BOZ CHAPTER 26: The Last Page
Linda Shumway didn’t come to Camp Coronado in 1974. Had she been at camp…
She would have seen Boz back doing the work he loved and met Craze, Floyd and Clint – who came with him that summer.
She would have heard the story you’ve just read and insisted on hearing the rest of the story that you haven’t.
She would have learned that Boz and Scott spent a very interesting couple of hours with Mr. Reynolds the morning they walked out of Warren’s room together. They’d both been suspended for two weeks but, with a little arm twisting by Reynolds, Fisher allowed Scott to submit his project for credit. Boz had also admitted to the two-year rash of practical jokes, but refused to rat out his friends.
Boz would have told her that Mr. Reynolds really turned out to be a decent guy. He didn’t push Boz for names or details on the Underdog antics and actually handed Boz a pretty light punishment – 200 hours of community service.
She would have asked if Scott and Boz had become friends. Boz would have told her no, although they had gained a new respect for each other. Boz had even given Scott a Christmas present – a copy of the Book of Mormon with his testimony written in it. Scott wasn’t quite sure what to think about the gift, but Boz was pleased he’d accepted it.
After seeing the “before and after” pictures, she would have asked if Mary was Boz’s girlfriend. He would have told her that they were just very good friends and that she actually became one of the most popular girls at school, dating half the male population. (She wouldn’t have gotten that inside joke.)
Boz would have shared that Mary, Liz, Amy and – strangely –Sally McCoy had become best friends and had done more in six months to weaken cliques than the Underdogs had done in over two years. They’d reached out to befriend everyone, as did their ever-expanding circle of friends.
She would have seen prom pictures and heard the running commentary.
“I couldn’t believe Mary want to the prom with that Kicker, Byron James! Check out his cowboy tux”.
“That gorgeous girl, Amy, was my date. She got elected prom queen and Mary was her second attendant.”
“Here’s a shocker. Liz went with Clint. Man, she has spoiled him for life!”
She would have also asked about Julie and it would have made Boz sad to say that although the whole gang had tried to befriend her – especially Liz and Mary – Julie rejected all overtures. She’d hung out with a pretty rough crowd and Boz still worried about her.
She would have wanted to hear more Underdog stories and Boz would have been happy to oblige.
“We do things differently now.”
The Underdogs had learned that the war against the cruelty and injustice of Empire’s caste system was best fought in small battles – one soul at a time. Their modus operandi became secret acts of service that lifted spirits and captured hearts.
When they learned that Mr. Warren was having a tough time paying some bills, the Underdogs secretly added a couple gallons of gas to his Volkswagen every day. They loved hearing him brag about what great mileage it got.
They stuffed the ballot box to get the notoriously boring Mrs. Lane elected teacher of the year at the mid-year academic awards assembly. The award changed her attitude about her job and her class became far more enjoyable.
Students from every clique became targets for covert acts of Underdog kindness. Hundreds of dollars and just as many hours were spent on cookies or brownies for the lonely and downtrodden; flowers and cards for the sick or the sad; dates and dances for the timid and untouchable; and more than one Underdog parent found themselves stranded, in the bathroom, on a Saturday night as an involuntary sacrifice to the weekly birthday toilet-papering jobs.
Boz would have told her that while not everyone surrendered to the idea of a clique-less Empire, hundreds of kids quit worrying about being a Jock, or Prep, or Kicker, or even an Underdog and just started being friendly. The graduating ‘Dogs’ left Clint in charge and challenged him to keep the crusade rolling.
Boz would have confessed, however, that their new battle plan hadn’t totally eliminated the need for an occasional practical joke and that it was the Underdogs that had released 50 giant Koi into the school swimming pool the night before a huge swim meet, not thinking about the chlorine. They were found floating, belly up when the teams arrived the next morning.
“Hey,” he would have rationalized, with a sheepish grin, “nobody’s perfect!”
Yet to Linda, as he was to so many other people that he’d touched, he would have seemed pretty close. And she would have taken pride in the fact that she’d been a part of it all, for she would have seen the greatest fruits of the only Book of Mormon she’d ever place. She would have learned that Boz had been baptized, ordained a priest and intended to serve a mission the next year.
She would also have learned that he hadn’t waited for a call to do missionary work. In January, when the new early morning seminary program started up in Morgana, he’d talked the three Underdogs who were with him at Coronado that summer to be some of its first students. It was an easy sell because Brother James was the teacher. All three had joined the Church, baptized by Boz about a month after he’d baptized Liz and his parents.
Boz would have loved sharing it all, but he didn’t get the chance because Linda didn’t come to camp that summer. Nor, Boz learned his first day back, would she ever come again. She’d died a week before in a Phoenix hospital from Cystic Fibrosis that had plagued her all her life. She’d lived to be eleven, much longer than expected, but it was still a shock to Boz.
The first evening at camp, Boz sat alone on a wooded hill overlooking Coronado and smelling the aftermath of a summer shower. He leaned back and sniffed the trunk of the tree he was sitting against.
See, it smells like vanilla.
He heard Linda’s voice echo in his mind. She’d loved that smell and he’d loved her.
He reached into his jacket pocket and extracted the blue, paperback Book of Mormon she had given him. He stroked Angel Moroni on the cover and then opened it to the last page and last verse. He had read the book again during the last month of school, saving the last verse to share with Linda at camp.
Today, though, he would read it alone.
He struggled to read as tears ran down his cheeks. He read Moroni, but heard Linda.
“And now, I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.”
“Amen,” Boz whispered as he closed the book and hugged it. No, Linda wasn’t at camp to hear all Boz wanted to tell her, but somehow, he knew it didn’t matter. Somehow, she didn’t have to come! She knew it all!
There would be no more tears that night, only joy; joy that Jesus Christ had lived and died so that Linda could live again; joy that Boz’s family had found His gospel and embraced it, making them an eternal family; and a joy that Boz intended to share for the rest of his life as bravely and cheerfully as Linda had shared it with him.
The Empire High School all-class reunion of 2014 confirmed what we had always suspected – that her mid-70’s graduates were an exceptional bunch. And the group that called themselves Underdogs were even more exceptional.
Sharing all the details would be another book, but I thought you might enjoy some of the highlights.
To nobody’s surprise, Clint Bushman funded the whole reunion and Heaven knows he could afford it. The red-haired, pimple-faced nerd who’d spent his last two years walking around Empire with a stack of computer punch cards shoved behind his pocket protector made a fortune in computers.
Faithful to the end, Clint credited Boz as the author of his success. Boz had not only recruited him as an Underdog, but introduced him to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Being an Underdog had given him confidence and the gospel had been his compass.
Floyd surprised us all. After joining the Church and marrying Crazy Ann, he became a policeman and then a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency. He spent much of his career wearing long hair and a beard while conducting undercover operations. He was eventually promoted to Assistant Administrator. His work associates looked on his “hippified” language, dress and mannerisms as good method acting for his undercover rolls, never realizing he had talked, dressed and acted like that his whole life.
After graduation, Mary returned with her mother to their farm in Idaho, but she continue a lifelong friendship with Amy and I. She attended Ricks College in Rexburg where she walked into a class one day to find Barry Whitehead – the (then returned) missionary with the good heart. They were married six months later. Barry took over the Olsen farm and proceeded to turn it into one of the most successful in the state.
Mary has enjoyed a full and happy life. She expanded the farm operation to include a quarter horse breeding and training facility. She tutored students in math and served in the community and Church. But she considered her greatest achievement raising five beautiful barrel-racing, rodeo-queen daughters.
Chuck attended Ohio State University on a football scholarship, then played five years with the Dallas Cowboys. He became good friends with teammate Danny White who introduced him and his wife to the missionaries. Boz flew to Dallas and baptized his friend. Chuck stayed in Texas and football, coaching high school and college teams. He is now a highly sought-after motivational speaker.
I graduated in 1976 and went to the Morgana State College that fall. I rekindled my friendship with Julie, helped her patch things up with Boz while he was on his mission and introduced her to Jack – who she married the next fall. He went on to law school and to serve a 30-year career as a JAG officer. They lived all over the world before retiring to San Diego in 2007.
I couldn’t get excited about going back to school the next fall, so I took a trip to see Amy who was cheerleading at BYU. Amy introduced me to Michael Mendenhall, a recently returned missionary studying auto mechanics at Utah Technical College at Provo. We hit is off and dated quite a bit while I was there. After I went home, he called me every night for two months and then drove all night to spend Thanksgiving with our family. He proposed to me that weekend.
We’ve lived in Morgana our whole married life. Mike worked his way up from mechanic to owner of a local car dealership and I’ve been busy raising our four wonderful children.
That brings me to Boz and Amy.
Amy went to BYU the summer after graduation and pretty much stayed there for the next three years. She did, however, make sure to come back the summer of ’77 to welcome Boz home. They dated all summer and became engaged the same day as Mike and I.
To make it all the more fun, the two couples married on Valentine’s Day, 1978.
Amy supported Boz as he earned his teaching degree in History and Business from Morgana State, graduating with honors. He took Mr. Garcia’s job as history teacher at Empire, when Mr. Garcia became vice-principal. After two years, Boz and Amy returned to BYU for law school. After graduation, they returned to Morgana where Boz became a very successful businessman and Amy coached the Empire cheerleading squad for 20 years, winning 15 state championships.
Boz became famous in our little city and in the Midwest for his business success and his philanthropy. He was known as the brilliant capitalist with a heart, specializing in buying up failing business, rebuilding them and saving jobs.
Amy and Boz spent the next twenty-five years enjoying life with their seven children, serving in the community and in the Church. Their most proud civic moment was when Camp Hope – a camp for youth with disabilities – opened on the shores of Blue Lake.
What I finish with is the saddest experience of my life.
In January of 2013, Boz and Amy were returning from a fundraiser for Camp Hope when a drunk driver took their lives. Their passing was devastating not only to our family and friends, but to the whole community.
Over 1500 people crowded into the Morgana West stake center for the funeral, traveling from all over the country and the world. The city passed a resolution naming the soon to be constructed convention center (on the site of Empire High) in their honor. Almost two million dollars were contributed to the endowment for Camp Hope.
But the greatest honor came from the former Underdogs, who organized the All-Class reunion held two years later in Boz and Amy’s honor. It was at that reunion that the world learned what only our family and a few Underdogs had known – the extent of Boz and Amy’s generosity and graciousness to so many people, saving careers, homes, reputations and lives; and bringing so many souls into the loving arms of the Savior. And while it was also at that reunion that the telling of this story started, it is our hope that this book will not be the end.
Our hope is that this miracle – one young man being born again because one little girl had the courage to share what she believed – can bless the lives all those who will apply Moroni’s promise.
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. Moroni 10:3-5