Deseret News, 12/05/12
Leroy Gunnell passed away on 30 Nov. 2012 in the Utah Valley Regional Hospital in Provo, Utah due to severe brain hemorrhaging resulting from a fall.
He was born 22 Oct. 1929 to Earl Tolman and Charlotte Mikesell Gunnell in Soda Springs, Idaho. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood roaming the hills and fishing streams of Southeastern Idaho. He graduated from Soda Springs H.S. in 1947, having been active in many sports and leadership positions. After two years at BYU he served and LDS mission from 1949-1951 in the Western States Mission in Denver which then included all of S. Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and the eastern half of Wyoming. It was during this time that he developed a deep love of the scriptures which remained one of his great loves throughout the rest of his life.
It was at BYU after returning from his mission that he met the love of his life, Mary Lois Bolingbroke. Both were English majors and taking a Vocabulary Building class together. It was a small interactive class and they interacted!!! An interest sparked a flame, which lead to love, which lead to their being married by Elder Spencer W. Kimball on 26 Aug. 1952 in the Salt Lake Temple. It was an auspicious match and the beginning of a 60 year love affair.
Leroy earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from BYU and a commission as a Lt. in the U.S. Air Force in the first class of ROTC cadets to graduate from BYU in 1954. From there he went to pilot training in Moultrie Georgia, Enid Okla., and Wichita Kansas before his first major assignment at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Ariz. where he flew a B-47 jet bomber for the Strategic Air Command from 1955-1961. This was during the height of the Cold War with Russia and a very tense time for the country. The bombers and their crews were either in the air or on constant alert protecting the freedom of this nation. There were many 6 week to 3 month temporary duty assignments to Guam and Alaska during these years. Leroy truly enjoyed flying the B-47, and could wax quite poetic about the beauty of God's creations as he flew through the vastness of the night skies.
While in Alaska in July of 1961 he received orders to move to the newly completed Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado to teach Freshman English to the cadets-with classes to begin the last week in July! He really scrambled to switch gears from piloting a bomber to teaching English to very intelligent and select young cadets where classes never held more than 15 students. After a year the Air Force sent him back to BYU to earn a Master's Degree. He then returned to the AFA to teach from 1964-69 which was an incredible golden era in his career.
Other Air Force assignments included 18 months flying a C-130 in Vietnam; 3 1/2years at 5th AF Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, (where the family had opportunities to visit countries all over the Far East); and 4 years at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. All of the above were incredible experiences including many opportunities to serve others, do missionary work, and to meet and make wonderful life-long friends.
After retiring from the A.F. in 1978 the family moved to Orem, Utah where he began working for the BYU Honors Program and teaching classes for the Religion Dept. Leroy was loved and respected by all who knew him as a man of honor, dependability and integrity and who projected a gentle and deep spirituality.
He will be remembered for his many years of faithful service in the LDS Church, for the depth of his scriptural knowledge, and his deep love of The Savior. He had a gift for teaching and knowing where to find the answers in the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets to just about any question he was asked. Leroy's battered sets of scriptures and many volumes of scholarly class notes and handouts are treasured family heirlooms. He served as a much beloved bishop of 6 wards/branches during his life, including the first bishop to preside over the Air Academy Ward when it was established in 1959 in Colorado Springs; the Chofu Branch in Tokyo (from the Sunday we arrived until the Sunday we flew home;) 5 ½ yrs. In the BYU 66th singles ward and the Transient Bishop for all of Utah County for 2 years. He served on several High Councils, as a Counselor in the Montgomery, Alabama Stake Presidency as well as teaching or presiding in all of the auxiliary organizations. Leroy and Mary Lois served in many callings together the last 20 years of their lives: as full-time missionaries on Temple Square; 14 yrs. as ordinance workers in the Provo and Mt. Timpanogos Temples; taught temple preparation classes in their ward for 12 yrs. (and also had the beautiful experience of preparing 14 of their grandchildren to receive their temple blessings.) He also taught a much loved and loyally attended religion class for the Orem Stake for 12 years teachings an incredibly in-depth study of LDS scriptures and doctrine. During this time Leroy was also called to serve at the MTC for 3 years in a Branch Presidency. Currently, he was serving as an Advisor in the Deacon's Quorum of his ward.
His greatest treasure was his sweetheart of 60 years, his beloved family of 7 children: Anne Moss (John) of Heber City, Steven L. Gunnell (Robin) of Orem, Debi Wilcox (Brad) of Provo, Douglas B Gunnell (Kristy) of Lindon, Robert V. Gunnell (Jeanne) of Orem, Mark L. Gunnell (Michele) of Cedar Hills and Melanie Gunnell of Orem. His treasure multiplied with his 29 exceptional grandchildren and their spouses, 22 great grandchildren-and counting! He is also survived by his brother Robert D. Gunnell (JeriAnn) of Provo, a sister Shirley Clegg (David) of Eagle, Idaho, his brother-in-law Robert A. Bolingbroke (Marilyn) of Rancho Santa Fe, CA. and sister-in-law Donna Bolingbroke of Ft. Morgan CO. Leroy Gunnell was a gentle giant who has left a mighty legacy and example for his prosperity to follow. He will be tenderly missed.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, December 8th, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. at the Orem Stake Center 80 South 280 East in Orem. A visitation will be held Friday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary, 495 South State Street, Orem and also Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the stake center prior to the services. Interment will be in the Orem City Cemetery with Military Rites provided by American Legion Post #72. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.SundbergOlpinMortuary.com
Published in Deseret News on December 5, 2012