Skip to main content

A tribute to two men who shaped my life

Sep 07, 2017 12:20PM
Serve Daily is about people who serve others. I have enjoyed writing for this newspaper and meeting many wonderful people that have brought something good to others. I just learned of the passing of a man that was like a father to me when I was growing up as a kid. He was one of two men who were like fathers to me. The other man passed away two years ago. These men served me with kindness, guidance, and a place of refuge. As I ponder my thoughts about these two men I decided to pay tribute and share my story of the men who shaped my life.

I grew up as an adopted only child of a dysfunctional family. This situation left me feeling alone and without a family. My over protective mother enrolled me in a Seventh-day Adventist school in the fifth grade. That is how I meet Dr. Jim Dunn. He was actually the head of the church’s “Pathfinder” program, which is the Adventist version of Boy Scouts. For the first time in my life, I was able to get out of the house and do things other than read and make model airplanes. My mother trusted “the doctor” to keep me safe. The Dunn’s treated me like family, and I went on many of their family trips with them. Jim was a family practice physician with a very kind and empathetic personality. When Jim learned to fly he took me flying and furthered my interest to someday become a pilot. He was an inspiration to me and I enjoyed hearing about his college and medical school years. I remained close to Jim and his wife Lou until he passed away holding my hand and telling me I was the son he did not have. Jim and Lou had two daughters.

Another church member when I was growing up was Dr. Ward Studt, an orthopedic surgeon. His mind fascinated me. I found him intellectually stimulating and I actually sought out a friendship with him. Most of the kids my age didn’t like him because he came across kind of gruff and was always quizzing us. I was 16 when he hired me to do a library research project for him at the Grand Junction VA Hospital. That started another life long relationship with a father role model. The following year he didn’t have any more easy jobs for me, but invited me to work on the farm he was developing. I liked the idea of working on the farm and thought it would be good for me. Ward bought me my first pair of jeans and a cowboy hat. Most importantly I enjoyed the challenging conversations we had. Ward encouraged me to go to college and offered me some incentives. After I left Grand Junction for my junior and senior year of college in California, Ward sold the farm and left to manage a VA hospital elsewhere in the country. He and I continued to stay in touch over the years. I was sad to hear that he just passed away at the age of 92 in Napa, California.

Jim Dunn and Ward Studt took me, as a teenager, into their lives, and into their families, when I needed a family and role model. Both men had attended Pacific Union College, a Seventh-day Adventist institution and then went on to Loma Linda University, the Seventh-day Adventist medical school. I proudly followed them to Pacific Union College and eventually to Loma Linda University where I earned a Masters of Public Health degree. Ward instilled in me that one should follow their passions and I eventually pursued my interest in aviation. This eventually lead me to run a successful flight school for 10 years in Spanish Fork. I am thankful for a rewarding life as the result of two men who took me into their lives and helped shape mine. I have wondered many times over the years where I would be if it had not been for the influence of Jim Dunn and Ward Studt.