Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you. Ah, I know at last the secret of it all.”

I remember singing these words with a school choir in Percival, Iowa, when I was about 10 years old. If I could only know the secret, I thought. There were so many mysteries in my life, so many questions without answers.

Why were we living near this shriveled town not far from the muddy Missouri River? Why did we move so often? Why did we live in such poverty? Why did my parents seem to hate each other? Why was our life so miserable? I could find nothing about my life that was ok. My self image was as muddy as the Missouri River.

Percival is not important in the total story of my life. We lived there only a short time. It was just the location of one of our many temporary homes. This was during the Great Depression and there were few wealthy people. But we were the poorest of the poor. We moved often when there were hopes of jobs and dwellings.

Whatever the reasons for our poverty, I believe they were related to the hostility in our home. Why did people who were supposed to love each other act the way my parents did?

My mother, Lula Edith Decker, worked very hard, but was often ill and depressed. Much of her sickness. I believe, was caused by worry and stress. I constantly feared she would die. When she wasn’t sick she was away from home working for a lady who owned the house where we lived on the outskirts of Percival. This lady, Mrs. Kellogg, was a Christian Scientist. My


mother told me that Mrs. Kellogg taught her to repeat over and over that “God is Love.” This should make her troubles go away. I know my mother tried, but nothing changed. She struggled to practice the power of positive thinking most of her life, but rarely could she shut out the stark realities of her existence.

My father, Lawrence Everett Decker, was a very angry man. We were all afraid of him because we never knew what would trigger a violent outburst that would last for hours, sometimes days. We didn’t dare have our friends visit because this was one sure way to aggravate him. Because of his rage, we always wanted to be away from whatever place we called home.

I now believe that he had been terribly abused as a child and had personality problems as a result. As an adult I have tried to forgive and forget, knowing that his cruel actions were beyond his control.

My brother Lynn escaped from Percival first. He would be in his last year of high school and wanted to graduate from the school in Tabor that we had attended for the major time of our schooling. His final year was anything but pleasant. He obtained a job working for a farmer on the outskirts of Tabor, in exchange for his board and room. The farmer was a slave driver and expected him to work from before dawn to after dark. He stuck it out and graduated. He was always skinny, but he looked almost like a skeleton by graduation time.


Even under the most adverse conditions, Lynn always had many friends. He went out of his way to be the opposite of what he observed during his growing-up years. He had wonderful qualities that I cannot to this day understand. The girls adored him. All his life he stayed close to his boyhood pals and made more friends wherever he lived. He was everyone’s best friend.

The following summer we all moved back to Tabor. We rented a two-story house that wasn’t too bad compared to other places we had lived. My mother often returned to Percival to work for Mrs. Kellogg for one or two weeks at a time. She cleaned and cooked while sewing draperies and upholstering furniture, all for the great sum of ten dollars for a seven-day week. I suspect that Mrs. Kellogg didn’t believe in giving God a helping hand in making my mother’s troubles go away.

The summer after he graduated, Lynn got a job traveling from town to town with a group selling magazine subscriptions. This was another horrible experience for him, but he didn’t complain. Later he confided that he nearly starved to death when business was really slow. I’m sure that living at home would have seemed a worse fate.

In the autumn of 1940 he joined the Coast Guard. My mother’s consent was required because he was under 18. After Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 his assignments were quite secretive, but we could tell by his letters that he was excited about the opportunities to learn special skills.


In 1942 my mother answered an advertisement for Defense workers. . She was accepted for an assignment that required a few months of training for sheet metal work, to be followed by a job at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. She was thrilled to have a real job. She could now leave her unhappy marriage. A few years later my parents’ divorce was finalized. It should have happened much earlier.

During my senior year in high school at Tabor, I lived with good friend Lyla Timpson and her family. This was perhaps the happiest time of my school life. Her sister, Jane, became my sister-in-law a few years later when she and Lynn were married. During the year I lived with Lyla and her family, Jane was working away from home.

When I graduated from high school I didn’t expect to have any family present. To my great surprise, mom’s sister, who was my Aunt Edna, along with Uncle Al, cousin Gail and his wife Grace were in the audience. After the ceremony they took me to an ice cream parlor and we had a wonderful time. They were good people and during my younger years I had visited them often at their farm near Griswold, Iowa. I realize now what a great effort it was for them to finish chores early enough to drive more than an hour to reach Tabor.

Aunt Edna was an amusing character. When I spent summers with her, she would always concoct some ridiculous situation for me. Once when her daughter Betty was planning to visit her


boyfriend, Aunt Edna sneaked me in the trunk of the car. I was expected to report back any

activity I observed. Not far down the road the car stopped and Betty opened the trunk and ordered me out. “I saw her put you in there,” she said. That ruined my first spy job.

Uncle Al was extremely sharp in the farming business. He started with nothing and worked and saved until he acquired a large farm. He developed a prosperous operation and the one luxury he allowed himself was a brand new cadillac every two years. He and Aunt Edna were able to retire in Florida. She died at age 75 and he lived with his second wife, Frances, until he was in his 90's.

Soon after graduating high school I traveled by train to Ogden to live with mom.

We lived in a small apartment until she found a little house to buy for about $3,000. It could have been comfortable, but she continually remodeled it. She tried to make it into something that it never could be. As a result she wasted much of her life living in a mess of torn-up rooms. It was a duplex, and renters constantly destroyed what she tried to fix up.

I enrolled in Weber Junior College in 1943. The two years I spent there were partly happy and I made several friends. Barbara Singleton, Bonnie Clay and Shirley Mills were my best friends. We hung out together often.

One night Bonnie and Shirley and I were in our kitchen fooling around and I decided to try smoking a cigarette. My mother was in the next room and came charging in like a bull and started beating me. Bonnie and Shirley were scared and disappeared in a hurry. I was angry and humiliated at the time. I’ve often thought that it’s a good thing my smoking was discouraged but wonder if it couldn’t have been done in a more civilized way. It was a good–but painful--lesson and I never started smoking.


Shirley got a job as a stewardess for United Airlines, stationed in San Francisco. She talked me into going there and sharing an apartment with her and two other stewardesses. I found a job at a Lerner’s clothing store. I planned to work there only a short time and thought nothing about joining the union until one day I was ordered to report to the head of the local organization.. He had an office in what seemed a jungle of warehouses in an area of San Francisco that I was not at all familiar with. He told me point blank that I would either join the union or quit my job. I chose to quit because it was time to go back to Ogden and decide what to do with my life.

While I was trying to decide what to do, I worked as a cashier at the Payless Drug store. That’s where I was working when I met Wayne. He was a friend of Shirley’s boyfriend, Jay Hancey, so Wayne asked me for a date. I was afraid he had been pressured by them so I said no. Later when he asked me again I said yes. One of our first dates was a picnic at Monte Cristo with his cousin, Duane. We had a lot of good times during the following years. We were married April 4, 1947. It was snowing as we drove to Salt Lake City for our honeymoon, and we had a difficult time finding a motel since that was the weekend of the LDS conference.

Our first son, David, was born on April 1, 1948. ( He always hated the date of his birthday because it was April Fool’s Day.) We didn’t have a car, so Wayne drove me to the hospital in a Navy truck. The baby was ready to be born, but Dr. Kearns didn’t arrive. Wayne’s Dad was there and called the doctor and told him to get himself there immediately. When Wayne’s Dad talked, people listened. Dr. Kearns was there almost before the phone was hung up.


We were delighted with our new baby, but didn’t know much about being parents. In spite of us, Dave was a healthy little boy. When he was about 10 months old, we moved into our house at 3023 Circle Way. He was already beginning to say a few words and starting to walk. Wayne put rocking horse wallpaper in his room. He was soon able to rock his crib across the room and take all the nuts and bolts out of it.

During those years we saw a lot of Barbara and Keith Hawkes. Their first son, Robbie, was born about a week after Dave. Then Keith served time in the Navy during the Korean War. They moved to Bountiful, then to Arizona and we lost track of them for many years. In the fall of 2000, Keith and his daughter, Debbie, came to our house hoping to find us. It was great to see him, but the news that Barbara had died the previous year was very sad. She had always been such a healthy, wholesome person that it was difficult to think about her dying a slow and painful death from schleroderma.(sp.)

Bonnie Decker Eldredge, age 91, passed away early in the evening of January 7, 2017. She was born on August 1, 1925 to Lula Edith Scott Decker and Laurence Everett Decker of Kirksville, Missouri. She had one older brother, Lynn Ivan Decker whom she was very close to in her childhood years.

They moved to Tabor, Iowa during her teenage years and in 1942, her mother moved to Ogden, Utah to accept a wartime position at Hill Field. Bonnie stayed behind with family friends to finish her senior year at Tabor High School. After graduating in 1943 she joined her mother in Ogden and enrolled in Weber College. In 1945 she went to San Francisco with friends and worked as a clerk in Lerner’s Clothing Store. She didn’t plan on staying there long and returned to Ogden where she worked at Payless Drugs. It was there she met a young naval officer who was the Director of the Naval Reserve in Ogden, Wayne J. Eldredge. They were married in Ogden April 4, 1947.

Wayne and Bonnie had three sons: Dave, born April 1, 1948; Mike, born July 28, 1950; and Dan, born December 13, 1952. In 1947 Bonnie and Wayne moved into a new house on Circle Way and for the next 70 years it became the homestead of the Eldredge family. From there they ventured out on various outdoor trips to Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes in Canada, the Oregon coast, the California Redwoods, Yellowjacket Ranger Station in the Salmon River Country, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, the High Uintahs and more. While Wayne worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, Bonnie went to work for the U.S. Forest Service. They both instilled in their sons a love of the outdoors and a reverence for conservation. They actively supported the Boy Scouts and each of their sons was an Eagle Scout.

Bonnie was an avid reader and gifted professional writer on her own accord. When she wasn’t composing content for the Forest Service Information and Education office, she was busy editing for her own sons’ school assignments and projects. Politically, she was no more outspoken than anyone else from the “Show Me” state and was noted for her short, concise, astute remarks. Her sense of humor was truly a gift that often snuck up on you long after her comment.

In later years Bonnie and Wayne became shining examples of selfless service to others. No matter what their trials and travails, they always focused on their friends and family as more important than themselves.

Bonnie was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Lynn and her beloved husband Wayne. She is survived by her sons David (Connie), Michael (Michelle) and Dan (Terry); nine grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren.