Thursday, December 26, 2013

Brigham Young's Great-Grandson Passes Away

The oldest person in our LDS Ward passed away a few days ago.  His name was Thomas Young Emmett and he happened to be a great-grandson of both the prophet Brigham Young (1801-1877), and one of the steadfast, faithful missionaries of the Restoration, Erastus Fairbanks Snow (1818-1888).

Tom was born in Utah in 1912, and his family moved to the Portland area when he was 12.  He has been here ever since--for 89 years Portland has been his home.  Tom knew everything about the growth of the LDS Church in this area, and he served in leadership capacities many times, including as Bishop, Stake President, Temple President, and Regional Representative.  One of Tom's prized possessions is displayed on his fireplace hearth: his great-grandfather Brigham Young's spittoon.  Yeah, you heard that right--Brigham Young owned a spittoon.

Tom was married twice. His first marriage last 50 years until his wife's death, and the second, 25.

In 2012 I attended Tom's 100th birthday party.  What a festive occasion it was.  He remained seated at the head table and welcomed all who wanted to give him personal best wishes.  Tom's health was very good until a year or two ago.  Last spring he started using a walker.  I remember this because I was using a scooter to get around after foot surgery, so I told him I was joining his club.  There are half a dozen older folks in our ward who get around with walkers.

Besides Tom's steadfastness in the faith, what I will remember most about him is his physical stamina.  He was not a large man, yet he looked tall in a way, because he stood ramrod straight.  He could stand in the store or in church and converse with people without fishing around for something to sit or lean on.  A few years ago he climbed up on a chair to reach something and fell, cracking some bones in his spine.  He missed church meetings that week while he was in the hospital, but the following week he was back, wearing a back and neck brace.  And standing ramrod straight.  Nothing could faze this man.

I was looking at Tom's family on FamilyTree (reached through  He never knew his namesake grandfather, Thomas Emmett because, for crying out loud--his grandfather was born in 1827!   He probably didn't remember his mother's parents for they lived only a few years after his birth.

Tom's wife RM is in her 90s, and has the same never-wavering faith, the same physical stamina as Tom.  She fell and broke her hip last summer, yet three weeks later she climbed the steps to the podium microphone at church to share her testimony of faith in the restored gospel.

Tom will be missed.

This is his obituary:

Thomas Young Emmett, a resident of Portland since the age of 12, passed away peacefully at his home on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013.
TYE (a term of endearment used by his closest friends and family) was born March 16, 1912, in Ogden, Utah, to Nell Young Emmett and Irving Clarence Emmett.  At age 12, Tom and his family rode the train to Portland, OR, never thinking it would become his home for the next 89 years!  He graduated from Portland's Franklin High School in 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression, and continued what he'd done since a little boy – work hard to help support the family.
In 1935 Tom married Zalia Huntsman (who preceded him in death in 1985).  They labored together, started a family and endured the challenging economic times.  Tom was eventually offered a partnership in a manufacturer's rep company, and it was renamed Bruce-Emmett Co.  After the untimely death of his partner, Tom acquired full ownership, resulting in it becoming a very large and prosperous business, the largest electrical manufacturer's rep west of the Mississippi.  He remained as owner and president until retirement.
Tom was always involved with his church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), serving in many leadership and demanding roles.  Those included a bishop for 13 years, seven years as a stake president, five years as a regional representative of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and in 1992 was given the assignment as president of the Portland Oregon Temple (Lake Oswego).  Serving at his side faithfully for three years as the temple matron was his wife Rose Marie Emmett.
Even in his late 90's Tom continued to fulfill volunteer assignments within the Church.  Countless are the people who have been influenced by his example and integrity and there are many untold stories of the generosity shown throughout his life to those in need of a "hand-up."  Until the very end he set an example of faith, perseverance, and uncomplaining adjustment to the changes life brought to him.
Tom is survived by his wife Rose Marie Emmett of Portland, daughters Kathleen Mitton of Farmington, UT, and Susan Emmett of Milwaukie, OR, and his son John H. Emmett of Portland, OR.  A second son, David T. Emmett, preceded him in death.  In addition, there are 25 surviving grandchildren, 75 great-grandchild and 21 great-great-grandchildren.
A memorial service to celebrate Tom's life will be held at 1p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 955 NW 173rd Ave., Beaverton, OR 97006.