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Rulon Nephi Smithson passed away peacefully at sunrise surrounded by his loved ones on March 7, 2022, one day shy of his 95th birthday.
He was born in the family log cabin on March 8, 1927 in Neola, Utah to Ulah Viola (Wall) & Nephi Smithson Jr. He was the 3rd of 11 siblings (3 brothers & 7 sisters) whom he loved dearly. He helped his father with lumber jacking & farming growing up. At age 17, he was Salutatorian of the 1944 graduating class of Roosevelt High School.
After high school, with his father’s permission, he joined the Navy in 1945, while still 17. He attended basic training in San Diego & San Francisco. He was assigned to serve in Pearl Harbor working inside an extinct volcano with the records operation of ComServPac until after WWII ended. After the Navy, he attended BYU on scholarship for a few years, during which he decided to take a bus & hitchhike to Washington DC to do family history. From then on, genealogy became his lifelong passion. While in DC, he worked for Pittsburgh Plate Glass & worked one year at the US State Department in the cryptography division.
From 1950-52, he served his mission in France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, living a block away from the Eiffel Tower for a year. After his mission, he received permission to stay in Europe and studied at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the Sorbonne in Paris for several months. He also took a few genealogy trips to England. It was in Germany that he met his future wife, Lonnie Rae Cooke, who was serving her LDS mission in Heidelberg. From 1953-55 he returned to BYU to complete his Bachelors & Masters degrees, double majoring in French and German.
After Lonnie Rae returned to Utah from her mission, they reunited and became engaged in February, 1955. They married on June 8th, 1955 in the Salt Lake City LDS temple. They began their family of seven children in Provo, Utah, followed by four years in New York City where he completed his doctorate of French at Columbia University. They returned to Provo where he taught French at BYU from 1961-1970. In 1970, they moved to Macomb, Illinois where he taught French at Western Illinois University for 26 years. At WIU he helped create the foreign language department & the French in Action program, which was used in schools across the country. In 1973, his doctoral dissertation on french historian Augustin Thierry was published in Geneva, Switzerland to high honors.
In 1981, he was called as the first Nauvoo Stake Patriarch after it was organized as the 1000th stake in the LDS church. He served faithfully in many other church callings throughout his life. He loved living in the Nauvoo area, rich in church history, and made many lifelong friends in the Macomb ward and the Nauvoo stake.
In 1996, after his retirement, Rulon and Lonnie Rae moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah. They lived in the LDS Battlecreek 6th Ward, where he remained for the duration of his life.
Rulon was an avid genealogist and authored many books on his family history, some of which are still waiting to be published. Rulon loved to grow vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and would make his famous apple cake from his own apple trees. He also was known for his delicious Saturday morning made-from-scratch hash browns. He loved music and was always singing and humming as well as playing some piano by ear. He was clever and witty and loved to chuckle. He had a big heart and let his kids have many dogs and cats (as well as a few goats and pigs). Everyone who knew him said how kind he was. His favorite saying was, “Thank you, kindly.” He was very humble and only ever wanted to be known as “Brother Rulon from across the fence”. Another favorite saying was “Jesus is our Brightest Hope”.
He was preceded in death by his sweetheart Lonnie Rae to whom he was married for 64 years, as well as several siblings: Afton, Ulah, Wayne, Jennett, Lora, Byron, Ruth, and Amy.
He is survived by brother Carl Smithson (Ruby), and sister Elaine Youngberg; as well as his children: Val-David Smithson, Randall Nephi Smithson (Lisa), Tamara Johanna Smithson, Sarah Jane Artaza (Guillermo), Stephanie Rae Smithson, Stacie Mireille Tahy (Anthony), and Amy Lisa Smithson. He has 12 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. He also had many wonderful brothers and sisters-in-law that he loved dearly.
A special thank you to the wonderful nurses and CNAs at Elevation Hospice for taking loving care of our sweet Dad and Grandpa.
Rulon loved the Lord, Jesus Christ, and prayed without ceasing. His kindness, faith, and generous heart will be missed deeply. He has returned home, upright before the Lord.
An evening viewing will be held Thursday, March 17, 2022 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm in the Olpin Family Mortuary Chapel, 494 South 300 East, Pleasant Grove, Utah. Funeral services will be held Friday, March 18, 2022 at 11:00 am in the Pleasant Grove East Stake Chapel, 825 South Loader Ave., Pleasant Grove, Utah where family and friends may attend a viewing from 9:30 - 10:45 am prior to the services. Interment will be in the Pleasant Grove City Cemetery. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.olpinmortuary.com.