and sat to rest a bit on the ends of our suitcases. He told me that his sister had gone on a mission and died in the mission field. When he left for his mission his mother said a particularly fond farewell, confiding in him that she did not expect to see him return home alive. He wondered about that. I suggested it was due to the death of his sister that made his mother worry about him. But he remarked that his patriarchal blessing said nothing about his life after his mission. I could tell he thought the same as his mother.
Every three months we would attend a missionary conference where we would be assigned a different companion and often a new area of labor. So it was, many months later and near to the time Elder Sessions would be released that he was laboring with another companion in the next larger town from ours.
One night just when my companion and I were retiring, our landlady called up that one of us was wanted on the phone. It was Elder Sessions' companion calling. He told us to get a ride and come at once. Elder Sessions was in the hospital and very ill. The mission president was also consulted. When we arrived Elder Sessions was unconscious and breathing very hard and rapidly. He had meningitis and his condition had rapidly worsened. On advice we stayed in his room only long enough to give him a blessing. We then went to the main floor to wait.
It was in the middle of the night by now. We found an empty conference room where we three elders knelt and each offered a prayer. We didn't know what the outcome would be, but we knew that it was in the Lord's hands. A deep feeling of peace replaced our great anxiety. It was only a short time later when they came with word that he had died. Arrangements and calls all had to be made.
When Elder Sessions had been prepared and properly placed in a casket, there was a brief viewing, and then the body was sent by railroad to his home in Idaho for a funeral there.
I remember one little old lady who came to the viewing with tears in her eyes... an investigator, I was told...sister Ferguson was her name. Her story is told in another chapter.
When our Mission President called Elder Sessions' mother, he reported that she had been expecting the news and was taking it all well. No matter what our impression of her strength in time of grief, we knew the greatness of this poor widow from the fact that she worked and saved and sent a third child into the mission field after having lost the last two on missions. We call our ourselves "Latter-day Saints." Certainly she is one !
by Elder Richard Stucki
Many years ago two sisters living in Nova Scotia were taught the restored gospel by missionaries. They both were convinced of its truth, but one sister declined baptism since the church was unpopular. Joining it would bring about the loss of friends, the ill will of relations, and other unpleasantness.
The sister who became baptized said to her reluctant sister "You better join now, when you can (and come with me to Utah). If you don't do it, the time is going to come when you will want to and not be able to. Do it now!"
Only the one sister joined the church. She went to Utah, married, and had children. Her daughter, when she grew up, met and married young Mark E Petersen who became on of the Twelve Apostles later in life. The two sisters kept in touch over the years by letters.
The sister who remained in Nova Scotia also married and had children. On my mission, I met this sister for the first time at the funeral parlor...the little old lady who cam to Elder Session's viewing and whom I mentioned in the chapter about Elder Session's death... sister Ferguson. During the time I knew her she lived in her own little apartment in the home of her son, Donald.
Donald was friendly but not interested in the church. He said he was an atheist. He was a school principal, was married, and had little children at the time. His story is an interesting one. As a young man he wanted to be a minister for his church, the Church of England. In time, through work and sacrifice he went to the minister's school in the United States. There he found a bunch of scoundrels from England attending the school. So short were they of ministers, the church had advertised it would pay the way to school for young men who would agree to study for the ministry. The result was the situation Donald found at school. So disenchanted was he by it, that he left school, switched to education, and lost all faith in religion.
Sister Ferguson loved the missionaries. She was anxious to have them visit whenever they could. We would talk about the gospel, and since she was partially blind by now, we read from the scriptures to her, including the Book of Mormon. She would fix us a little treat, and sometimes speak of her sister in Utah whose daughter was married to a church authority. At the time I did not know the events of her youth which I related above. I came to love this dear lady in a very special way.
When I returned home from my mission, I visited with sister Ferguson's sister, and the Petersens, a few times as they were anxious to talk to the elders who had been close to "the sister in Nova Scotia."
In time, I lost touch with sister Ferguson and her relations here. But years later I chanced to bump into a more recently returned missionary who has known sister Ferguson himself on his mission in Nova Scotia. He said, when I asked about her, that she had grown more feeble and dependent upon her son but had continued to be very close to the missionaries. Eventually she told them that she wanted to be baptized, but her son, Donald, would not permit it, and she died with her desire unfulfilled. I grieved to hear the literal fulfillment of her sister's prophetic warning.
by Berwyn Andrus
I see you have posted to Richard Stucki on Family Search. I believe he is the one I went to school with, at South High in 1945. He was Major in the ROTC. Can you verify if this is also your Dad?
I also read that he served in Nova Scotia under S. Dilwoth Young. I also was there, I guess just after him. I was there in 1950. From the college photo I am pretty sure he is one and the same as I knew at South. Please verify.
Berwyn Andrus , Bountiful, UT.
I have been in touch with Sgt. Redmond's daughter who posted to her mother on Family Search, which is how I found her. I took the liberty of sharing with her your Dad's experience with Sgt. Redmond as well as my own. My wife, Virginia Agnes Woolley Andrus also was acquainted with your Dad at Institute and Lambda Delt at the U. I didn't notice any great detail of names and place in Nova Scotia other than Halifax and country tracting. I wonder if he mentioned more in detail of Nova Scotia somewhere else. I worked in Halifax, Sidney, Kentville and the Digby country area, and ended up in Yarmouth for my release. I was there from Jan to Dec of 1950. His experience in the valley sounds like a homesteading experience. Very impressive. He was always an impressive person at the top for every experience I had with him.
Thanks for sharing. Berwyn and Virginia Andrus, Bountiful
I don't have any specific events that trigger a memory. His writing in my yearbook says it all about him. I think he was mistaken about ROTC being optional. It was mandatory as I remember it and some of the big sports men and some of the goof offs thought it was a joke, until Sgt. Redmond explained the facts of life, something like this. "During this class you belong to the Army, not the school. You will do what I say or I will make sure you will wish you had." I remember one of the goof offs tested him and lost, doing pushups and running on the track. He was a big part of my high school life, and was delighted to find him living near my sister in Layton. Sorry that I lost track of him after he moved to St. George.
I thought Richard was a year ahead of me, but find him in the same class. We were both Private, First Class in the 1944 Yearbook. He was Major and second in command his senior year. I was 2nd Lt my senior year. I took the optional third year with two periods of ROTC and before Sgt. Redmond left mid year he pushed through Lt. Col for me, a staff position, not the Commander. Sgt. Redmond ran a very good program and was working hard to get a top notch rifle team. I made the rifle team and we were doing well, with lots of practice time and dedicated rifles, but Sgt. Redmond was forced out to make room for the return of Sgt. McNair who had been there before and was a good friend of the Vice Principal, Miss Dyer. Sgt McNair let things slide and rotated rifles around so we didn't have our own anymore. With no warning we had to fire for the Hearst Trophy competition and were down among the pack again after being 8th the previous year. Well that is how I remember it. It was a different program under Sgt. Redmond. I just checked and as I thought, I didn't have Sgt McNair sign my yearbook.
On another note, do you have any references to people and places in Nova Scotia? Your Dad mentioned his first companion was Gayle D. Sessions. I believe that this is the Elder that died in the field of Meningitis. I don't think Pres and Sister Young ever really got over that experience. It was too much like the loss of their son in the War. I would think that your Dad would have been aware of that, if I have the correct person. Below is his information from Family Search. Do you find anything in your Dad's writings about him other than first companion and eating snails?
I guess that is more than enough for tonight. It has been a pleasure meeting you and thanks for sharing.
Gale Baird SessionsKWJ6-GF3
Birth10 June 1923
Milo, Bonneville, Idaho, United States
Death20 December 1947
Nova Scotia, Canada
Contact person who posted his photo: Contact Name VIrginia Dye E-mail Address email@example.com
Link to person: https://familysearch.org/tree/person/KWJ6-GF3/details
Mathew, You can include whatever have written. Just remember that I am an old man with maybe more imagination than memory anymore. I will look around in your online materials and see if I spot anything. Names you might find in your Dad's writings that I knew are: Elder Shroader, Elder Hammond, Elder Adams, Sawler family in Kentville, Ben and Honey Kyte in Kentville. Elder Staheli, Bezanson in Kentville. I will see if I can come up with any others.
Here are a couple of links that you might tie in with your Dad
Actually the last link will take care of both photos. I visited Elder Hammond a few weeks before he passed away, and have a photo of him then. He was also at South High and your Dad might have known him there.
Mathew: Here is link to Sawler. She was baptized in June of 1949 and meetings were held in her kitchen. Is there any mention of Kentville in your Dad's Journal?
Link to Sawler: https://familysearch.org/tree/person/KWD3-BXH/memories
Link to Elder Schroeder: https://familysearch.org/tree/person/KW4T-LQ5/memories
Link to Sister Ferguson: https://familysearch.org/tree/person/K4TS-91G/landscape
I did meet Sister Ferguson a few times when I was in Sydney and we traveled over to Glace Bay to visit her.
I believe that she lived at 15 Hickman St. Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and I have a leaf that I saved from there. I have attached a photo of it. (who can question my memory now? I did google and the address checks good)
I have looked at your postings and don't find Kentville mentioned.
This is pretty mixed up because it is late, but just saw a photo of Elder Marv Hammond just before he passed away, so attached it just in case it is of interest.
Enough is enough for today. Hope all is well with you.
One more - you will note that the Temple work has been done for the Donald and Alexis Ferguson, as shown on Family Search.