Seems I wasn't the only one interested in a reunion with Marty and Mary Ellen Klein.
Marty, if you remember, was my boyhood home teaching companion whom I wrote about reuniting with after 35 years in last week's column.
Three interesting emails found their way to me this week, one of them this morning. Steve Ostler lives in Highland, Utah, and reached me through the editors of Mormon Times. He served in Patchogue, Long Island, N.Y., in the mid-60s and knew the Kleins. He asked to be re-introduced. Hal Stock was also a young missionary serving in Patchogue in January 1967. His companion, an Elder Clarke, had baptized the Kleins before Elder Stock arrived, but he became very close to the Kleins. Hal Stock is now in the Missionary Training Center with his wife serving a full-time mission as senior missionary coordinators. He last saw the Kleins in the early '70s when Marty was attending BYU, and lost contact with them when the Kleins moved to Mesa, Ariz., after graduating from BYU.
Seeing pictures of the Kleins brought tears to Hal Stock's eyes, and through mutual friends he was given my contact information. I sent Elder Stock the Kleins' contact information and am anxious to hear of their reunion.
Another email came to my workplace last night from a man named Trajan Weaver. He said he read my column and recognized the Kleins.
"Would like to get ahold of Marty who introduced me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in late March of 1966. Can you help me?"
More than happy to, Brother Weaver. Check your inbox.
I spoke to Marty this morning and he's on cloud nine. He remembers Elders Ostler and Stock fondly and also remembers Trajan Weaver, whom he introduced to the gospel. They haven't spoken or seen each other in 40-plus years! He can't wait to reconnect with them.
Friends of mine, complete strangers to the Kleins, also chimed in. As Marty grew up Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, I received this response from my friend Dave Tankenson, a Jewish Latter-day Saint who is a captain in the Culver City, Calif., Police Department: "Reminded me of my own Jewish upbringing," wrote Dave. Through their responses, I was able to introduce, via email, another LDS Jewish buddy, Andy Rosenberg, NBC Sports' top director (Olympics, Wimbledon, NBA, etc.), to Dave Tankenson, the police officer.
They're making plans to meet next time Andy, who recently moved to Utah, is in the Los Angeles area.
Meanwhile, the Kleins' return to activity in the Church is moving along steadily. Marty called me this week to inform me their bishop called him to be the ward photographer. He told me, "I'm in charge of taking pictures of all our ward activities! Isn't that great?" Sure is, Marty. Mary Ellen is a visiting teacher supervisor.
My wife and I are now planning a trip together to visit the Kleins.
When I was a young bishop in the late '90s, I would gather the three or four kids attending BYU from my ward whenever I visited Utah, typically for breakfast at the Cougar Eat in the Wilkinson Center (because the breakfast special at the Scoreboard Grill was cheap). It was simply a way to check in on them, make sure things were going well, encourage them and offer some counsel.
When I was called to the stake presidency, we just expanded the group to include all the stake kids. My stake president, Ahmad Corbitt, also meets with our stake kids at BYU, as he's on the national advisory committee and comes to Provo for annual meetings. Our get-togethers seem to be popular with the kids because they don't always see each other on campus and President Corbitt was over our youth program when he was a counselor in a previous presidency. Now I am, so we've maintained close ties to all of them since they were youths.
It may not have occurred to our stake kids that we gather with them for selfish reasons — reconnecting with them helps us. To see them in their element, on their campus, doing so well, is so immensely satisfying. It's gratifying to see them growing and developing as they prepare for their life's work. Many of them are married, almost all of the men are returned missionaries, and nearly all of the married were wed in the temple. Most of those who married have a child, some have two. We've watched them all grow up, most with our own children.
Not all of our stake kids are enrolled at BYU. A few are at UVU and a couple of young women are in beauty school.
Finally, congratulations to our daughter-in-law Kaylie Hancock Sikahema and her fellow BYU graduates as they receive their diplomas today. Kaylie's parents, Steve and Lynette, are Utah State graduates and Kaylie is the oldest of their eight children. Kaylie graduates with an English degree, is mom to our only grandchild, Gabriel Alaka'ipono, and is expecting their second baby in the fall. Her husband, LJ, will graduate next year in Chinese and business. We are all so proud of you, Kaylie!