My mom has just given up her title as the oldest person in the Lakeside Ward.
Flora Gene Gillespie Lambson Merrill was born Dec 16th, 1931, in Ft. Defiance, AZ in an Indian Health Service Hospital. She was the last and only child of 8 children to be born in a hospital. She had lots of dark hair and an olive complexion. She loved to tell the story of how a nurse brought a Navajo baby in for my Grandma Gillespie to nurse. Grandma told them it was not her baby and about that time another nurse brought in my infant mom from the Navajo mother who had said my mother was not her baby either.
Flora always said she had a wonderful childhood where love was spoken and the gospel of Jesus Christ was lived and taught. She would often tell us when we were arguing that she never had a cross word with her brother Lincoln, who was just older than she was. We think it was because he was the angel. When there was contention in our home she would often burst into singing “Love at Home”. She always hummed.
At age twelve she had excruciating abdominal pain that was only relieved by priesthood blessings. After some time, it was discovered that she had a large tumor in her uterus that had to be removed and it meant that she would not be able to have children. However, she knew she would have children.
She loved the Lord and had a fervent testimony. She was quite the missionary. She converted four of her closest high school girlfriends to the gospel, they all remained life-long friends. She and her friend Betty married brothers.
She spent much of her youth in San Pedro, California in a ward she describes as heavenly. She was the Gold and Green queen, which was earned by attendance and participation at church functions. The award was recognized at a stake ball. She was recognized in school and church for her beautiful voice.
Her family was originally from Ramah, New Mexico, and one summer after high school graduation in 1949, they returned and she took four of her girlfriends that she had converted to the gospel to visit this tiny LDS community out in the what they termed “the wild country”. This would change the trajectory of all of their lives.
That summer, my mom who was gifted with a beautiful voice along with her dear friend Betty Campbell Lambson were offered a spot on a weekly radio opera show in Calf. but she figured she could always pursue an opera career, so she turned it down. She was having way too much fun in the summer in New Mexico. That’s where she met my dad, Gene, A. Lambson, (the most handsome cowboy she had ever seen, movie star chiseled bone structure and blond wavy hair!) She and my dad were married in the St. George temple on September 12th, 1950. They were married for 6 years before they were able to start adopting their 4 children Laurie, Shaune, Brett and Trace.
Her entire life was devoted to raising and loving these children and their families. Oh, how she loved her sons and daughters in laws.
Mom relished time with her children. She never wished her children would grow up faster, never wished the summer vacation would end. She loved our friends. She knew who was dating who and who had just had their heart broken. Our friends knew they could come in and get homemade whole wheat bread, butter, and food out of the fridge at any time.
Mom held many ward and stake callings in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, her favorite was Young Women Laurel leader and choir director.
Mom and dad started an Elderly Care Home in Mesa, AZ that they operated for 17 years with all the rules and regulations that come with Arizona State licensure. They were a great team. Dad did most of the shopping and cooking and mom handled the clinical and administrative part. Many of the older women had a crush on my handsome dad and called him honey. Besides nutritious food mom fed all of her resident’s vitamins. She said she wanted them healthy every day they were on earth.
Mom and dad were preparing for a mission when my dad had a heart attack and got cancer. On their 50th wedding anniversary among friends, Dad uncharacteristically sang her a solo to her. Dad passed away in 2001, 3 years later mom married Paul Merrill, a family friend in Ramah, New Mexico. They showed us all how lovely a 2nd marriage can be. They had 5 wonderful years before his passing. She loved his children, Sonia, Judy and Scott and grandchildren.
Mom returned to Mesa in 2012. She was always up for adventure. Grandchildren remember her going down big resort water slides in her 80’s. She traveled all over the country with her son Brett and daughter in law Linoy and cared for Zoe and Emma while they worked. This was pure Joy.
Flora loved her nieces and nephews. And they loved her. Many of the nieces looked more like her than we did. I cannot tell you the number who have called and said Aunt Flora and Uncle Gene were my favorite Aunt and Uncle. I asked one nephew why. He said, “they lived good lives, gave unconditional love, always served, always treated me special and they got to know my children”. She tried never to miss a graduation, wedding or baby shower, Oh and she loved the reunions at funerals.
Later in life, she loved her dogs, sometimes we felt she loved them more than her children, she warmed their food up on the stove, always made sure it had fresh beef or chicken. If she had to leave the house, she would get eye to eye with them and explain why they couldn’t go and that she would be right back.
Flora passed on July 26th, her beautiful, coloratura voice has now returned, and GiGi is singing with the heavenly choir. I know her message to us would be love one another. The phrase on the double headstone for she and my dad reads “no empty chairs”. She wants all of us to be there together.
Flora Lambson Merrill will be buried in the Ramah, New Mexico cemetery next to her husband and parents.
Arrangements by Bunker’s University Chapel, www.bunkerfuneral.com. Should this obituary appear anywhere but bunkerfuneral.com, please check our website for accurate details and service information.