The six Fitzgerald children had not been together for at least 16 years. A lot had changed in all of their lives. They were all now adults. Each had suffered heart ache and loss. Now for a few short days they were together to bid farewell to their parents.
Following Mamma's service at the LDS chapel and the city cemetery, the Fitzgerald children returned to the house on 100 West, which had belonged to
Papa and Mamma, in their final years. It was in that home that the trunks holding all the memories of yesteryear were found, opened, and discussed. "Mother was a saver," John said." she left five trunks full of souvenirs, all carefully labeled."
Layer by layer they rediscovered their lives. With each picture and clipping a new memory would begin - long lost recollections began to surface. In the opening of Papa Married a Mormon John credits himself with creating the list of notes that would eventually become his first successful novel. However, the notes could have easily been taken by his sister Belle, who collaborated with him in writing the book. Either way important memories were being retained. Happy memories, joyful memories, jubilant ones, and unfortunately some sad ones. The most heartbreaking may have belonged to Thomas Fitzgerald, Jr.
By 1940, his personal suffering would have been in overdrive. Two parents lost, two wives lost, three children gone. John must have known the pain his brother was suffering. How could all the family memories of a lifetime not touch the fresh wounds in his brothers heart. Writers, though do not often begin a project with a conscious agenda in mind. Often the purpose creeps out slowly and not until the end does the writer understand more fully their purpose in creating the story they've told. I believe this was the case with the Fitzgerald stories that John wrote.
You see the Fitzgerald's were a dynamic, pioneering family. Price would not have grown abundantly if it hadn't been for them. Furthermore, Price was unique among Utah towns. It was not predominantly Mormon. It also did not die, or become a ghost town, as so many "non-Mormon" communities did, i.e., Silver Reef and Leeds. No it survived because of people like the Fitzgerald's whose lifestyles etched themselves into the red-rock around them. They had won county fair prizes, wrote plays, entertained neighbors, experienced lawlessness, and savored religion - loved people. By all accounts they made lasting friends in their town. And it to Tom's credit that he made those friends because when the chips were down, it would be a friend who would come to the aid of the memory of Thomas Fitzgerald.
In December 1989, a man named Elgen G. Grames, wrote a letter to a Mr. Payne. Some of the text reads as follows:
"Reading your letter to the Sun Advocate...I decided to write and tell you that I believe you have been talking to the wrong people about the Fitzgerald family. I was a boy on the same street that the Fitzgerald house was moved to it was called K street at the time....Also Thomas "Tom" who everyone knew as "The Great Brain". Tom was a painter and a great philosopher was able and willing to talk on any subject."
Whether John realized it or not, the private family history he was writing, which became the impetus for his books, was being to written to hold on to that fantastic past. You see John was experienced enough to know that we only see what is in front of us, and if progeny judged the Fitzgeralds by what they saw in 1950, they would miss the best part. So John wrote the narrative to bring to life the romance of pioneers, the challenge of developing cultures, and the great joy of philosophical older brothers.
Now we have a sliver of that knowledge. All of it began over a century ago, but thanks to "savers", researchers, and writers, we get to live it as if it happened today.