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New Harmony: Yes, people change, and it's magical

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 8 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

It was time for our high school class reunion — 45 years since Diploma Day — and the word on the street was Boozy would be there.

Boozy — Jerry Busenbark. Wasn't he the kid who once painted himself blue?

He wasn't the class clown — more like the class character.

When a questionnaire went out asking the most memorable moment in high school, dozens of alums wrote, "The day Boozy blew a toilet off the wall with a cherry bomb."

Now, 45 years later, most people didn't know what to expect.

Would he be tattooed top to bottom?

Would he remember our names?

Would he remember his own?

My wife and I sat at Boozy's table. As I took my seat, I thought I caught a whiff of gunpowder.

But if anyone hoped Boozy would make a scene, they were in for a letdown.

This was not the Boozy we once knew.

This Boozy had served as a counselor in a Mormon mission presidency in Russia.

He had served with distinction in the Armed Forces.

He had penned two books.

Instead of being a "character," this Boozy had character.

We were blown away, even more than we were by his cherry bomb stunt.

I left knowing I'd vote for him if he ever ran for the Senate.

Boozy was a transformed soul.

Because I've been through a few transformations myself, I have a special affection for people who've turned their lives around.

There's a guy in Box Elder County who went to prison as a high school kid for setting fire to an ROTC building during the Vietnam War.

Some folks tell me today he is the best stake president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they've ever had.

I've seen gruff people become teddy bears, and I've seen teddy bears turn into charismatic leaders.

In the Bible, men of God turn walking sticks into snakes and turn water into wine.

But those miracles, in my mind, pale when compared to the transformations I see in the men and women around me.

Such changes are magical — like watching someone on stage turn handkerchiefs into doves.

Boozy is just the latest — and one of the greatest — examples.

As we parted ways at the reunion, he and I pledged to stay in touch.

Nothing he could do at this point would surprise me.

For the New Boozy, I don't believe even the sky is the limit.

Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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