McKay had 'common touch'

Pres. Hinckley eulogizes former Utah congressman

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 11 2000 11:05 a.m. MDT

HUNTSVILLE, Weber County — In funeral services at a rural chapel in Huntsville Tuesday, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley eulogized former U.S. Rep. K. Gunn McKay as a man who "walked with kings but never lost the common touch."

President Hinckley went on to say Rep. McKay "had a very innocent way about him. When you talked with him, you thought you were talking with a farm boy from Huntsville." Someone, he said, who, "knew the feel of a shovel, a fork and hoe," someone who knew how to rise in the middle of the night for an irrigation turn.

Rep. McKay, who died Oct. 6 in his Huntsville home, served a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also served a lifetime in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including callings as a missionary to Malaysia, Pakistan, Kenya, mission president to the British Isles and stake president in Ogden.

A steady drizzle in Huntsville did not deter hundreds from paying their respects. And the "common touch" theme sounded by President Hinckley at the beginning carried throughout the service.

Rep. McKay's sister, Elizabeth Seamons, said, "I never knew Gunn to be afraid of man or beast," a comment that prompted soft laughter from those in the congregation who knew the trouble of telling the difference. She told of the time her brother walked into a herd of kicking horses and — with soft words and touches — persuaded them "to stop their evil ways." She also talked of his visionary nature and tireless desire to help others.

Daughter Mavis Stephenson told how he taught by both story and example and spoke of family outings into the hills.

Barrie McKay, a brother, praised Rep. McKay as a true believer. After detailing McKay's years of service to his church and the personal tutorials he'd received from Rep. McKay as a 14-year-old boy, Elder Marlin Jensen, LDS Church Sunday School president, lightened the mood by saying he would not say Gunn McKay had been a living example that a person can be both a good Mormon and a good Democrat because people might call Salt Lake City. Even though it was true, he said, he was not going to say it.

As the services continued, it became obvious that, despite decades of political and ecclesiastical service on a local, national and international level, Rep. McKay's true legacy was as an embodiment of the values cherished by this small Mormon village, a town where a large painting of Rep. McKay's cousin, the late LDS Church President David O. McKay, graces the wall of the chapel and the name "McKay" is a badge of civic and spiritual responsibility.

"I am not going to preach faith to this family," President Hinckley declared. "They know that God lives as surely as they know the sun rises over Huntsville in the morning."

In the most touching moment of the meeting, Bishop Chad McKay recalled the lessons he'd learned from his father and the challenge of being his son. A sire needs to improve the quality of the stock, his father had told him. Earlier in the meeting, Bishop McKay recalled walking to the church that morning and seeing a large white horse without a rider. At first, he thought one of his own horses had gotten free. But when couldn't find the horse, he figured his father had simply decided to take one last wild ride down Main Street.

Music for the service was provided by members of the McKay family. Burial was in the Huntsville Cemetery with military honors. Ruston McKay offered the dedicatory prayer.


E-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com

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