History of Melva Lenz and Marvin Harker

History of Melva Lenz and Marvin Harker

 

Melva Lenz HarkerMelva Lenz was born 16 Jun 1920 at Cardston, Alberta, Canada. When I was about 3 years old, the teacher taught me the song, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and that was my foundation in a testimony. Every teacher left something with me that was part of my life.

I remember going through school in Hillspring and it being very very hard going through school because we had to go so far and in the winter time it was so cold. Sometimes we’d be late and the teacher would make me hold books on my hands with my hands outstretched so that I’d try to come earlier. But it didn’t make any difference. We got there as soon as we could. We all did pretty well in school.

I got married when I was quite young (17 1/3 years old); but fortunately things have gone  well for me. When we were young, limited finances made us more dependent on one another so when hard times came, one couldn’t just walk out. So it helped us over a lot of rough places.

Melva married Marvin Evan Harker 6 Oct 1937 in the Alberta Temple. He was born 19 Oct 1918 at Leavitt, Alberta, Canada, the son of William Ross Harker and Ethel Heap. We were married seven years before Marvin was born. We were told by specialists that we would never have any children of our own. So we decided to adopt a child. Then we discovered that we were going to have one of our own. The doctors were so vague about how this pregnancy would be, that they discouraged us from getting our hopes up too high. Because of that, we didn’t tell any one about it. We went up to Peace River that winter and came back with a baby and nobody would believe that he was ours! Seven years after that we had Barbara. Eleven years after that we had Melody. But in between Melody and Barbara we adopted twins. We know that all of our children are supposed to be ours; the twins too- because of the things that have happened. That is one thing of which we’re sure. Marvin was treated special and somewhat spoiled because he was alone. He cried a lot because he had nobody to play with except his cat. Barbara was   lonely too, but when she was a tiny baby and Marvin would get into trouble, even though she could only sit alone, Marvin would come and put his head on her shoulder and put his arms around her and cry and tell her his problems.

When Barbara was growing up she was quite smart in school. She went throughout University with honors every year. She picked up things quite quickly. She decided that she really liked to dance as she had started dance lessons when she was only five.. When she was eight years old, her dance teacher asked her if she would help teach dancing. That year her dance teacher got sick and had to quit teaching. The class was about 3/4ths of the year through dancing, and she asked Barbara if she and I would like to take the other students through the rest of the year – so we did. That was the beginning of our dance career. We taught dance for 11 years. We kept Marvin on a mission with earnings from our teaching. It helped us over a lot of other rough places in life. Barbara was quite a good little singer too. She sang in all the music festivals. We were told to help Barbara develop her voice as much as we could because she had a rare talent. As she grew older we taught dancing, which helped a lot of others develop their talents too. Barbara received several scholarships and one of them was to the Banff School of Fine Arts. We decided she should go there. She was almost ready for university and we knew there wouldn’t be much time to spend with Barbara. Once she started University we wouldn’t see much of her. So I thought how nice it would be if I could go, somehow, to the Banff School of Fine Arts with her the last summer that she would be home. I decided I would see if there would be any opportunities for cleaning or helping in the kitchen or something like that. I wrote a letter asking if there would be any opportunities for work. They phoned me and said that they were looking for a matron and advisor to girls. Would I be interested? Also what qualifications did I have for that particular kind of work? I told them that the only qualification I had for that type of work was that I had been president of the Young Women’s organization of the Latter Day Saint Church. They said, “That’s good enough! Would you be here Monday morning?!” This was on a Friday! So on Monday morning I was there to take my job as an advisor and matron to the girls. What an experience that was!!! The very first day a girl stayed out over night and I had to help locate her and then find out where her parents were. That led to working with the police to try to crack a drug ring that was a problem at the school!

While I had been at the Banff School of Fine Arts in July of 1967, Evan had been in a car accident. We had just bought a new car before I went up there. He was in Cardston with Lonnie and Melodee in the car. At the stoplight they were sitting in the back seat, and he said, “You kids get up here in the front seat!”

They said, “Well, we’re being good!”

Evan said, “I said, get up in the front with me!” He insisted that they crawl over the front seat and sit in the front with him. He got up to the next corner and stopped to wait for the traffic. A drunk Indian hit him from behind and tore the back half off our car. Evan thought he was all right at the time.

He and the kids were taken up to the hospital and they were checked over. But he wasn’t all right. He could walk around, but he wasn’t all right. He had his brother take him to Lethbridge and by the time he got back from Lethbridge he couldn’t walk at all. They put him into the hospital. They couldn’t find any broken bones, but he kept on getting worse and worse. They released him from the hospital. He kept on getting worse until by the time I got home he could hardly move. They sent him to specialists who found out that the muscles in his back had been completely pulverized. They didn’t think that he would ever walk and work again.

The next year they offered me a fabulous salary if I would come back to the Banff School of Fine Arts to help them again. But before going to Banff I had thought I felt a lump in my side. I checked with the doctor and he thought it would bear watching. So when I came back from the Banff School of Fine Arts, I went to the doctor, and he thought it was a little bigger. Dr. Larsen thought the lump was in the shape of a kidney. He called in other doctors to see what they thought. They all decided that I had a third kidney that was acting up and they sent me to a kidney specialist to make sure. I went to Lethbridge for three weeks before they did one thing to find out whether I had an extra kidney or not. At my insistence they finally gave me a kidney exploration. That afternoon Dr. Livingston came in. He put his hands in his pockets and stood at the foot of my bed and said, “You don’t have another kidney, but you DO have something which is not very good. If we were you, we wouldn’t wait until the end of the day to find out what it is. We are prepared to operate if you say the word.”

I said, “Oh, if I have to have an operation, let me go back to Cardston. Dr. Larsen is my doctor, and he is a very good surgeon.” So when Dr. Livingston told me that I should find out what was the matter with me, one of the main reasons I wanted to go back to Cardston was because my family was there. We had moved to Cardston from Hillspring that fall because Evan wasn’t able to work. We thought if we moved to Cardston maybe I could work and take care of the family because jobs are more plentiful in Cardston than they are in Hillspring, where there are absolutely none. We moved into the basement of the Cozy Motel. I worked for two weeks and then started losing weight; I lost 60 pounds in two weeks! That was another reason that the doctor sent me immediately to a kidney specialist. They thought that they’d better find out what was making me lose weight so fast.

I came back to Cardston on a Saturday after being at Lethbridge. I felt that I had to go to Church on Sunday, because I would be operated on Monday. Without my knowledge the sixth Branch (where we were Stake Missionaries) held a special fast for me that day. When I went to Church, they asked an Indian man to give the opening prayer and it was beautiful. It really touched my heart. Barbara had been asked a month before to prepare a song for that particular Sunday. The song she had prepared was, “Teach Me to Pray”. After the man had given the opening prayer, they asked a lady to bear her testimony. She talked about her son being on the Placement Program and being unhappy and wanting to come home. The family had made it a matter of fasting and prayer and things had worked out. Then they asked Barbara to sing. When she started singing, she started crying, but she never faltered. She sang with the tears running down her face and dropping off her chin. Everybody in the Church had tears running down their faces-men, women and all. Some of the men were asking their wives for handkerchiefs and somehow I knew when she was singing that song that things were going to be all right with me, no matter how dark it looked at that point. Then after Sunday School I went and had a special blessing. Then I went into the hospital. That night Dr. Larsen came up and paced my floor and talked to me and finally he said, “Have you had a blessing?” I said that I had and he said, “That’s all I wanted to know.” Then he went home. The next morning I wasn’t even the least bit nervous when I went into the operating room because somehow I felt that things would be all right. Dr. Larsen advised Evan to get a special nurse for me to be there when I came out of the operating room. So he did that. It was really difficult for Evan to walk or even be there. When I was coming out of the anesthetic I thought I saw Evan come in and walk past the foot of my bed. He was crying-I wasn’t sure. Then I looked at Velma, who was my special nurse and she was wiping her eyes.

I said, “What’s the matter?”

Velma said, “Oh we’re just so happy that you’re all right.”

I thought that was a bit odd for her to say. Evan had turned toward the window when I was talking to her. When he turned around he didn’t have any tears in his eyes. He told  me that he needed to go to Lethbridge for a few minutes and that he would be right back. Apparently they sent him with a biopsy to get it analyzed to be sure that it was what they thought it was.

The next thing I knew Dr. Larsen was pulling my toe and trying to wake me up. He said, “We didn’t find any gall stones. But we did find something else there, which is not the best. But don’t worry about it, because everything is going to be all right. We’re going to send you into Lethbridge for radiation treatments and that will melt that right away. We couldn’t take anything out because your body is full of it. All we could do is sew you back up.”

In my blurry mind, those words sounded like the voice of doom in my ears. I shut my eyes and I could hear it over and over. “We couldn’t take anything out because your body is full of it. We could only sew you back up again.” My friend had been told the same thing because of cancer.

I wondered if what I had was cancer, but Dr. Larsen didn’t say it was. I have a lot of faith in Dr. Larsen. He is a very wise doctor and I guess he knows me quite well, because he didn’t tell me that that’s what it was. He just said it was something that wasn’t very good and that it would be all right. So I had to believe that.

The next day or two every doctor in the hospital made almost hourly trips in to see how I was doing. When Dr. Roy came in (he was the Stake President at the time), I asked, “What are my chances?” He looked me right in the eye and he said, “You don’t have any. If you have anything that’s important that you feel must be done, I would advise you to do it within the next five days.”

That almost bowled me over! Then he spent the next half hour telling me how it wasn’t too bad to die.

I must have had a look on my face that shook him up after he told me that, because he sure spent a lot of time trying to calm me down and telling me that everything was going to be all right when you die.

But after he left I started crying and for three days I couldn’t stop. Dr. Larsen was so concerned; my family was so concerned. How could I tell them? I couldn’t tell Dr. Larsen that Dr. Roy had told me that when Dr. Larsen hadn’t or else he would have been in great trouble. I couldn’t tell my family, because things looked so bad. Evan spent most of the time sitting in that chair in the hospital holding my hand. I couldn’t tell him because he had enough problems as it was. I couldn’t tell my kids, cause things looked really bad for them with Evan being like he was. I couldn’t tell ANYBODY!

After I had been in the hospital ten days, they told me to go home, which was just a couple of days before Christmas. Then they told me that the day after Christmas I was to be in Lethbridge for radiation treatments. I went and had another blessing before the radiation treatment and I was told that anyone who looked after me in any way would know exactly what to do for my best good and I would become completely well. That was one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life. –Just those very words.

So I went to Lethbridge for radiation treatments. They are very hard on people. Sometimes they make you sick without anything else being wrong. But somehow I got through those. When I went into the hospital in Lethbridge, the nurse had left the chart on the table at the foot of my bed. I just happened to glance that way and I saw “Malignant Lymphoma” on it! I had no idea that what I had was malignant! That was a real shocker! But I kept control of myself that time. I was sure worried, just the same. Each day they took me in for radiation treatments. About the third day Dr. Marshall, who was head of the radiation department, came in and said, “You’re sure doing great!”

Then every other day he’d be in to tell me how great I was doing. By the time I finished my radiation treatments he was so happy. He said that I was the first person that he’d ever had look better when they went out than when they went in. He just couldn’t understand it. All of the other doctors would come in and shake my hand too! So they sent me home and I still had to go back in for a few more treatments.

When I got home I couldn’t sleep. It was so hard on my nerves. For ten days I hardly got an hour’s sleep at night, if that much. Finally I went and had another blessing. I went home and went to bed and slept like a baby from then until now. I had no more problem sleeping. After that I had to go back to the cancer clinic every three months. In fact I still do, because they know that what I have cannot be cured. About a year and a half after I had the radiation treatments, I went down for my checkup. One doctor checked me over, then another doctor checked me over; they called in another one and he checked me over; a fourth one checked me over. They thought I should start taking a series of drugs which would have very serious side effects, like going blind, deaf, losing hair, maybe being paralyzed, etc. These four doctors felt that I should start on this drug the next day. I could feel the lump in my side too. I thought about it and decided, “Well, if they know what’s the best for me. If anyone who looks after me will know the best for me, maybe that’s what I should do.” Then I asked, “Would you mind if Dr. Marshall checks me over too? If he agrees with you, I will start that drug in the morning.” When Dr. Marshall checked me over, he agreed that the lump was there and that something should be done to check it immediately. But, he said, “Let’s give her seventeen days first and check it really close. Come in about every other day.” I went home and I was really wondering.

President Espenshied, who was president of the Western Canadian Mission at that time called me and asked if I would give a hand in preparing a lunch for all of the elders who were coming to a Zone Meeting here. He said they were having a little problem getting a lunch arranged for and would I find someone to help me prepare a lunch for them. They expected about 70 or 80. So I said, “Sure!” The next morning I made foil dinners for them. I had them all hot and sent them up at 11 o’clock. We fasted that day and I asked for a blessing in a note that I sent with the dinners.

When the missionary came to give the blessing, he mentioned how much he appreciated me asking him to give me a blessing. He said, “When I left Calgary this morning, I forgot my oil. I was almost out of Calgary and somehow the Lord told me I must go back and get my oil because someone that was very important to Him would ask me for a blessing today and I know you’re that someone.

So he talked to us for quite a little while and then he gave me a blessing. He asked the Lord to bless me with the strength from his body so that there would be nothing left of the scars that had been there.

I felt the most beautiful feeling from the top of my head right down to my side. There it stayed. He didn’t have enough strength to stand by the time he was finished. He sat on the edge of my bed, held my hand with tears rolling down his face for more than a half hour. Then he said, “Sister Harker, the Lord has made known to me that he has a very special work for you to do and you must be on this earth to do it. Then he left.”

The doctors didn’t wait for seventeen days to call me back; they called me back the next day and told me I should come down and have a check up. When I got there, they called in the three doctors, checked me over and could find no lump! They called in the fourth doctor and he couldn’t find anything either. They called Dr. Marshall in and they said, “We don’t understand this! We KNOW that lump was there.” I didn’t offer an explanation. That lump has never come back. Every time they check in the same spot because it’s in their medical records. Three years ago Dr. Larsen decided that I had to have my gall bladder removed. While removing my gall bladder he looked all over and discovered that I had a big cyst on my ovary, bigger than my head. So they wheeled me out  of the operating room into the hall, cleaned the operating room, and got another doctor, took me back in and removed that; it was not malignant. When Dr. Larsen came in to talk to me after the operation, he said, “Well that gall bladder’s gone. But there was nothing else there besides the scars of what’s been there.” It was no coincidence I’m sure, because Dr. Larsen knew nothing about the other experience and those are the words he said.

After I came home from the hospital, things looked really black for us. We wondered how we were going to make a living for our family, because I couldn’t work and Evan couldn’t work. We had just about used up all of our savings to live on. We were paying rent and still had to take care of our family. There were bills that we hadn’t paid. We hadn’t known that anything like this was going to happen.

Bob Wiley came and asked Barbara if she thought that she could manage his motel. He said, “With your dad here to kind of keep an eye on things and your mother, do you think you could handle it?” She was getting ready for University, but she thought she’d like to give it a try. So we moved up to what is now the “Owl’s Motel”. Then it was the Flamingo Motel. Barbara looked after the motel with our supervision. The next fall she had to go to University. I thought maybe I could do that myself although I’d never done anything like that in my life. But then I had never taught dancing in my life either and that turned out to be quite successful!

We asked Bob whether Evan and I could stay on and take Barbara’s place. Evan was almost to the point of having a nervous breakdown. He was in so much pain all the time! We were really worried about him. Bob said we could give it a try, so we looked after the Flamingo Motel. So many interesting things happened there.

We had a lot of missionaries come to our motel. Other people came to our motel asking about the Church. There were also a lot of Indian people who lived out on the reserve, who would come and ask us to teach them. Of course we didn’t teach them; we had the missionaries teach them. But our home was busy constantly. We had a motel for nine years. Sometimes our motel and every other motel in the town of Cardston would be filled too. There would be no place for people to stay. One day a lady came. She took a taxi into Cardston, had the driver let her out at my motel, dismissed the taxi, and it went back to Lethbridge. She came to the door and I told her we were all filled up..the look on her face! I told her I would try and find her another place to stay. So I immediately started phoning the motels and the hotel. Everything was filled up that particular day.

So that left me one alternative. I said, “My girls have a room. If you’d like to use their room while you’re here, you’re welcome to it (she planned to stay a week).

She gratefully thanked me and moved her things into the girls’ room. Melodee was about 9 or 10 at the time. She wasn’t sure what to do next. She was trying to find Rufus Goodstriker, an important Indian man, who lives on this reserve. That’s why she had come from Toronto. She was the head person in the casting department of the CDC. So she asked me if I would mind if Melodee went with her to help her get her bearings and find this Indian man. Whenever she wanted to go to other places, Melodee would show her where to go. She fell in love with Melodee. When she came back she told me that she was just dying for a drink. Not realizing how other people are, I said, “What would you like … water or could I make you something else.” “Oh water would be fine,” she said. So sweet little Melodee went and got her a glass of water.

We made her as comfortable as we could and we offered her meals and tried to make her feel as much at home as we could because she was really upset when she found the dilemma she was in.

Then a couple of years after that I got a phone call from this lady. Her name was Maudrianne McCune. She told me that she wanted me to come to Toronto to be in a CBC show. It was a consumer show. She offered me a fabulous prize and offered to pay my way and my husband’s way. She knew I would fit the part that she needed for this particular thing. So Evan and I talked it over and decided that maybe I should try and go. I was paid $360 a day! I wanted Evan to go with me, but he was in and out of the hospital and had doctor’s appointments said there was just no way he could go.

I thought she might be real happy and surprised to see Melodee. I decided I’d take Melodee with me instead of Evan. So Melody and I got ready.

We flew to Toronto and were met by a CDC car and treated like royalty. They took us to a fabulous motel. We were there one day before this show was to be on. She was so happy when she saw Melodee that it was unbelievable. She took Melodee with her for a little while in the morning to show her around. She bought Melodee a beautiful coat and talked with her. We all had to be interviewed by reporters. I got a chance to tell them all about the welfare program of the Church.

It was quite an experience being on television. After the show they had a reception for everyone who had been on this show. They had a lot of officials from the CDC too. I found myself in a room surrounded by liquor. I noticed that they were pouring orange juice in the drinks, so I said, “I’ll just have some plain orange juice.” People looked at me kind of queer, but I drank my plain orange juice. This reception was something else, with people drinking, drinking, drinking and talking artificially.

One man said, “I heard you wanted just plain orange juice. I’d give half my life if I could say I want just plain orange juice. But these people are all hooked on this stuff and they don’t know it.”

Of course, I couldn’t agree with him more. Then after that reception, she had another reception, just for ladies. She insisted that I come. When we were all sitting down quite comfortably; she brought out the liquor again for all the ladies. Then she said, “Would you like to know how I met Mrs. Harker?”

They all said, “Yes, of course!”

She said, “Well I went to this little town of Cardston, where they don’t have a bus or a taxi. I found myself at her motel without a place to stay any where in the town, because everything was all filled up…and she offered me her daughters’ room, which I gratefully accepted. The first day .. (I have never been without a drink in my entire life)…I was dying for a drink. When I mentioned I’d like a drink, here this sweet little Melodee of hers brought me a glass of clear sparkling water! The next thing I knew, this little Mrs. Harker here asked me if I would like to have family prayer with them. I know there is no God, but what could I say? I said, “sure.” They all knelt down and I knelt down and here they were, talking to someone just like they were talking to a real person! I know there is no God and I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t just dreaming and it was real! I was dying for a drink, but when I went into my room, I didn’t dare drink it! My suitcase was full of it. I was there for five days and I never had a drink and it was killing me! But I didn’t dare drink it. It’s stupid isn’t it!?”

But she sure paid me a great compliment! She said, “I’ll never forget that as long as I live!

I want to ask you a great favor. Could I have Melodee?”

I said, “Well I’ve never given one of my children away before! I’d have to think that one over.”

I wasn’t sure how sober she was.

She said, “You’ve done that little girl such an injustice. She’s got that little nose pinpointed to that Mormon temple so strong that you’re ruining her life! If you give her to me, I’ll see to it that she has every opportunity to develop every talent. She can go to school. She can have the best of everything. She’ll know how to make the best Martini’s, …(etc.). Just let me have her.”

I said, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” She was dead serious!!!

We went from the Flamingo Hotel to the Cozy Motel. Rick Sommerfeld had asked us to come and work there. We were there for five years. During our time there we had so many wonderful and beautiful experiences. We got to know important people in the Church. People from all over the world. We got to know the General Authorities, Stake Presidents and Bishops of the wards throughout the States. Whenever they came someone had referred our motel to them. Since I had gotten over the cancer, they decided that maybe I would be an interesting person for their wives or their daughters to talk to. I don’t know how many phone calls we have gotten from people all over the United States and Canada. Strangers who had heard of me and wanted to talk to me because they were really discouraged and depressed. People I’d never heard of and never seen.

Evan was really in a serious way after that accident. He suffered terribly for three or four years. They had him in the hospital and out of the hospital. They tried everything. One day he and Lonnie decided to paint the roof. Lonnie wasn’t very big, but Evan climbed a ladder and told him what to do. He talked to him while he was painting it. He got down off the ladder. He said that he just felt terrible.

I said, “Maybe it’s because you have worried so much about painting that roof. Maybe standing on that ladder is not the best thing for you. You know it was still a struggle to even climb the ladder. It was a struggle for him to try and walk.

On this day that he felt so bad I insisted that he go see the doctor. They said they wanted to do a urinalysis, and this test and that test. He had an infection in his kidney, so they sent him to a specialist, the same one that I saw. They had him in Lethbridge for quite a little while. The specialist phoned and asked me to come in. He wanted to talk to me. So I went down and he said, “We’ve done so many tests and x-rays. There is something very abnormal with your husband. His kidneys are not just right somehow. One is functioning well and the other one is hardly functioning at all. We’d like to operate on him and find out what’s the matter.”

I said, “Well let me talk to him.” I went and talked to him. He wasn’t very happy about being operated on. There were three or four things they wanted to check on while they were operating on him. So I finally got him to say he guessed it was okay. But he knew he’d never be there by night if they did. I reassured him that he would be.

We had someone give him a blessing. They operated on him the next morning. After all that time they discovered that his kidney had been torn loose when he was in that accident and squashed into his lower abdomen! It was still slightly functioning. So they molded it back and sewed it in where it should be. Then he was in the hospital for a long time. It was years after that before he could start doing any work. But he’s been able to work ever since until we had a flood at the motel.

NOTE: Melva spent many devoted hours with her family, neighbors, and friends. She was noted for her genuine hospitality, her great cooking and her sensitive caring for other people. No one was turned away from her door hungry or tired. She lived for her family and loved to find excuses for family get togethers. She became “Mom” to many — not just her own children, but to anyone who was far away from home, especially the missionaries. She loved music, the arts, and her garden. She left a legacy of love and caring that will never be far from her children’s hearts. She died 30 Mar 1988 after a long

battle with cancer and shortly after celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary.

Melva and Evan had 5 children:

  • Marvin L. Harker
  • Barbara Lynne Harker
  • Lonnie Eugene Harker
  • Leanne Undine Harker
  • Melodee Rae Harker

Melva died 30 Mar 1988 at Cardston, Alberta, and was buried 1 Apr 1988 at Cardston.

Evan died 26 Dec 2003 at Penticton, British Columbia and was buried 2 Jan 2004 at Cardston.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Brittanee Schneider
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 19:08:21

    I read part of this to my mom about when she was singing in church with tears running down her face. She said,”That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I loved reading all of this about my grandma.

    Reply

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