PROVO — Douglas Thayer, called "the father of contemporary Mormon fiction and one of its major voices," died Tuesday morning at his home in Provo after a battle with liver cancer, according to his wife, Donlu Thayer.
He was 88.
Thayer was diagnosed with terminal lymphoma and given six months to live in November 2015. He defeated the disease but was diagnosed in May with liver cancer, his wife said.
Thayer was treasured by many Mormons for his novels on LDS boyhood and culture, and the relationship between mankind and the West
"Thayer is the father of contemporary Mormon fiction and one of its major voices," wrote the late Eugene England, who also said Thayer "conveys the tragic in American experience that comes from what people and the wilderness have done to each other as well as any contemporary writer."
Another Mormon author, John Bennion, said: "Thayer taught us how to explore the interior life, with its conflicts of doubt and faith, goodness and evil, of a believing Mormon."
Each of his six children and many of his 21 grandchildren were able to visit him in his final days, his wife said.
"This has been like a symphony," she said.
"I always say I married the best man I know," said Donlu Thayer, a senior editor at BYU's International Center for Law and Religion Studies.
The Thayers married in 1974.
"I knew he would be an honest, loyal, covenant-keeping husband, and he was exactly that," she said. "I can't say how grateful I am for him."
Thayer earned an English degree at BYU in 1955 and an MFA at the University of Iowa in 1962. He taught creative writing at BYU and was the university's associate dean of Humanities for 10 years.
He received lifetime achievement awards from the Association for Mormon Letters and the Whitney Award program for Mormon writers.
Born in Salt Lake City in 1929, Thayer grew up with a single mother in Provo, where he famously explored the area's mountains, canyons, Utah Lake and the Provo River, which all became major influences on his novels.
He served in the military in Germany for two years after World War II and later served an LDS Church mission there.
Thayer was known for his story "Red-Tailed Hawk," a collection of stories titled "Under the Cottonwoods and Other Mormon Stories," and novels "Summer Fire" and "The Tree House," which one critic called "the best Mormon novel to date."
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. at the Edgemont South Stake Center, 2950 North Canyon Rd., Provo. The family will greet visitors that day from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. A viewing also will be held on Friday, Oct. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Berg Mortuary, 185 E. Center St., Provo.