Life Sketch of Judson Leon Tolman, written by Judson Tolman, Jr.
June 29, 1987
Born:July 8 1901 at Chesterfield, Idaho, the son of Cyrus and Eliza Ann Riley Tolman
Died:June 25 1987 at his home in Portland, Oregon – 13 days before his 86th birthday
He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Velva Davids Tolman, 3 sons – Paul, Judson Jr. , and Terrell Dee; 2 daughters – Betty Jean Service, and Dixie Walton, all of Portland, Oregon; 34 Grandchildren and 97 Great Grandchildren; 1 brother, Leonard of Bancroft, Idaho, 1 sister, Nancy Loveland of Las Vegas, Nevada, 1 son-in-law Harry E. Service, 3 daughter-in-laws, Nola, Darla and Iris. (Dad always said that he didn’t have son-in-laws or daughter-in-laws, only sons and daughters, and he treated us all exactly the same.)
I would like to share this excerpt from Dad’s personal history with you:
“On a cold, frosty morning, the 8th day of July 1901, at Chesterfield, Idaho, a little towhead boy came into the world and was named Judson Leon Tolman. I was born at the old home on the hill where my father, Cyrus, had his cheese factory. As a child we had the best of fun, sleigh riding and skating in the winter, and horse back riding and everything that goes for fun in the summertime on the farm. I was a very stubborn boy and it was hard for my brother to get any work out of me. I was 6th in a family of 10 children, Vinnie, Will, Fred, Elnora, Nancy, me, Myrintha, Olester, Leonard and Eldon. Father was gone from 6 am until 6 pm or later at night – He carried the mail in a horse and buggy, a round trip distance of 60 miles a day. Mother was the Relief Society President, which took her away a lot, so we kids looked after each other and just grew up. My parents were very religious so I went to Sunday school and church all through my youth. I have cherished my Primary days all o f my life. We were taught to dance at primary and had a lot of good times. My Primary President and teacher was sister Carrie Davids, a woman who I truly loved, who later became my Mother-In-Law. I was baptized when I was 8 years old by my Father in a small ditch, and because of a lack of water, I thought he would drown me before he got me all under the water.”
Dad attended a country school in Chesterfield through the 8th grade, then he had to go to work on the family farm to help his Father support their large family. He worked in the hay fields, took care of the animals, milked the cows and helped his father deliver the mail. He wrote this in his history, “I went to work for my Father as a mailman – I had, with my sister Elnora, carried the mail for Father since I was 11 or 12 years old. We had great time together, spending nearly all we made to eat, and did we eat! Boy, oh boy!!”
Dad loved his parents and brothers and sisters with all his heart, and they loved him. They were a very close family, enjoying to the fullest any time they could spend together. Uncle Leonard and aunt Nancy both came to visit Dad recently. How he appreciated their love and concern for him.
Dad wrote this about his Father: “I was born in this great world to one of the greatest fathers there ever was. Not great as the world looks on greatness, as wealth or knowledge, but great in the work of the Lord. He gave his life in the service of others and in serving his Heavenly Father. He never had an enemy and was loved by everybody. He was truly a servant of his Father in Heaven and lived as he taught.” He taught Dad well, for he surely followed in his Father’s footsteps. Dad’s wonderful example of service has been a blessing in all of our lives.
Dad was ordained a deacon at 12, a teacher at 14, and called as a Home Teacher (Ward Teacher) at the same time. His 1st companion was brother Tomlinson, (Pres. Wilford Thatcher’s Grandfather), who taught him to do his duty well. Dad was a 100% Home Teacher all his life – he always went the 2nd mile for his families and also helped anyone else finish their teaching if they needed his help (we think the Lord will say to him, “Well done thou good and faithful servant…”). He was never ordained a priest, instead he was ordained an Elder at 16 and called as secretary of the YMMIA board and as a counselor in the Sunday School Presidency. He was so proud to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and he always used the Priesthood to bless the lives of others. When he was a Deacon he helped cut the wood for the meetinghouse and kept the fires going during the winter. He also cut wood for the elderly in the ward. His church callings were numerous – Scoutmaster, Sunday School Teacher, Quorum Leader, High Priest Group Leader, he served in the presidency of all the organizations,but the calling he loved best and served longest in was a Missionary. How Dad loved being a Seventy and Missionary work. He served 17 years as a Stake Missionary – his greatest joy as a missionary was having his sons as companions. He also served as the Stake Mission President of the Columbia River Stake. There are many people here today who were taught and influenced to join the church threw his missionary labors.
Dad worked as a farmer in his younger days, but decided to become a Barber, so the family moved to the Boise area and lived there from 1928 until 1942. Paul, Dee and I helped out in the Barber Shop by doing the laundry. Dad paid us 1 cent a towel, 2 cents a steamer, and 5 cents an apron. A shave and haircut was 35 cents in those days, so when world was 2 began, Dad came to Portland to learn how to weld. Our family moved here in 1942.
He decided to marry Mother when they were about 8 years old. He said he was watching her sitting in her Father’s buggy with her long dark curls hanging down her back and her beautiful white skin glowing, and decided then and there that she was the one for him. He never changed his mind. They were neighbors, (He loved to chase her and tease her). They attended school together, and enjoyed the church and community functions together. They became engaged at 16 and were married in the Salt Lake Temple 4 years later. Theirs has been an eternal courtship for over 70 years. This past year Mother has not left his side, day and night she has been his constant, loving companion. Their love for each other has been a great strength and brought endless happiness to their children and family.
The end of the war, then he went to work for the Gas Co. He retired in 1966. My Dad worked hard all his life. He believed in the old saying, “An honest days labor for an honest days pay.” He taught his children the value of hard work and integrity through his words and example.
He and Mother served a full-time mission in Dawson Creek, Canada in 1966-1968. He called their mission the real honeymoon. “Our mission was a real Honeymoon for my wife and me. We had such a wonderful time serving the Lord and the good people in Dawson Creek, B.C.” Dad was ordained Branch President and given the job of building a chapel. The people in that area had been trying to get one build for some time, but just couldn’t seem to accomplish the task. Needless to say the chapel was built on time and in a most spiritual way. He said, “This was a real challenge, our experiences were many, but we were able to finish the chapel and have it dedicated before our mission time was up.” Dad always finished whatever task the Lord called him to do. His counsel to us was, “Always give your best to the Lord.”
Dad’s love for his family was so inspiring. He accepted each of us for what we were, and then through love and understanding tried to help us become the best we could be. His greatest desire is to have all of us with him throughout all eternity. So many times in Family Night he said to us, “We love you, each one of you. We need each of you to make our family circle complete. If any of you ar missing, it will break Mother’s and my hearts.”
He was proud of his family, they were “His work and Glory.” How he loved to attend the temple with his children and grandchildren – to attend their marriage and temple endowments for missionaries. He wrote, “This has brought great joy to my life and my beloved wife, as we have been able to go with them to the temple and mission home. We have attended all the temple marriages of all our grandchildren who have married in the temple. We wouldn’t miss these occasions for anything in this world, if it’s humanly possible to be there.”
Dad looked forward to the monthly Family Nights with his family, the reunions and Christmas parties. He said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to stay close to each other, to instruct each other in the gospel principles. I treasure our family Christmas parties each year when the children and the little kiddies get together to remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, play games, have good food, and share each others love.” How he enjoyed the Camp Bethel reunions with Gayle and Jim Corier and their family. Even though “Auntie Gayle” was his sister-in-law, he felt she was more like a daughter, and Uncle Jim a son. Aunt Gayle was close to the same age as Grace, Mother and Dad’s 1st child who died when she was 3 years old. Gayle was a wonderful blessing and comfort to them during this time of their lives. Dad has always looked forward to the time when he could be with Grace Again. He said many times that his desire to see her and be with her again was a motivating force in his life to keep the commandments. I’m sure they are having a sweet reunion now.
Dad was a hero to his children and grandchildren and a real legend in the lives of his great grandchildren. They have many sweet and wonderful memories of him. How they all loved him! He was the best Grandpa in all the world.
Dad taught us an important lesson about dying. These past few weeks were very difficult, but he showed us how to endure WELL to the end. As we visited with him, even though he couldn’t communicate very well, he acknowledge each family member with love and kindness. He was so glad to have his family with him during the last difficult trial. Their love and devotion to him was without equal. I know he gained strength from each person who came. He was a spiritual giant and we loved him so much. His example of righteous living, his words of wisdom, both spoken and written, will be our “Handbook for Life”. He bore his testimony to us as often as we would listen. He closed his history with these words, “Now, I’ll close at this time, bearing my testimony that President Ezra Taft Benson is truly a Prophet of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Holy Ghost is truly in action with those who will live and conduct their lives so that they are worthy to have the Holy Ghost with them and that our great Father, Elohim, is at the helm guiding this great creation. It is under his direction with Jesus Christ being his right hand man.”
Many of you will remember Dad as a great scriptorian and gospel scholar that he was, the faithful friend and brother, but as a family we will remember him best as our Husband, Father and Grandfather, and as a family we want to thank him for the lessons he taught us in – Integrity, Service, and Unconditional love. It will take us all eternity to repay him in kind – to be to our own families what he has been to us.
The most important things in Dad’s life was Mother, his family and the gospel. He loved the gospel because it gave him the power to have his family for all eternity. Dad was the greatest example of unconditional love. He blessed our lives with it.
May God grant us the strength to equal his strength, faith to sustain us as he has been sustained, and love of one another even as he has loved us.