"Temple Builder:" New headstone honors stonemason of three early temples
As Blodwen Parry Olson celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday, May 26, she also paid tribute to her grandfather Edward Lloyd Parry, as a new headstone in his honor was unveiled in the Manti Cemetery on Memorial Day.
As the last living granddaughter of the master stonemason of the Manti and St. George temples, who also worked as a stonemason on the Salt Lake Temple, she was touched by the large granite monument, taken from the same quarry as the stone used to build the Salt Lake Temple.
“I’m really thrilled about the monument. I think people will notice it because it is so beautiful,” said Sister Olson. “He sacrificed his whole life for the Church. As soon as he heard and accepted the gospel, that was what his life was about.”
Brother Parry, who was born in 1818, joined the Church in Wales at age 30 and emigrated to the United States; he crossed the plains to Utah in 1853. A few years later, his trade as a stonemason was put to use on the Salt Lake Temple. He later moved to St. George in 1862, where he would become the master stonemason for the first temple completed in Utah. After the dedication, Brigham Young asked him to move to Manti to oversee the stonework on the temple there, which was completed in 1888. While Brother Parry died nearly eight years before she was born, Sister Olson has always felt a close connection to him.
“I heard many, many stories about him, until I felt like I knew him,” Sister Olson said. “When I was young, I thought we owned it — I thought it was our temple. But as I got older, I realized a lot of other people felt the same way.”
Brother Parry’s existing headstone had become weathered and was leaning. Sister Olson’s son, Parry Olson, a namesake of his great-grandfather, said he felt the need to improve the marker for several years. It was a thought that came to him after he saw a display of Edward Lloyd Parry’s work in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, which included several of his tools and a caption above his portrait that read “Temple Builder.”
“That’s what started my thought process for this, thinking this man who is not very well known deserves more recognition,” he said.
The Olsons began contacting other descendants of Edward Lloyd Parry and received donations for a three-and-a-half ton monument of granite, purchased through State Stone. Keith MacKay, the president of the company, traveled to Manti to see the headstone put into place on Saturday, May 24. Brother MacKay gained a deep appreciation for Brother Parry and the pioneer stonemasons as his company has been involved in ongoing maintenance work of the stone on the Manti Temple for nearly 40 years, including a major restoration project in the late 1990s.
“I am amazed with the kind of work they did with the horse and buggies and the pulleys to pull all that heavy stone to the top,” said Brother MacKay. “I was on that restoration job for three years with the scaffolding. It is amazing how the pioneers did things. I marvel at it.”
Brother Olson is pleased his great-grandfather will not be forgotten, as his posterity honors him for his sacrifices in helping to build three temples. “It was more elegant, more impressive than what I was hoping for. It was wonderful.”
And for Sister Olson, an even better way to celebrate her 100th birthday.
“It was a wonderful day, and to see so many of our relatives there and to see how supportive they have been with this, and how interested they were in the new monument, and I think it will do a great deal of good with all of Edward Lloyd Parry’s posterity.”