Hillary Clinton as first lady made the statement “it takes a village to raise a child.” How true it is. As I stand somewhere between middle age and senior citizenship, I look back in awe of the quantity and quality of individuals who positively influenced my life. One such villager who left an indelible impact upon my life just passed away recently and I would like to write a short tribute to this individual.
I got to know Rex Bennion when I was very young and I don’t really remember when our paths first crossed. I was friends with his son Gary and spent a fair amount of time at the Bennion house. Rex was in the ward I attended and was involved in many activities in the ward and seemed to relish opportunities to engage with the youth of the ward. Rex led by example. If things needed to get done, he would be the first to get his hands dirty and get to the task at hand. But what I remember most about Rex was his kind and patient demeanor.
There were a couple of instances I recall when he showed remarkable patience with the obnoxious kid that I was. One such event occurred when a bunch of us members of the priest quorum were at a dirt-bike trip near Moab. Having hiked to the top of a cliff overlooking the camp, some of us thought it might be fun to see how far we could through rocks off the cliff. Well, the rock I picked was a poor choice with flat edges which caused the rock to curve—right into the corner of Rex’s truck. Having left a pretty significant dent in the corner of the cab of the truck, I apologized profusely. Rex’s reaction was to ask me “did you learn something from this event?” Every time I saw that truck, it still had that dent, and I thought both of the lesson, and Rex’s reaction.
The other event was a bishop’s interview he was waiting on having with me after a church basketball game we were playing in. Now let me preface this by saying I have always had a hard time with authorities and I have always been willing to express my disagreements with officials. About mid-way through the second quarter, I received not one, but two technical fouls and was ejected from the game. Bishop Bennion proceeded to ask me to clean up and we’d have the interview. As I sheepishly entered his office, he closed the door, and confided in me that he felt I was right and that the call was in error. He also talked about his own experience and how as a younger fellow, he had a hard time with his temper and what he learned later in life. He also pointed out that the officials were volunteers and were giving of their time freely and we should always remember that. Again what it came down to with Rex was “what have you learned.”
I can say affirmatively that I learned a lot from Rex Bennion, as much by how he was than what he said. The many positive words of encouragement he gave me and others showed me how to be the right kind of villager. And I know both his family and his village will miss him.