On October 1st, 2022, at the tender age of 79 (and beating the US average life expectancy by 7 months), Rela Amy Walker Lennberg was joyfully welcomed on the other side of the veil by her husband, Bruce Lennberg, her father, Ronald Walker, her mother, Amy Wardle Walker, her daughter, Diane Geary (and Diane's husband Wade, and their daughter, Candy), a grandson, Jarom Howard, and three of her brothers, Owen, Charles and Stephen Walker. We do worry about Stephen greeting her at the pearly gates though because he likely "borrowed" the key from St. Peter and hid it in preparation for his younger sister's arrival.
Those of us who got left in the dust to wave our hankies and wish her a fond bon voyage on her Great Journey (they call us "survivors") include: her brother, Leroy Walker, her sisters Effie (Glen) Irish and Pearl (Tony) Russo, her children, Trina (Jay) Howard, Cindy Kiel (Kevin McAllister), Michael "Mikey" (Michelle) Davis, and Alina (Mark) Pringle, of whom, Cindy is the obvious favorite. (Being the one tasked with writing one's mother's obituary provides certain privileges.) Ok, Ok, fine, we are ALL her favorites, equally. (Except Mike who is the favorite-only-son, Trina who doesn’t have to say anything because she already knows she is the favorite first-born, and with the exception of Alina who, in her words, really IS the favorite. She certainly is the youngest and of particular note - Mom stopped having children after she was born which can mean Rela finally either reached her highest level of perfection or exhaustion.
Rela's children got busy and delivered 20 grandchildren who, in turn, have produced 18 great grandchildren (and it isn't slowing down yet). She also leaves behind her step children, hundreds of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and loved ones. Sorry, if we actually named everyone here along with their significant others, this obituary would go on for the length of a novel and cost a small fortune, so, just know she loved all of you - equally -and each one of you was her very most favorite. (If you need your name in print to get bereavement leave from your boss, let us know so they can be lectured on what it means to be a decent human being.)
Rela was born on February 10, 1943 in Fort Union, Utah (otherwise known as Midvale) just as US forces took the Guadalcanal in World War II turning the tide in the Pacific and ten days later, the Paricutin Volcano appeared in a farmer's cornfield in Mexico. Coincidence? It was the year of Rosie the Riveter, Mussolini's arrest and the death of Nikola Tesla. The top hit songs were Pistol Packin' Mama and I'll be Home for Christmas by Bing Crosby, and the most popular musical was Oklahoma. Rela grew up in Fort Union on her parent's farm and if you knew Rela, you know that the one thing she hated most was housework. So, she spent most of her time outside and avoided the cooking and cleaning chores as much as possible with the exception of canning and pie making. Can you imagine being raised in a time with no computers, smart phones, TVs or Starbucks coffee?
Rela was blessed with a keen academic intellect, something she shared with her also-very-smart siblings and that she passed on to her children. She graduated from Jordan High School and was the first woman to be accepted into the Engineering program at the University of Utah. It was a big affair with news reporters showing up to record the event. Unfortunately, a severe automobile accident resulted in head injuries that did not allow her to complete her degree but, fortunately, this change in the course of life events also resulted in her marrying Ronald Davis, the father of her children. This marriage also meant marrying the Marine Corps (Semper Fi) during the Vietnam war. Rela railed against the hierarchical structures of the military where officer wives were treated much better than enlisted wives. She told the story often of how an announcement went out asking for officer wives to assist others in filing tax returns (presuming the enlisted wives were not educated enough to do so). So, she did not volunteer. When they found out she was a genius at filing returns, they asked her why she didn't volunteer - "because I'm not an officer's wife" was her reply. To Rela, what you could do, your talents as an individual, were always far more important than what rank you held or who you knew. And what was even more important to her than talent or rank was raising her family. Her forever family.
Rela wanted for her children what she herself was not able to fully attain in this life. A high level of education, success in their endeavors and the ability to pursue their dreams wherever they might lead. Most of all, she wanted all of us to know we were loved, no matter what mistakes we might make in life, we always knew she still loved us, even though she might bring up those mistakes from time to time through backhanded compliments. Rela wielded the dual arts of sarcasm and wit like Da Vinci wielded a paintbrush and canvas.
Rela was fiercely competitive and didn't like to be told what to do. If you thought you could beat her at card games, Carom, checkers, miniature golf or riddles, you would be sorely mistaken. She wasn't a sore loser, but then, she lost so infrequently, there's very little data available to back up this point. On BINGO night at her care facility she was meticulous at filling out her BINGO card and then checked on everyone else's cards around her to ensure they were accurate too.
Rela was an avid outdoorswoman and loved the mountains. Backpacking, camping, swimming in natural lakes, snow and water skiing, white water rafting, (even indoor skydiving at the age of 75!). She confessed that she often felt far more spiritual being in nature than in a church.
After a divorce, Rela worked as a secretary and single mom to keep her children fed and clothed. She was masterful at dictation and could type error-free at 185 words per minute on a manual typewriter. It was tough even back then raising five children on $15,000 a year. But she refused to use state welfare, was incredibly resourceful and frugal and managed to still have enough left over to celebrate birthdays, Christmas and Easter. She loved holiday traditions and all the trimmings that went into them. Even after developing dementia, she continued to send family members birthday and Christmas cards using her calendar religiously to keep track. Rela's favorite job was working as an insurance saleswoman for Colonial Penn insurance. Then, when they closed in Utah because of some new law the legislature passed, she became her own boss, because, well, she was Rela. She and her new husband, Bruce Lennberg managed a business machine maintenance company. She was the financial brains and he was the technical brawn, and together, they made magic happen. That is, until the dreaded personal computer became popular in office settings and typewriter technology faded by the wayside. She picked up the slack by becoming a school bus driver in the Jordan School District which is the job she retired from when she turned 65.
Rela loved music and musicals. She was a brilliant concert pianist and taught her children how to play. When they reached the third grade, she never gave them the option of not studying music, but she did allow them to pick their instruments of choice. She left a true legacy of music to her children in spite of their complaining about practice, practice, practice. She loved playing piano to accompany her sister, Pearl's beautiful voice. Most of her church callings involved music as chorister, pianist and organist. Her favorite birthday or anniversary gift was going to see a play or musical. She was a season ticket holder and patron of Hale Center Theater for many years. Next to music, Rela also loved books and devoured them whole, the genre didn't matter.
After retirement, Rela moved to Hyrum, Utah where she enjoyed some of the most incredible neighbors and friends of her lifetime. As her health declined, she spent three years in Davis, California with her daughter, getting to know members of her church ward there. She spent her last years in care facilities in Utah to be closer to family.
If we could describe Rela and her life in mere words, a nearly impossible task, it would have to be posed as a dichotomy of terms. She was studious and adventurous, loving yet critical, supportive and competitive, detailed in her approach but broad thinking in context, loyal and defiant, frugal and generous, being right and being happy, intelligent and forgetful, spontaneous but stubborn, progressive and traditional, hard-working and fun-loving, dramatic about some things and calm about others, but mostly, she was a mom, a wife, a grandma, and best of all, a friend.
Rela's final party will be held on Saturday, October 8th, 2022. If you want to see her one last time and/or join in the family prayer, come to the viewing that will be held at:
10:00 am at the LDS church house on 7925 South and 2700 West, West Jordan, Utah (Gratitude to Trina and Jay's bishop and stake). Funeral services where we get to talk about Rela and her life (without her being able to debate, interrupt or correct us), will begin at 11:00 am at the same address. Remember, the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about.
Graveside services will be held at 12:30 pm at the Sandy Cemetery, 700 East 9000 South, Sandy, Utah where Goff memorial services will be responsible for herding, excuse me, helping all of us to be respectable and upright attendees at Rela's final send-off.
To heck with sending donations in lieu of flowers. Rela LOVED flowers, especially the beautiful arrays she saw at other peoples' funerals. And not that she was overly competitive or anything, but I think she would want to have the biggest and best display of flowers ever seen in the history of Goff Mortuary. So. Game on. Send flowers. (and bring your best singing voices too).