Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Memories of my uncle, Captain Benjamin John Blaylock

My uncle Ben lost his life on September 11, 2016. The news of his passing has brought a lot of tears to our family.

Please read his Obituary and
contribute to his kids through GoFundMe.

On the train ride from work, memories of Ben flooded my mind. I have written some of them here:

When I was born, Ben became an uncle. Ben made me happy.

Ben was my dad's youngest brother, but in a lot of ways he was like my big brother. He was only twelve years older than me, which is less of an age gap than between me and my youngest sister.

This is a picture of me and Uncle Ben, probably taken in 1990. We are playing on the front porch of my family's first rental home in Spanish Fork.

We would visit my grandparents in Boise often when I was very young. Ben was there to provide the entertainment. My earliest memories of Ben come from that time of my life. My first memory is from one time at church. I remember watching Uncle Ben pass the sacrament. I was young, but I paid attention to Ben walking up and down the aisle because I knew who he was and not many other people in the chapel.

In my grandparent's backyard, Ben had a tree house. I was too small to go up in it, but Ben would include me. Ben grabbed a pillow, put it on a rope hanging from the tree, then put me on it. I would hold on tight and Uncle Ben would give me a push.

Ben must have liked ropes and trees. I remember at a family reunion, Ben threw another rope in a tree, tied a few knots, and again placed a pillow in the loop of rope. I sat on the pillow on the ground and held on the rope while Ben pulled the rope and I was sent soaring up to the top of the tree. It was awesome! I wonder if my mom liked Ben sending me to the top of a tree.

At another reunion we camped near the Salmon river. Ben had a new kayak that he took out into the river. I watched him from the sandy shore and wished I was big enough to go out on the river with him. 

Ben had other fun toys. He had the best Legos, and several large plastic containers filled with them. My brother and I could spend hours at grandma's house playing with Ben's Legos. Eventually, my brother and me accumulated quite a collection ourselves. My mom reminded me that when me and my brother were still too young to play with Legos, Ben gave us some Duplos of zoo animals as a Christmas present.

I also remember Ben had a model train setup in the basement of their house in Boise. My brother and I weren't allowed to touch it, but Ben liked to drive the train around the tracks for us to watch.

My grandparents had a dog named Lady. One day Ben tied a superman cape on the dog, and my brother and I thought that was the funniest thing in the world.

On another trip to Boise I remember getting out of the bath, being in my clean pajamas and going out to the living room to see Ben playing with my new toy--a model dairy farm set with a bunch of plastic dairy cows. Ben set the toy up while I was taking a bath. When I came out to play with him he told me the cows were all sleeping because it was time to go to bed.

I don't remember this day, because I was pretty young. But here's another occasion visiting the grandparents in Boise. We were eating KFC at a park. 

Ben would visit us in Spanish Fork when Grandma and Grandpa came down. Ben bought me and my brother stuffed Barney the Dinosaur toys, and we loved playing with those. Barney was important to us back then, and Ben was so nice to gift those to us.

When our family moved to our new house in Spanish Fork, I remember having lightsaber fights with Ben and the plastic PVC pipe swords Dad made for us.

One Christmas Eve we had a pinata. Ben held one of the couch cushions as a shield. Each Christmas Eve we could open one present. My little sister Rachel was opening her gift up one little tear at a time. She was really young. Ben thought it was really fun.

When I was six years old, we dropped Ben off at the Mission Training Center in Provo. He was called to serve as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Scotland for two years. Most of my siblings have had me to look up to as an example of someone who served a mission. Since I am the oldest in my family, I had Ben to look up to as an example. It was an exciting day when we took him to the missionary training center, and it helped fuel my desire to one day serve a mission, after I had grown a foot or two. 

The night before we dropped Ben off, our family was in the basement of our home in Spanish Fork and had a Family Home Evening. We watched the church produced movie “Called to Serve” which describes what missionaries do. I was touched by that experience and was proud of my uncle for going on a mission so far away in Scotland. I remember that for those two years in our morning family prayers we would always remember to pray for Uncle Ben who was on a mission in Scotland. "Please bless Uncle Ben on a mission."

Two years later we went to the airport to pick up Ben. I was very excited, but I think Grandma Blaylock was even more excited! When Ben came through the terminal, Grandma ran up to him and gave him a great big hug. That night we got to hear from Ben and all his good stories from being a missionary. The following Sunday we went to Ben's homecoming address. The highlight was him giving his talk in an authentic Scottish kilt.

This is a picture of Ben and his brothers and sister.

Some time later, I remember going to a motocross at Rice-Eccles Stadium. I believe Ben was there. (That was probably the first time I set foot on the University of Utah campus. Who would have thought I would have gone to school there years later.)

Ben had a lot of interests and talents. He kept aquarium fish, and had a large 55 gallon tank in my grandparents basement. When I was in high school I saved my money and bought myself a 10 gallon aquarium and later acquired a 20 gallon aquarium. I'm sure I was excited to show him my fish after I got it all set up.

Ben had a lot of different kinds of jobs. I remember Ben worked at Home Depot for a long time. He loved working with his hands whether it be tiling, putting in a hardwood floor at grandmas, roofing, electrical work in the greenhouse my dad built, or painting a room. Just about any kind of home improvement project, Ben could do it.

At a reunion in Pleasant Grove someone busted out the water guns. Ben played with all his nieces and nephews, getting us the most wet in the water fight. That was a happy evening.

Dad taught Nathan and me how to ski one winter at Sundance. The next few seasons, Ben worked at a ski retail shop (Legacy?) in Park City and got us discounted ski tickets to Park City Mountain Resort. When Ben got off work he would come ski with us. My brother and I were very impressed with his skiing ability, and the rooster tail of snow he could kick up when he stopped really fast. One night after skiing we ate at a Pizza place called Mario's that Ben liked to eat at. We bought the pizza by the slice, and before we could put it in our mouth, Ben showed us a little trick. He rolled up his pizza and squeezed out all the grease, like a sponge.

On one ski trip, my brother got lost at the ski resort because he thought he was following Ben to another ski lift, but it was someone else. We looked around frantically for Nathan. Ben was just as worried and concerned about Nathan as my Dad was that night. Ben talked to the people he knew at the ski resort to help find Nathan. It was Ben that found Nathan. We were relieved when we found him safe.

Everyone in our family is big Boise State football fans. One year we went to a BYU versus Boise State game together in Provo. Before the game we went to McDonalds. I ordered the new chicken nuggets. At the stadium, Uncle Ben was the loudest one in our group. Walking up the spiral ramp to our seats he yelled out “Boise!!” very loud, and then some other Boise fans would yell in reply, “State!!” It was great! I think this was my brother's and mine second football game we ever went to.

Another one of Ben's interests was Bonsai trees. He kept them under the deck at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Pleasant Grove. He would show me and Nathan all his new trees and designs and let us water them, but we couldn’t touch. He was quite proud of them.

Ben for a short time had a white jeep. It was often covered in mud.

He also taught me how to play an old computer game called War Craft. I got him hooked on Roller Coaster Tycoon. He also taught us how to play the board game Risk, which became one of my and my brother's favorite games. He let us borrow his set that we kept for a long time until the box wore out.

When Ben got married, we were all very happy for Ben. The previous Christmas our family had a party and Ben brought Janili. That was the first time I met her. We were all wondering if they would get married. And they were, In the Logan temple. Ben was a pilot, and I remember him telling the story of one of their dates, Ben flew in a plane with her over the Logan temple. The best part of the reception was that this was the first time I ever decorated a grooms car. That was fun.

Ben had a friend who managed the movie theater in Spanish Fork. One Thanksgiving he got our family free tickets to the new movie “The Incredibles.” That was my and my brother's favorite movie at the time and had already been to the theater to see it twice. We were thrilled that Ben got us more tickets for it. When we got to the crowded theater that Thanksgiving Day we were a bit early for the movie and were standing around waiting. Ben took Nathan and me inside before anyone else, gave each of us a broom, and then took us to an empty theater room. He turned all the lights in the room on, and told us to start sweeping. It was strange to see the theater room with all the lights on, you could see everything, including the trash. More strange was that Ben was having us sweep the spilled popcorn. He just left us there for awhile. Nathan and I did a little work for a little while, then Ben came back and told us that since we helped out Ben could take us upstairs and show us the projectors. Now days, theaters have digital projectors, but this theater still had the movie on reels. Ben showed us some of the projectors, how they work, and how the employee moves the spools around so people can watch the movies. One of the movies were done, so we watched one of the employees takes the real and put it on a giant rewinder and turn the film back onto an empty spool for the next showing. That was really neat to see how that worked. It made watching The Incredibles more enjoyable and memorable that night, now knowing the mechanics of how we were watching the movie.

I told Ben one day when I was in High School that I thought I’d like being a meteorologist. Ben was a pilot and loved flying planes. He got excited when I told him I wanted to study the weather, because he has taken a few courses in weather in college. It’s necessary for him as a pilot to know about the weather. He showed me maps of airports and flying routes that he had in grandma's library and told me all about how the weather relates to flying. That got me more excited about learning about the weather, which has turned into a career path for me.

My senior year of high school I remembered Ben’s love for planes and asked him to help me on one of my assignments for my broadcasting class. I needed to make a 15-minute video about some interesting topic. I decided to make a video about airplanes and flying. I met Ben at the Spanish Fork-Springville airport with one of my buddies in class with all my camera gear and microphones. On a cold, snowy runway Ben stood in front of our cameras and he talked about different air plane designs showing some of the different planes at the airport, taught how air planes fly, gave a tour of a modern glass cockpit and explained all the buttons and dials, introduced us to a flight student, and talked about what it takes to become an airplane pilot. He did all of this talking in front of a camera, demonstrating his knowledge and talent for flying, all for my high school class assignment. He made it really easy to get good camera angles, talked about interesting things, and helped build an effective story for my video.

When I took the recording to my class to begin the editing process, I found out that the microphone setting while I was recording was not set right. The video was good, but I didn’t have any coherent audio! I called Ben again and told him what had happened, and to my surprise, Ben was willing to spend another afternoon with me filming the entire documentary over again! My class partner couldn’t come film with me, so I took my brother with me. The second time filming was much better, and Ben was happy to do talk about planes with me in front of a camera again for a few hours, helping me get the content I needed for my class.

When Dad’s cousin Jared died in a plane crash. That was a sad day. I vividly remember seeing Ben at the funeral crying. He had lost one of his best friends. I felt sad for him watching him cry and spill tears on one of his uncle’s shoulder’s at the burial site.

When I was serving as a mission in Washington, Ben joined the army. I was proud of him for serving our country. He was the only person in our family to have enlisted and serve his country in such a way.

The army side of Ben is something I never saw. I never saw him in uniform. He was always on leave when he would come visit. On one visit after I got home we talked about me coming to visit them when they lived on base in California. I remember one other day I went to the airport with my Grandma and Grandpa to pick Ben up.

While on my mission I toured the Boeing manufacturing plant and thought of Ben’s interest in airplanes. I bought and sent him a nice Boeing pin. When I got home he thanked me for that and told me how much he liked it.

Also, on my mission I got a letter with a picture of Ben and my dad standing in a tree house that they built in the backyard. When I thought of Ben's tree house back in Boise, I wished I could have been there to help build this one at my home.

Just this week, my dad ordered a memorial plaque and we put it on the tree house. 

This is the Garden Tower in our back yard built by Ben. On the plaque is three important things to Ben that he invites his family to do: Walk in the Light, Honor Priesthood, and Show Respect.

While on my mission Dad sold the little tan Nissan pickup I drove all through High School to Uncle Ben. Ben got a job with a cable company and needed a truck. Ben welded a ladder rack on the top. The story of the truck goes like this...Grandpa Wangsgard bought the truck brand new for his gutter business back in 1983. Dad got the truck from Grandpa Wangsgard and bought it for one dollar. Dad the sold the truck to Ben for one dollar. After using it for some time, Ben joined the military he didn’t need the truck anymore, so he sold it to our cousin Chris for five dollars! So Ben made quite a bit of money on that little truck. Chris drove the pickup around until it couldn't chug along any more. Chris sold it to some junk yard for $500.

After my mission Ben and I fixed Grandma and Grandpa’s Mazda truck. After replacing all the spark plugs and plug wires we took it to the church parking lot and spun donuts in the freshly fallen 8 inches of snow. We were in the parking lot for a long time having fun.

The summer of 2012, Ben and I decided on a spur of the moment to hike Mount Timpanogos on a hot July day. We left in the afternoon so we could get to the top before sunset. On the drive up the canyon Ben made a stop at his former mission president's house. We stayed for some time and chatted with his mission president and wife in their nice home by Sundance. It was really nice to meet them, and see Ben’s love for his mission and mission president and his wife.

Eventually we left and headed back up the canyon. We had a long hike ahead of us. 

There were a lot of wild fires that summer and the air was very smoky. The sunset from the top was amazing.

Ben was full of a lot of energy at the beginning. Plus, he reminded me several times how good of shape he was in because he was in the army. For the first mile we were joggin up the mountain. I had no doubt that Ben was stronger than me, but I don't think he realized that we had 7 more miles to go, all uphill, and the air was considerably thinner than he was used to. Eventually he sat down and I let him catch his breath. I supplied him with a Jolly Rancher every mile or so to keep us going.

We talked about a lot of things on the hike. I can't remember what about. We explored an ice cave carved out of the melting snow. Ben imagined what we would do to survive the next few days if we were stuck on the mountain for any reason. He was always prepared for anything. He brought a good camera with him, prepared for pictures.

When we got to the top we relieved our full bladders. After signing our names in the book and on the hut, we made our way down the mountain in the dark with our head lamps on, enjoying God's creations that surrounded us.

Every Fourth of July Ben was around was a fun. On at least one occasion he brought out some “fun” fireworks including bottle rockets and firecrackers. When Ben was moving to another assignment he gave me a package of firecrackers that I still have. When I need something fun to do, I’ll go get a firecracker.

Other recent memories of Ben where of him living at Grandma and Grandpa’s with his family for a short time in Spanish Fork. He would bring his dog Kansas out to play, and Ben would come sit out by the fire pit when my family was sitting around talking and making s’mores.

Ben was an excellent father in my eyes. He loved his boys Jaxon and Austin, and taught them about all the interesting things in this world. He loved teaching his boys to discover the things in the world and how things work. I remember seeing a picture of him and son under a sink or something, with tools, fixing something.

On the Independence Day before we hiked Timpanogos, Ben and Jaxson came with me and some of my brothers and sisters to the Provo Hot Air Balloon festival. Ben stuck around his son the entire time letting him enjoy the balloons. There were some load speakers on one corner of the field with an area roped off in front of them with a sign  that said, "This area is reserved for those who are exceptionally hard of hearing." Ben joked that that is where Grandpa Blaylock would need to sit if he came with us. Afterwards, we all went out for breakfast at McDonalds.

I remember years ago when Jaxon was born and blessed. Uncle Ben had a proud smile on his face that day.

Ben bought a new Ford F-350 Super Duty truck. That was an awesome car. It was powerful. I was excited when he told me I could drive it! I drove it with him up Spanish Fork Canyon, feeling like I was driving a semi-truck and tank hybrid, with all that power in my hands.

Having my uncle Ben in my life has been a source of a lot of fun memories. Not to mention I did a lot of things with Ben that my Mom wouldn’t have let me do, like have a brick of firecrackers or get pulled up a tall tree on a rope. Without Ben, these memories would not exist. If Ben were still with us, I would have had more happy, adventurous memories to enriched my life. Every life is precious, and can have an influence for good in the word. Ben has been a good influence to me and has enriched my life. I will eternally thank my Heavenly Father for his plan of salvation for his children. Through Jesus Christ, his suffering and resurrection, and if we follow our Savior's footsteps, we will one day be raised back to life as glorified, perfected beings and be reunited with our families and loved ones forever. Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father’s plan.

Update: Our family appreciates all the kindness and condolences we have received the last week. Your love and concern means a lot. Even complete strangers have offered comfort. I was quite impressed by the support and way in which the military and Spanish Fork Fire Department volunteers honored my uncle when he returned home and brought to his final resting place before the great resurrection.

I don't know all the details from the airport. During the flight from North Carolina to Utah, I imagine the pilot announced to the passengers that they were taking the body of an army captain home to Utah. When the plane landed, it may have been met by an escort of emergency vehicles to the Delta cargo bay. When the casket was unloaded, the pilot may have asked the passengers and crew to observe a moment of silence.  

When the hearse arrived in Spanish it was met by a line of every fire truck and ambulance in Spanish Fork. We joined in the line as we drove to the funeral home. Our family got out of our cars and watched at the military somberly and respectfully carried the flag draped casket inside. I looked back and saw all the volunteers from the Spanish Fork Fire Department standing behind us with their support and prayers. Feeling their love brought more tears to my eyes. 

The morning of Ben's funeral we woke up surprised to see a line of flags in front of my grandparents and parents homes.

We were escorted once again by the Spanish Fork Volunteers from the church to the cemetery. We were welcomed by a large American Flag flying from the top of the fire engine ladders.

"Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who have them life."
Alma 40:11

Update: May 29, 2017 -- Memorial Day
Our family visited Uncle Ben's grave today. There still isn't a headstone to mark his grave, but we all knew were it was because it wasn't very long ago we were there last. We marked the grave with a vase of flowers and sat on the grass together. Then we walked across the street to see the Veterans Memorial, where a sea of crosses and flags were set out for each service member. Ben has a cross and flag to honor his service for the country and his name is immortalized on the Wall of Honor. I am grateful for the service men and women who serve this country. I am grateful to live in this consecrated land and to stand for the good principles we cherish.

Update June 10, 2017: The headstone was installed at Ben's grave site.


  1. Our family wishes to thank everyone for the condolences and kindness we received the last week. The morning of the funeral, we were touched when we woke up and saw American flags lining our front lawns. After the funeral services, we were escorted by the Spanish Fork Fire Department volunteers to the cemetery where a giant flag waved over the entrance of the cemetery, hoisted by the ladders of two fire engines. The military honored Ben with a somber, yet respectful ceremony. Thank you for this special experience during such a difficult time in our family.

  2. I served with him, and he was a great man. I know how much he is missed, and even though it has been years since I was in his platoon i still think about him. I hope you and your family are doing well.