Claron Everett "Monk" Bailey's journey to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took a few years. But once he decided to be baptized, there was no hesitation or looking back.
"Dad loved the church," said Everett Bailey, Monk Bailey's son. "He loved missionary work ... and he loved serving. It was a big part of who he was."
Monk Bailey, who played football for the University of Utah, the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, died at his home in Queen Creek, Arizona, on June 18. The 77-year-old Moab native had battled pancreatic cancer.
What many may not know about Bailey is how he joined the LDS Church in 1966, served in various callings and was passionate about sharing his faith.
While Bailey's wife, Kristine, had grown up as a member and was descended from pioneer stock, he grew up in a home with some anti-Mormon sentiment, Everett Bailey said.
"His family wasn't religious at all," he said. "My grandfather didn't have a positive view of the church."
In 1964, Bailey signed with the Cardinals and moved with his wife to St. Louis. As Kristine became involved with the local LDS congregation, members, missionaries and a group of young Latter-day Saint couples took an interest in her husband and befriended him, Everett Bailey said.
"They invited him to social events, to play sports, to help with projects and other activities. They accepted him and he enjoyed being with them," Everett Bailey said. "It was a turning point because it softened his views toward the church."
Within a few years, Terry Nofsinger, a former Ute quarterback and college teammate of Bailey's, was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Cardinals. Nofsinger, a Mormon, became a close friend of Bailey's and shared some LDS literature with him. This kindled his growing interest while his wife continually tried to get him to meet with the missionaries, Everett Bailey said.
In 1966, St. Louis cut Bailey. Although devastated, he was offered a tryout with the Toronto Argonauts and traveled to Canada. With his family still in St. Louis, Bailey sought out the church and local full-time missionaries. They taught him the gospel and he accepted the invitation to be baptized. He joined the church without telling his family.
"The family was shocked by it," Everett Bailey said. "My grandfather was shocked. It was not a popular decision in the family."
While in Canada, and later in New York and other places the family lived following his conversion, church members graciously accepted Bailey and made his family feel at home in the church, Everett Bailey said.
"They were good people, good friends and good examples," Everett Bailey said. "They helped him to get some footing in the church and he stayed active the rest of his life."
Bailey played several years of semi-pro football before retiring and becoming an assistant coach for several high schools and colleges, including Southern Virginia, Weber State and Dixie State.
Along the way, Bailey served in many church positions, with his favorite being branch president of a young single adult ward in Plainview, New York, from 1999-2005. He often invited the members to his home for Sunday dinner, Everett Bailey said.
Bailey had a zeal for missionary work and delighted in helping "outsiders" to feel welcome, his son said.
"He touched many lives. He was a kid at heart and had a way of making everyone feel like a friend," Everett Bailey said. "He thought of that (branch president calling) as his mission."
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