Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Friend, My Brother

My Friend, My Brother

Thirty years ago my family and I moved into a new home in Corona California. We were newly graduated from BYU, working a new job, expecting our second baby, and moved into an unfamiliar neighborhood in an unfamiliar town. One of the first families to welcome us to the area was Conrad and Claudia Cole. They had not lived in the area very long either and they made us feel right at home.

A few months later Conrad was called as the Yong Mens President of our Ward and I was called as the second counselor and Scoutmaster. This was to be the beginning of a wonderful friendship and many years of working together in the church. I was 24 at the time and had no idea of how to be a scoutmaster but we gave it our best. I figured that Scouts should do hiking and camping so we did a lot of that. Conrad would go on most of our outings. I learned later that he hated camping and especially hated hiking. We took a week long backpack trip in the Sierras. That is were I really learned that he hated camping and hiking. He also hated oatmeal which we had for breakfast every day. It was on this trip that I learned an interesting oddity about Conrad. He is 100% Native American Iroquois Indian from the Iroquois Nation in Upstate New York. He may be 100% Indian but from his ankles down to his toes he is pure white.

Even though Conrad was not a fan of hiking and camping, ( I did not learn this until years later) he loved the young men and he loved the Lord and was completly devoted to His service. A few years went by in the Young Mens program and Conrad was called to be the Bishop of our Ward. I was called to be his First Counselor. We worked together in that capacity for five years. The hours were long, but the work was sweet. Our five years in the Bishopric went by quickly. Bishop Cole chided me for not being a better fan of the BYU Cougars and taught me what obedience is really all about. He would push people to be better. He didn’t think that he was pushing hard enough until they would push back. But the people grew. There are many Bishops that later came out of those leadership meetings and Ward Counsels with Bishop Cole; including me, several years later. There are so many times when as Bishop, I would ask myself the question; “What would Bishop Cole do?”

A few more years went by and Conrad was called as the Stake Young Mens President. I was his counselor again in the Stake. Conrad was not one to tell jokes, but he found humor in everything and had an infectious laugh. It seems we laughed all the time; usually at each other. The Cole home was always a center of activity. After all he had the best game room in the neighborhood and the biggest TV with a satellite. (Reserved for BYU games) Conrad was such a loyal fan (having played on BYU’s football team) that I have seen him get in his car and drive out into the desert until he could pick up KSL radio in Salt Lake to hear the game.

Conrad was a good salesman and as he said, he sold “scrubbers and sweepers”. I sold mutual funds and financial advice. We had many long conversations about business and sales. I’m still selling mutual funds, Conrad ended up owning and expanding the business into a national firm. He would always say that running a good business is just applying gospel principals.

As a member of the Iroquois Nation, Conrad was not required to pay income taxes according to a treaty with the US Government. He carried a card in his wallet that said as much. But he always paid his taxes. He did not want to receive anything on the dole. He knew how to work, whether it was as a ranch hand in Eastern Oregon, or a heavy steel worker or just remodeling his house.

Conrad’s love for the Lord and the gospel of Jesus Christ was evident in everything he did. Every conversation would eventually end up in a gospel theme.

We moved to Nevada and the Coles moved to Utah. The friendships from Corona have spanned the years and many from the old Corona days continue to maintain friendships and frequently visit the Coles. (He has an even bigger game room now and the big satellite TV is now an in home theater.)

In the later years of his life, his humor remained even in physical adversity, and his testifying of the Savior grew sweeter. I believe, as he did, that we will meet again, with an even bigger view of the latest BYU game. Until then my friend, my brother.

Jeff L Whitaker
June 15, 2011

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