Wednesday’s Leaf: Rodney Earl Lundquist

I wrote about Rodney Earl Lundquist (my grand uncle) last year. Rodney was born on October 16, 1923 in Smithfield, Utah. On January 4, 1943, Rodney enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private.

Recently, I stumbled across some wonderful photographs and documents pertaining to Rodney’s time in the military. Of particular interest was a letter written by Rodney to his mother (Eugenia Harris Lundquist) while serving in Belgium. Here is a transcript of the letter:

Thanksgiving Day 1944

Still in Belgique

Dearest Mom,

I am still in Belgium and I am well and happy. It is getting colder over here but I am warm. I have plenty of clothes and believe it or not, I have a nice warm bed. I guess I was a little luckier than those great guys in the infantry. I hope that on this day you are feeling okay, still smiling, and the same for Charles and all my friends. I haven’t had a letter from you in quite a while. I guess there is something wrong with the postal service. I guess I just don’t deserve any letters because I don’t write much, but as long as I get a letter from you, I don’t care much about anyone else.

The proper Sunday after you receive this letter, I would like you to bear my testimony in behalf of me. Now-after all these months overseas, I know that there is a God and His son Jesus Christ and that Joseph Smith is the true prophet of the Lord and that on this Thanksgiving day, I was thankful to be an American soldier and above all, Mom, I am thankful for you and to you for everything that I have been or ever will be.

Today for our dinner, we have [a] nice young turkey, sweet and mashed potatoes, gravy, apple pie and some good cake. Gee, it’s going to be swell. I hope I can have my next Thanksgiving dinner with you, Mom.

Well, Mom, I must close now, give my love to Charles and everybody at home.

All my love to the best mom in all the world.

Your son,


P.S. A Merry Christmas and a Happy, Happy New Year.

God bless you.


Rodney Earl Lundquist (1923-1944)

Rodney was killed on December 23, 1944 in Belgium. He was 21 years old. His obituary was printed in the January 8, 1945 Salt Lake Tribune.


Obituary of Rodney Earl Lundquist

Rodney received the Purple Heart medal for his service.

Discovering Mental Illness In Your Family Tree

People are generally reluctant to discuss the less desirable aspects of family history. This is particularly true when it comes to mental illness. First of all, the topic is incredibly complex, and most of us do not fully understand the ins and outs of mental health. Secondly, we fear the genetic implications of mental illness. Will I inherit my ancestor’s disorder? Will my children? This post discusses the discovery of mental illness in my family tree and how that can help you.

Leo Ivan Lundquist (1895-1975)

Leo Ivan Lundquist, my first cousin twice removed, was born on December 4, 1895. Leo was the second son of Emanuel Richard Lundquist, who immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1881.


Leo Ivan Lundquist (seated child), About 1897

I was first drawn to Leo after examining his draft registration card from World War I.


World War I Draft Registration Card (June 5, 1917)

As you can see, the Registrar lists Leo as “insane” and specifies that as an exemption from the draft.

After digging a little deeper into Leo’s history, I found a very interesting census record from 1920.

1920 Census

1920 Census Record

According to the record, Leo was a patient of the Utah State Mental Hospital in Provo, Utah. He was approximately 24 years old at the time.

Utah State Mental Hospital

Originally called the Territorial Insane Asylum, the Utah State Mental Hospital opened its doors in 1885. Early documents describe the hospital as being eight blocks from the nearest residence in Provo and separated from the city by swampland and the city dump. The Asylum was renamed the Utah State Mental Hospital in 1903. In 1927, it adopted its current name, the Utah State Hospital, in an attempt to lessen the negative connotation associated with the word “mental.”


The Utah State Mental Hospital (Provo, Utah)

Attitudes Toward Mental Illness

Mental illness was highly misunderstood in the 1920’s (arguably, it is still misunderstood). Our ancestors probably used the words “insane” or “idiot” quite differently than we do today. An individual was sometimes labeled “insane” if he behaved in a way that society could not comprehend (e.g., he suffered from anxiety or depression). In addition, asylums were sometimes known to house individuals who were not mentally ill – the elderly, for example, or those with untreatable conditions such as epilepsy.

By today’s standards, many of the “treatments” performed on patients were archaic and cruel. During the 1930’s, frontal lobotomies were quite common. In fact, early medications designed for the treatment of mental illness were not developed until the 1950’s. The 1950’s also saw a shift in attitudes toward the mentally ill. Treatment generally transitioned from institutional care to community-based care.

Leo’s Move To Wyoming

The 1930 census provided more details on Leo’s life. According to the record, Leo had moved to the U.S. Veterans Hospital in Sheridan County, Wyoming. Again, Leo is listed as an “insane patient,” but something more interesting stands out. Under the “Occupation” column, Leo is described as a “Clerk.” This leads me to believe that although considered “insane” in 1930, Leo was able to perform basic job responsibilities. Also, I discovered that Leo was a veteran. Eventually, I learned that he enlisted in the U.S. military on February 23, 1915 and was released on September 28, 1916. It is very possible that his condition is directly connected to something that occurred while serving in the military.

1930 Census

1930 Census Record

Research Tips

Researching a mentally ill ancestor can be quite challenging. First of all, family members may be reluctant to talk about that individual. Secondly, source documents may be hard to find, and there may be privacy law restrictions if your ancestor was in a mental institution. Here are some tips to overcome these hurdles:

  1. A court proceeding may have been held before your ancestor was institutionalized. Search court records for more information on the nature of your ancestor’s condition.
  2. Your ancestor’s death record may list the informant as someone who worked at the mental institution. This can at least inform you as to where your ancestor was living.
  3. If you know where your ancestor was hospitalized, try to contact that institution for any available records. Again, privacy laws may come into play, and some hospitals do not release really old records as they are considered closed. I recently contacted the Utah State Hospital and am hoping to receive a response soon.
  4. Look for nontraditional records, such as social history sources, newspaper articles, or articles on the particular institution where your ancestor was housed.
  5. Don’t necessarily equate the word “insane” with mentally ill. It may be that your ancestor was merely eccentric or misunderstood by his community. Dive deeper into records to learn the true nature of his condition.

Above all, persistence is the key. Learning about our mentally ill ancestors is extremely important because it allows us to understand the hardships they endured. And family history is just like any kind of history – it reports the good and the bad, and our mentally ill ancestors deserve to be a part of it.

Photos Almost Lost

According to my uncle, the following photographs of my Grandpa Lundquist were found shortly after his death in a dumpster behind his shop. I am very grateful these pictures were not lost.


My grandfather (standing) painting the “Lady’s Shop,” a store owned by my great grandmother Eugenia Harris Lundquist


My grandfather (far right) as a grocery clerk

My grandfather and his brother Charles painting a church. The notation on the right says “Top of Lewiston 3rd Ward Church”

My grandfather driving the “paint wagon”

My grandfather and an unknown friend


My grandfather (second from the left) and his brothers

Memories of Eric Benjamin and Eugenia Harris Lundquist

Eric Benjamin Lundquist

Eric Benjamin Lundquist (December 27, 1871 – July 25, 1932)

The following letter was written by my 2nd Great Uncle, Lamont Harris, on April 25, 1971. It was addressed to my Great Uncle, Eugene Ben Lundquist. The letter recalls Lamont’s memories of my Great Grandfather, Eric Benjamin Lundquist (referred to as “Bennie”), and my Great Grandmother, Eugenia Harris (referred to as “Jean”).

Dear Eugene,

You asked me to write some of the things that I could remember about your father and mother and it really is a pleasure to do so because they were so very dear to me. They took me in when I was fourteen years of age. I had no father [William Emer Harris] and my mother [Katherine Perkes Harris] was very poor. Your parents were very good to her and because I worked for your Dad, it made it possible for me to give her a little money.

Pauline, Katherine & Eugenia Harris (About 1900)

I will always have fond memories of your Father and your Mother. The first I can remember of your Father was at his wedding supper. They were married November 4, 1903. I was 10 years of age at that time. Everything at the wedding was just out of this world. I have never in all my life seen so much to eat and me so hungry. They had a large long table with everything under the sun to eat. Bennie and Jean looked so nice. Bennie had a brass band playing outside all that evening. Everyone who came had to be treated. I can remember two large barrels of Beckers beer [Root Beer?] to treat them with and two big gunny sacks of peanuts and candy. It was such a big affair, I could never forget it.

Your Father and Mother first lived in Hyde Park. I used to go and play at their place and I remember your Grandmother Lundquist [Karin Ersson (Carolina Erickson)] as she was a short plump old lady and she was so good to me.

When I was 14, I went to live with your Father and Mother when they moved to Smithfield and they treated me just like I was one of their own in many ways. I had to work and I was glad for it. Your Dad was a good cook and before we went to work he would cook breakfast always with his hat on. We would have sausage, hot cakes and eggs, and it was good.

About the first I did for your Dad was to help him paint the “old Miles store.” I painted the roof and your Dad said I did it so fast and so good that he was going to give me extra money. Then we painted the inside of Roylance Smithfield Implement Company. Roylance was never good to work for and your Dad and Roylance got in a quarrel. Roylance pushed your Dad down. I went over to help and your Dad told me to get back. Then your Dad got up and took his 4” paint brush and filled it with paint and hit Roylance smack in the face with it. By then Roylance had had enough and he grabbed a new shirt and I helped him get the paint off. Your Dad had to pay for the shirt.

Your Dad was a small man, but when it came to work of all kinds, he was good. He had men working for him over six feet tall, but he could outreach many of them when on a plank. Not only was he fast but strong for his size. He was a good religious guy and he helped me to be a better boy, took me to Priesthood meetings and always insisted that I sing in the choir. If I have any good traits of character, I give him much of the credit.

Your Dad made good money as he was good at his trade. At one time, he bought a new car and it was a 7 passenger Chandler. I drove it for him many times. Once, I recall we went to Salt Lake City to see the Prince of Sweden and to hear the John B. Hells Band. There were hundreds of cars parked all over the place, and when the program was over, your dad said, “Let’s get out of here and beat the traffic.” We all got in the car and I put it in reverse and gave it the gas and it moved only six feet and one wheel slid and we stopped right in the lane of traffic. I didn’t  know what was wrong. Two policemen came and we found that your Dad had put a heavy chain on the wheels and locked them so no one could take off. The policemen gave us a good talking to and your Mother gave your Dad a good scolding, but we surely had a good time.

I think I told you about us hanging 54 rolls of wall paper in one day and driving to Richmond and back besides. Your Dad gave me an extra $10 that day.

Once brother Noble couldn’t get anyone to help him thrash, so your Dad told him that he and I would help him. They put us on the straw stack as it was an old-time horse drawn machine and if it hadn’t been for your Dad, I don’t know what I would have done. He was in good shape at that time.

Your Dad homesteaded some land in Park Valley and he took Riley [LaMont’s brother] and went out to look it over and they staked it out. Then the next trip out, I and your Dad went and we had some fine horses and good equipment. We put up a good and strong tent and we had taken some chairs, bed, stove, and all the things needed to keep house. One day two men came to see your Dad and they wanted to sell the things they had on their own homestead, so your Dad bought all of it. We tore down the house, sheds and fences and hauled it 15 miles down to his place and this was really hard work. Your Dad’s hands got so sore he would rub mutton tallow on them. Your Dad numbered every piece of lumber from the house and then it was out and up by numbers, a three room house with back porch, sheds and fences for the horses. I don’t think your Dad had been around horses before but he got along fine. He would drive four head of fine horses on a rail—a very heavy rail-road rail, which would pull out the sage brush. I would burn the sage brush for four hours, then I would drive the horses and then your Dad would burn the sage brush.

He planted 40 acres of alfalfa. It looked so green and pretty and he was very pleased with it. He spent a lot of money out there. But the cattle men just didn’t like it-they wanted it for grazing land and the next year when I got there they had run their cattle on it.

Your Dad cooked some good meals and I would wash the dishes. At night we would play cards to pass the time away. He had a little short trombone and I had a trumpet. We would sit outside and play and I am sure people could hear us from five miles away.

Every Saturday night, your Dad and I and Alf Peterson from Hyde Park would play for a dance. Cowboys in chaps and spurs and girls with calico dresses came and danced. We would want to stop at 12 o’clock, but they wouldn’t let us. Your Dad told them we would play only until 12 o’clock and then one cowboy shot 2 or 3 times up through the ceiling and then we played ‘till two.

About the 3rd year, your Father was called on a mission [a 6 month mission, called on January 25th, 1913, to the area around Milwaukee, Wisconsin]. I went out to Park Valley again but before the summer was over, your Dad sent word for me to come home. Between his mission and only me working out in Park Valley, I found that it was too much to handle. When he came home from his mission, he got a letter from some land grabbers saying your Dad had not lived up to the homestead law and they were taking the land but were willing to give your dad five-hundred dollars in gold for it. Your Father let them have it. Your Father had the right to take all the improvements. I wanted to take two wagons and get two loads, but he wouldn’t let me go out there because there were already Russians and their families out there. So it was all over. Your Dad sold all his horses and wagons and machinery to Riley for a small sum.

When your Father would get angry at something he would swear, but I did not know what he would mean, He would say, “Dock on Gaveln fayah” [Swedish].

Years ago there was a preacher who came to town with 4 other men and held their meetings on Miles corner {Smithfield Implement Company}. Your Father held a debate with them and tied them up so bad it was funny.

One time at Christmas time, he went around town and collected one thousand dollars for poor people and kids in Smithfield.

Your Father was very good to your Mother-she always had plenty of money and she dressed nice and lived good and she was always good to me. I dressed nice and theirs was a good home. I always worked my very best for your Father.

Your Father and Mother played for dances and I took care of you boys. When you wouldn’t go to sleep, I would get you good and warm and sing to you-I’ll never forget it.

You were such good children and it was pleasant to care for you-you were easy to care for. Your Father had a good home for you and I have to say, it was the best home I ever had.

I am 78 years old now and if I live to be a hundred, I will never forget how your Dad and your Mother took me in just like a son.

I will never forget. God bless their memory.

LaMont Harris

Alexander George Lundquist’s Autograph Book

The following images are from an autograph book that belonged to Alexander George Lundquist (1865-1891), my great grandfather’s brother. The first autographs are dated 1889, so the book is very old. I have never seen the actual book but am lucky to have copies of the scanned images.


Page 1: The inscription says “AG Lundquist, Thistle, Utah.”

An autograph from Alexander’s brother, Carl Emil Lundquist (”Chas”). It reads: “Thistle, Utah, Mar. 14, 1890. Dear Bro. May you ever succeed in solving the problems of life.“ The next sentence is written in Swedish. My Swedish teacher told me it says “a good disposition leads to a happy life.” I believe the last sentence is written in German (”everything is done!”).


Dated November 4, 1889: “Dear Friend, Love many and trust few. And always paddle your own canoe. Compliments of Alma Stratt. Springville.”

Dated January 13, 1889: “Friend Aleck, May thou live in joy forever, Naught from the true pleasure sever; May no tear burden thine eye, From thy heart arise no sigh. Joys be many, cares be few, Smooth the path thou shalt pursue, And Heaven’s richest blessings shine Ever on both thee and thine. Is the wish of your friend, Estelle V. Rager.” The inscription by the flowers says, “Forget me not.”

Rodney Earl Lundquist and World War II

My Grand Uncle, Rodney Earl Lundquist, was born on October 16, 1923 in Smithfield, Utah. On January 4, 1943, Rodney enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private. According to enlistment records, Rodney was to serve “for the duration of the War [World War II] or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

Enlistment records show that Rodney had one year of college and was a “semi-skilled” painter. When Rodney joined the Army, he was single and without dependents. Records say he was 6′7′’ in height and 124 pounds.

On December 23, 1944, Rodney was killed in Belgium. His death certificate lists the cause of death as “World War II.” 

Death Certificate of Rodney Lundquist

I believe Rodney was initially buried in Europe. According to one record, Rodney’s body was returned “from ETO” to Utah on March 17, 1949 for reburial. “ETO” refers to the European Theater of Operations, which directed U.S. Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. 

The term “theater of operations” was defined in the U.S. Army field manuals as “the land and sea areas to be invaded or defended, including areas necessary for administrative activities incident to the military operations." 

Rodney was buried in April of 1949 in the Smithfield City Cemetery.

Headstone of Rodney Earl Lundquist

Harold Edwin Lundquist: The Labor Missionary

In the summer of 1956, my grandfather and grandma Lundquist were called to serve a labor mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Their mission? To assist in the construction of the Church College of Hawaii (now known as BYU-Hawaii). Most of my information comes from a fantastic book I found online called “Church College of Hawaii and Its Builders.”


On February 7, 1921, LDS President David O. McKay attended a flag raising ceremony at a church elementary school in Laie, Hawaii. It was then that he decided to build a school of higher learning: “Here on the island where the power of God has been shown to man to a greater degree than upon any of the other Islands, it has been resolved to build a school at Laie, Hawaii.”


President David O. McKay and his wife, Emma Ray McKay

On September 1, 1955, the LDS Church established a labor missionary program throughout the Pacific Islands for the purpose of building chapels and schools. In December of 1955, labor missionaries began working on the campus of the Church College of Hawaii.


While on his mission, my grandfather supervised the painting and decorating of the college, as well as the LDS temple. My grandma took care of my mom, who attended Kahuku High School, and worked in the visitor center of the Hawaiian temple.


The Lundquists: my grandfather, mom, and grandma


The labor missionaries in front of the Hawaiian temple; my grandfather and grandma are highlighted in red

My grandfather’s paint crew was comprised of a group of young Polynesian men who were described as “rowdy” and “unruly.” It turns out that none of them had ever seen a paint brush prior to this.


My grandfather (far right) and his paint crew in front of the Hawaiian temple

One particularly challenging task my grandfather faced during his mission was the hanging of the murals in the foyer of the administration building. One of these, entitled “Kapiolani Defies Pele," depicts the first Christian missionaries who arrived in Hawaii in 1820. The mural is quite large (32 feet by 12 feet) and had to be hung in sections. My grandfather had learned the art of hanging murals from his dad, Eric Benjamin Lundquist. The paste my grandfather used to adhere the murals contained white lead, linseed oil, and other ingredients.


"Kapiolani Defies Pele”

After being gone for more than three years, my grandfather, grandma, and mom returned to Los Angeles.

As you would imagine, Hawaii is a very special place for my family, not only because of this experience, but because my family moved there in the 1970’s. In 1978, I was born at Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu.


Church College of Hawaii: when naming the school, President David O. McKay said, "This is the Church; so this college should be named THE CHURCH COLLEGE OF HAWAII, not Mormon, not Latter-Day-Saint, but THE CHURCH COLLEGE OF HAWAII.“