My father, Delbert Jay Mackley, was born July 18, 1933 in the midst of the great depression.
He was the fifth son of Albert Charles Mackley and Pearl Alice Dalby and the fifth of eight children. He had four older brothers and later two younger brothers and a sister. His father, Albert Charles, repaired shoes for a living and his sons, including Delbert, were his assistants. I suppose there was a good demand for shoe repair, especially during the Depression. We have a picture of Albert Charles in his shop with writing in the background that says “We’re not a bank, but we can save you money.” Speaking of his youth, he wrote:
As I look back, I feel one of the important things was when I was taken by my parents to work with them in the shoe shop. I was nine years old.
Dad gave me a hammer and a saw and some nails and said, “I need your help. I want to make a box or platform for you to stand on. I want you to learn to repair shoes and you can start by learning to cut off the soles of the shoes.” I worked with my father after school until the day before my 18th birthday when I went into the Navy. In those years my father was called to serve on a stake [church] mission. He served for seven years. In spite of the responsibility, my parents had time for temple work, church work, and time to be with their children. We went fishing, hunting, and hiking. These times were choice to me, for here we could talk, and Dad would tell about the things that mattered most to him in life – his family, his mission, and the gospel. In the shoe shop I would listen to him for hours while he talked to people about the gospel. I remember one time my father gave me a challenge. My school grades were very poor and he wanted me to improve them. He said if I could do it, he would give me a .22 rifle. I did it and I got the rifle. Another time I wasn’t coming into the shop as often as I should and, like most youth when they have nothing to do, I got into mischief. My father decided to let me work out the cost of a motor bike if I would continue to get good grades and come to the shop right after school to learn if I was needed to help him. At the time I didn’t know how important this was to me but I do now. It was nice to be needed and to learn new habits. Dad worked with me in his garden and I learned how to make things grow. But most of all, I learned that Dad liked me as a person even if we didn’t always see things the same way.
At age 14 dad got his first car, a 1936 Model A Ford. Also at the age of 14, he enlisted in the Army National Guard and served 2 years, from 1947-1949. In the National Guard he was in charge of the ordinance vault – that is, the guns. He made the rank of corporal — that’s two stripes – just below the rank of sargeant. At age 17, he decided to join the Navy and he served from Jul 17, 1951 to April 28,1954. He was too young to sign up on his own but with his fathers signature he was allowed to enlist. In his own words:
As a young man I decided to join the Navy to serve my country. After boot camp in San Diego, California, I received orders to have duty with my brother, Charles William Mackley, who was three years older than I am.
But somehow they got separated when Charles was put on the USS Cape Esperance, a small aircraft carrier. Delbert later said:
I got my transfer [to the USS Cape Esperance] after convincing the Captain that my orders read I was to have duty with my brother, which was one of the conditions set up under my enlistment into the Navy. [After some time] He finally said “Your brother’s ship will be back in a month and you will be transferred to it … I will have your orders ready.” I was very relieved after he said that. My National Guard experience had taught me that I needed to fight for what I wanted to happen concerning my wants and desires in the military.
The USS Cape Esperance ferried equipment and aircraft to Japan. In total, the ship made 13 trips to Japan and elsewhere. Service in the Navy was an important time for Dad from a spiritual perspective. He writes:
I can look back now on my growing-up years and see relatives, on both sides of the family lead others down forbidden paths by gaining their confidence and leading them away. I feel that this is a great sin. It is one thing to get off the right path, but it is another to take loved ones with you. Knowing that our Father in Heaven will forgive us our sins, I write these things so that all may understand that if we turn about we can be saved in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. He his no respecter of persons but they who will do His will, will be accepted by Him. By doing an about-face while in the service, I was able to find myself.
I was a group leader for the L.D.S. group on the Cape Esperance. The other group leader was Verden Nicholas, a chief petty officer. As I look back on this experience, I know the effort I put forth paid many dividends, far greater than I ever expected. I met this chief petty officer for the first time when he was transferred on board my ship. My chief said, “Del, there is a member of your church who is a chief petty officer, now living in the chief quarters.” So I could hardly wait to meet him. I went to the chief quarters and introduced myself. He said, “I have heard all about you and that you are living your religion.” I said, “I came to ask you if you would conduct the meeting on the ship. I will support you the best way I can”. He said, “I guess it is about time I do something like that. I suppose I have just been waiting for someone to ask me… Let’s get together and talk about it.” Little did I know then how this volunteering to support this brother and the Lord’s work on the ship would affect my life in the future. Soon after, a chaplain came aboard my ship and set us apart as group leaders.
After a few trips to Yokasuka, Japan, I found it very interesting to buy from the Japanese people and their friendliness seemed very sincere. … I was fascinated by their language enough to want to learn to speak it. I decided I wanted to buy a set of china for each one of my brothers and my sister. I bought seven sets, to give them as wedding presents [for whenever they got married]. I bought most of them from the same friend who I had made in one of the shops. She would teach me to say some of the Japanese words. When I would study them, and then try to use them, she would correct me. Her name was Kayko. I don’t think I ever learned her last name. I really wasn’t interested; I was engaged to be married. Later, I found a good wife whom I feel I was led to find. When I met her I felt I had known her before. She is Shirley Racine McKenzie, a grand-daughter of Mary Ann Roesberry, my step-grandmother. I had been engaged earlier to another girl, Vivian Sparks, whom my father had converted to the gospel. I must have been a little unsure of her, for I prayed many times to know whether she was right for me. Once when I was home on leave from the Navy, I asked her to pray with me. She was willing. But the next time I came home, I took her to a family reunion and we went fishing. I put my arm around her and tried to kiss her but she wouldn’t let me. I asked her why and she told me she did not love me. I almost threw her into the river, fishing pole and all. Later my Dad told me it was [for the] best that I found out how she felt. Then he said I had no reason to wait to get my [temple] endowments; so on July 15, 1953 I went to the Idaho Falls Temple for this purpose. That [same] evening I went over to my brother Tom’s home and his wife Ella said,
“Why don’t you write my sister, Shirley, and invite her to the family reunion at Minidoka Dam Park?“
So I did. My letter went something like this:
I understand you are looking for a husband. Well, I am looking for a wife. If you will come down to the reunion, I just might marry you. I like your sister Ella and the good qualities she has. If you are anything like her I am sure I will like you.
The reunion was on the 18th of July , my 20th birthday. Shirley came down with the Kay Hunters and they stopped by the house just so she could meet me. It was midnight and when they said they were going down to the dam to sleep, they invited me to go with them and I said “No”. After they left I got more awake and thought to myself, “You dummy, you ask her down here and then you’re too sleepy to go out with her?” So I got up, asked Dad for the car, promised to come back a 8:00 a.m. the next morning to pick them up, and left. Shirley and I spent the next day walking, talking and holding hands, and exchanged maybe a kiss or two. She said she had to go back to lead the singing in Sunday School. I talked her into letting me take her back in my father’s car, and [I] spent Sunday with her and her folks. Sunday evening I asked her to marry me. She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no either. She kissed me and suggested we wait a while and think about it. We were married the following May [13, 1954] in the Logan Temple for time and eternity. Later I realized she had been the answer to my prayers when I was going with Vivian. Through exercising my faith and getting my [temple] endowments, just three days later I met the girl I was to marry.
Dad always spoke fondly of his mission with Mom in Nevada. He had a longtime goal and great desire to serve another mission in his later years. That goal was achieved when Shirley and Del were called to serve together in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission from 1997- 99. He wrote:
Shortly after our marriage we were called on a stake mission together, to labor among the Lamanites on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation at Owyhee, Nevada. We were the only missionaries for 100 miles in all directions. The main part of the new building there had just been finished and Shirley and I painted, varnished doors, and made new drapes for all the windows. … Our mission lasted for one year, from July 1954 to July 1955. Our eldest son, Jay Dell, was born [in Boise] while we were [serving] there [in Nevada]. He made quite a show for the Indians because of his blue eyes and blond hair. After our Stake Mission in Nevada, we lived in Seattle, Washington, for a short time [where I worked for Boeing and where James was born]. Our first little girl, Susan Racine, had died there in Dec 1957 of acute croup. This was a great shock to us and we miss her terribly. We know she was a special little girl for our Father in Heaven to want her back so soon. We look forward to having her back during the millennium.
We came to Boise and lived there for some time [where Patricia, Steven, and LeAnn were born]. Then in 1963, because of the need for a better job, we moved 45 miles away to Mountain Home, Idaho. By this time we had [a total of] five children. LeAnn was only a small baby when we moved. In Mountain Home we both grew a lot. I became a counselor in Sunday School and Shirley became a counselor in Relief Society. Our seventh child, Debra Kay was born there. In 1964 we moved from Mountain Home to McMinnville, Oregon. I was working but was looking for something better when a member of the church suggested I set up my own shop. He said he could almost guarantee us $20,000 a year from insurance co-claims. He even offered to co-sign with me to borrow money to start the business. We looked into the matter and did find some property which had a home and a shop on it. We decided we had better fast and pray about it. After church one day, while I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants, I had this experience: As I was reading, I seemed to see between the lines; “Go to Sweet Home. There is a job for you there.” We had received an answer to our prayers and we rejoiced. The next morning I started looking through the paper for job openings and ended up accepting a job in Newberg. I worked for two hours but became so uneasy that I left and headed for Portland, but couldn’t continue because of the feeling within me. Finally I telephoned Sweet Home to ask about a job there as body shop foreman. I talked to the manager and I was so shaky that I asked only if the job was still open, and would it be worthwhile for me to drive down there. When I got there I talked to him for an hour before I accepted the job. Oh, what a lack of faith! The Lord led me there and still it took me a long time to accept the job.
While we were living in Sweet Home, two more children, Scott and Alice, were born to us. We were about seven years behind in our doctor bills, mostly because of having had the children so close together and moving so often. It was at this time that I had another example of how our lives are guided. I had gone to a [priesthood] leadership meeting and came home enthused about the counsel we had been given which was to work towards getting out of [financial] bondage. Shirley and I talked it over. We agreed that we needed to do something, but what? She offered to go to work even though she knew I wouldn’t hear of such a thing. We knew it wouldn’t be right to borrow more to pay the past due bills but wondered if in our case it would be different. Three days later I had my answer and it was, “Don’t worry about the bills; you will be working in a different place and will be able to pay them.”
About three weeks later, my mother died in St. George, Utah. We went to the funeral and had a lot of car trouble en route. In St. George I replaced the head on the engine. We then left for Pocatello, taking Kathy [my sister], LaVell [her husband] and their oldest children with us. The car was not running very well but we got there. The next morning as we were leaving we threw a rod in the engine and had to be towed back to LaVell’s place. We borrowed money from LaVell to buy a rebuilt motor for the car. When we got home we borrowed money from the bank to repay LaVell and enough more to pay our old and long overdue bills. Just a week later the boss told me he was closing down his business, a Chevrolet dealership, as things were not going very well for him. We prayed again for help and I found work in Corvallis. I went back to school nights, taking up Vocational Education. My new job was the answer to revelation I had earlier. I was making $200 more a month that I had been in Sweet Home and we repaid the loan without any problem.
With the aid of my instructor at Oregon State University, I investigated a job with Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland. I was accepted and in 1970 we moved from Corvallis to Portland. Our baby, David, was only five weeks old at this time. I taught school for two years but then returned to industry. We had another little boy, Edward, making a total of eleven children — a great posterity for anyone. We love them all so much and are proud of their accomplishments. This I know: The Lord watches over His children and He does answer our prayers. Now I bear testimony that the gospel is here to help us help ourselves. When I look back over my life I realize that I can accomplish little on my own but much if I have the help of my Father in Heaven. I feel that all mankind may have the same opportunity if they will just learn to help each other and in return they will end up helping themselves.
As you can see Dad was articulate in his writings. We know that Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years back. Fortunately his wasn’t an extremely severe case, memory wise, but he suffered all the symptoms and he probably had it for much longer than we realize. Here is a description of the disease that I found:
As the disease advances, symptoms include confusion, irritability, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss, and the general withdrawal of the sufferer as the senses decline. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Individual prognosis is difficult to assess, as the duration of the disease varies. Alzheimer’s disease develops for an indeterminate period of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. The average life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years.
One thing about Dad was that he enjoyed humor and a good joke, although his timing wasn’t always perfect his jokes were actually funny. My wife Jeri shared with me her first impressions of him. She noticed how he took an interest and made time to talk with her and she liked him immediately. When he would tell a joke she thought it was “cute” how his belly would shake. I remember some of his jokes.
For example: What is grey, howls at the moon, and is full of cement? Response: I don’t know! Answer: A coyote. Response: But wait, how is a coyote full of cement? Answer: It’s not, I just threw that in to make it hard!! Then his belly would shake. Well, we all know that Dad wasn’t perfect but I remember him paraphrasing the Apostle J. Golden Kimball (the “swearing apostle”), saying “I’ll never go to hell, because I repent to damn fast!!”. Then his belly would shake again. With some people, the more they think on a subject the less likely they are to do the right thing. But with Dad, the more he would think on a subject the more likely he would be to do the right thing – and this was especially true of moral issues. That was always a quality I hoped to emulate. Dad was faithful in the Church and honored the Priesthood. I remember once when Jim was a toddler – he had a very very bad ear ache. As he was screaming in pain, Mom and Dad could not get him to swallow any medicine. They even ground the pills up into powder to make it easier to swallow but Jim was still fiercely determined not to take it. Finally, amidst the screaming, Dad placed his hands on Jims head and blessed him to be healed by the Priesthood authority. Jim immediately stopped crying, became completely calm and never had any more problem. I have never ever forgotten that. But he was also a righteous Priesthood holder in his ordinary day to day assignments. The following story is very typical of him. He wrote:
At one time I was home teacher to a family living on a hill in the country. They had a lot of animals including some goats. I told them that as a baby I had been allergic to cow’s milk and was given goat’s milk. The bishop had asked me to encourage them to hold family home evenings, so every time I went there I would ask them about this and then change the subject. Many times they would reply that they were a close family and were doing things together. After about seven months [of this] the mother of the family asked Shirley to request me not to ask about home evenings any more. So I quit. Six weeks later the mother brought me a goat as a gift. I wasn’t home at the time. [However] The next time I visited them they announced they were having [family] home evenings and I was very pleased that I had accomplished the goal. Later on I was able to see the moral: If you’re going to exhort someone to good works, do a good job or you may just end up getting their goat!
BTW: At the time, we kids thought Dad had gone off the deep end in bringing home a goat. We children were certainly not going to drink any goats milk! It wasn’t until now that I realized it wasn’t really his idea.
We know Dad had challenges in his youth but that he also loved his family very much, especially his mother for whom he had very tender feelings. He must have really loved his family a lot because he always wanted a large family of his own. Twelve children was his goal – although he didn’t quite make that. I remember that for Family Home Evening, his favorite opening hymn would be “Love at Home”. Always. He just liked that song.
He was also very fond of the short movie “Johnny Lingo” because of the message it carried. He would show it to people with a filmstrip projector and audio tape. He made it clear he expected his sons to absorb the moral of the story in how we treated our wives some day.
Dad had a love for learning and reading and I remember he would read a lot – books on Church doctrine – and biographies, like “Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God / Son of Thunder” or “Jacob Hamblin, Buckskin Apostle”. He would loan out his books to others, and rarely get them back, but that never stopped him. He was often interested in new things and always eager for self improvement. For example, he would memorize new words and post them for display.
I sensed that in his later years he grew frustrated with his mental constraints and had a self-awareness that not everything was right with him physically as he pursued various vitamin regimes, home remedies, and naturopathic cures.
Though mostly tone deaf, probably due to the loud guns in the military, Dad had a love of music and he liked to sing. When I was 9 he volunteered me to sing a duet with him: The hymn was “Come All Ye Sons of God”. I think the words were just as important to him as the melody. He had me memorize the song so we could sing it together and I still have it memorized.
I rejoice that I was personally able to spend time with him in this last year of his life, making it a point to walk with him at his pace, sit with him in priesthood meeting, give him a hug, and attend quorum meetings with him, just me and him. I wanted to do all I could to honor him and I hope that he felt it. I got to drive him home from church a few times this year and we had some great conversations in the car. He really was still the same Dad that I knew and loved. I just needed to initiate the conversation — for a change. I confess that I have not been sad in the least at his passing because I know it was his time. That may seem strange to some but I know that this is right, for in the Gospel knowledge we can rejoice at times when others can only grieve. Free from the constraints of mortality, his spirit is now soaring and I know his joy is great at the reunion with his parents and siblings. I know he looked forward to it. I also know he will miss Shirley greatly but their separation will be comparatively short until they are reunited and then crowned with glory in the mansions on high.
In the pre-mortal realm Delbert Mackley was a great and noble spirit son of our Father in Heaven and so he was born in the covenant and is a son of Abraham and was granted a rich posterity, the desire of his heart, and the other blessings of Abraham.
In closing, let me review those blessings.
I am confident and sure, in the name of Jesus, that this is and shall be so. AMEN
EPILOGUE The funeral was held 9/23/2011 at the Woodland 1st Ward Chapel. The chapel was filled to capacity with over 50 relatives in addition to the friends and acquaintances from Woodland and also from Portland, St. Johns were he lived for many years.
After the funeral service, Delbert J. Mackley was buried with military honors at the Willamette National Cemetery.
Delbert Jay Mackley, 78, passed away on September 16, 2011 at his home in Woodland, Washington. He was born in Driggs, Idaho, on July 18, 1933, to Albert and Pearl Mackley. He married Shirley McKenzie on May 13, 1954. They had 11 children. Del and Shirley lived in several places throughout the northwest: Boise and Mt. Home, Idaho; McMinnville, Sweet Home, Corvallis, and Portland, Oregon, before moving to Woodland, Washington in 2002. Del served his country in the Idaho Army National Guard and in the U.S. Navy. He worked as an auto body repairman, as a teacher at Benson High School in Portland, as a welder, security guard, and at the Boeing Company. He was a devoted lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and served a mission in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife. Many people were touched by his conviction of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Del had a love of the outdoors and gardening, as well as improving himself through learning.
Del is survived by his wife, Shirley; sons Jay (Jeri) of La Grande, OR; Jim (Nancy) of Bonney Lake, WA; Steve (Mary) of Beaverton, OR; Scott (Lisa) of Louisville, KY; David of Gresham, OR; Ed of Portland, OR; daughters Patricia Peacock (Davin) of Ellensburg, WA; LeAnn Stephan (Gerald) of Troutdale, OR; Debra Monson (Scott) of Woodland, WA; Alice Smithson (Gabe) of Morristown, TN; 38 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren with 2 on the way; two brothers — Stanley of Overton, NV; and George (Noreen) of Ivins, UT, and one sister, Kathleen Hunter (LaVell) of Kuna, Idaho. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Susan Racine Mackley, great-grandson Vincent James Mackley, his parents, and his brothers Frank, Blaine, Thomas, and Charles.