‘The Hand of God’

Solar eclipse evokes humble reflections



By John Hales

Staff Writer

Aug. 23, 2017







Hundreds, probably thousands, of Sanpete residents beheld the solar eclipse with “ahhhs” and awe on Monday, where locally the celestial event was seen at 88-90 percent of totality.

And if words like “awe,” “beheld” and “celestial” make it sound like a sacred event rather than a scientific one, well, there’s a reason for that—especially for Sanpete residents who traveled elsewhere to view the eclipse in its 100-percent totality.

“I wasn’t prepared for it to be a religious experience,” tweeted Fairview resident, and Utah’s lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, who saw the eclipse from Alturas Lake, about 120 miles north of Twin Falls, Idaho. “Totality is something impossible to explain. I thought 99 percent was amazing—and then it hit. …I cried.”

Cox retweeted someone else’s comment that, “I told my kids it was like seeing the hand of God.”

Back at home in Sanpete, Ephraim resident Matthew Hebert was less transcendental about it all—but what else would you expect from a 10-year-old? “It’s cut out like a cookie,” said the boy as the moon bit out the first chunk of light from the sun shortly after 11 a.m. Monday.

Hebert and seven other youngsters watched the eclipse from a porch of a home on Ephraim Main Street, enjoying the astronomical event even through the tuft of clouds that obscured the view.

“The one day that clouds had to be in our way, and it had to be today,” said 14-year-old Kaitlyn Ogden.

At a park behind Ephraim Public Library, a sparsely attended viewing party watched the moon’s passage between earth and sun, using eclipse-viewing glasses provided by the library.

The fewness of people was not an accurate indicator of the interest, though, said Library Director Lori Voshell.

The library, as did Gunnison Civic Library, received about 1,000 glasses from STAR_Net (Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network).

Voshell said she distributed about 700 of the glasses. “I’m tickled with the turnout,” she said.

At first, the cloudy skies over Ephraim worried her. “I was afraid we would have to turn on the NASA live feed,” she said. But, “Even with the cloud cover, we were able to see it.”

Sterling resident Linda Pledger reported clear-as-clear-could-be skies which were “deep, deep blue” over Idaho Falls, from where she called the Messenger to report the eclipse in the 100-percent–totality zone.

“It was amazing,” Pledger said, describing an almost surreal scene during the two or so minutes of full eclipse.

“The shadows were gone, but it wasn’t like a sunset,” she said. “It just felt so unnatural”—a term she would say several times during her call to the newspaper—“the way it got dim, it got so dim. We did see a few stars. It was thrilling. … It was a different kind of a light. Then all of a sudden the temperature dropped. … Words cannot describe things of that nature, sometimes.”

It evoked for Pledger, as it did for Lt. Gov. Cox and likely many, many others, stirrings from a higher plane.

“It’s a very spiritual experience. I think the sun and the moon are our greatest witnesses not just of times and seasons and everything, but of the majesty of God and the universe. And to see them come together like that—it makes you think about a God, and creation.

“It just makes you—” she paused. “You kind of see yourself in a different perspective. …It does make you feel your smallness.”

All Sanpete residents will be able to experience something like that in 2045; that’s the year that the county will entirely be within the 100-percent zone of the next total solar eclipse in our part of the world.

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Mt. Pleasant boy improving
from gunshot to head

By Robert Stevens

Managing editor



            MT. PLEASANT—A 10-year old Mt. Pleasant boy is continuing to improve after he was accidentally shot in the head at a cousin’s home last week.

            According to Mt. Pleasant City Police Chief Jim Wilberg, at approximately 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16, Officer Al Taylor responded to call about an injured child at a residence near 400 North and 100 East.

            The officer found two cousins, ages 11 and 10 at home alone, and the younger boy, Javon Norman, son of Melissa and Troy Reese, bleeding from the head.

            Apparently, Javon had been staying at his cousin’s house while his mother was working. Melissa Reese said the youngsters had only been without supervision for about an hour.

            According to initial information gathered by the police, the gunshot had been inflicted by a .40 caliber handgun that had been locked up in a gun safe. One of the boys may have known the access code, Wilberg says, but one way or another, the boys got a hold of the semi-automatic pistol. The gun went off, and the bullet struck Javon.

            “This was a freak accident,” Melissa Reese said.  “The safe was locked. They [her sister’s family] don’t even know how their son knew the code. Everything was secure. “

            Javon was transported by ambulance to Sanpete Valley Hospital (SVH), and subsequently airlifted to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. According to information gathered by Wilberg’s department, the boy woke up about 4 p.m., just before being transported to Salt Lake City, and spoke a few words.

            “He is doing extremely well, feeling better and better each day,” his mother said Monday.

            Melissa posted a statement to Facebook, saying “I want to thank SVH for their fast, life-saving actions that have saved my son. Javon has a long road ahead of him and we don’t know what each day will bring. But today I am beyond grateful that he is still here with us and for the outpouring of love that has been shown to our family in this time.

            “If everyone would keep him in your prayers that would mean so much to us,” she added. “Also pray for my sister and her family.”

            Javon’s mother’s request to include her sister’s family in prayers is because more than one person victimized. “His cousin is completely distraught,” Melissa said. “This was just a tragic accident.”

            “The two boys were related, so it’s a family issue, and the families have been very cooperative,” Chief Wilburg said. “Things are very preliminary, but we just want to find out exactly what happened and how.”

            Officers involved in the investigation say an incident like this is a good reminder why gun safety should be a high priority, especially when children are around.

Wife of Spring City mayor in intensive care after collision with garbage truck

By John Hales



STERLING—It remains to be seen whether Marjorie Monnett, the wife of Spring City Mayor Jack Monnett, will walk again after a traffic accident last week left her without the use of her legs.

Monnett, 69, was conscious and recovering, though still in intensive care, at Utah Valley Medical Center on Tuesday, when the Messenger reached Jack Monnett to ask about his wife’s condition.

“Right now, everything’s hypothetical,” Jack Monnett said.

On Friday, Aug. 18, the vehicle Marjorie Monnett was driving slammed into a North Sanpete Disposal garbage truck that failed to stop at the intersection of Gunnison Reservoir Road and U.S. 89 north of Sterling, according to information from Utah Highway Patrol.

Monnett’s vehicle was demolished in the collision. Monnett was LifeFlighted to Utah Valley Medical Center with one crushed vertebra, and two others that were fractured.

Surgery replaced the crushed vertebra.

“We’re hoping that it takes; it looks like it will,” Jack Monnett said.

As of Tuesday, though, Marjorie Monnett did not have voluntary use of her legs, though they showed signs of reflexive action.

“That’s a positive sign,” Jack Monnett said. “Things are on track. We’ll find out in the next couple of weeks how much rehabilitation can do.” In addition to rehabilitation, doctors expect Marjorie to be in a neck brace for at least six months, Jack Monnett said.

Marjorie Monnett suffered a concussion, and doesn’t remember at all anything about the accident, “which is probably good,” Jack Monnett said.

Jack Monnett said he didn’t know anything about his wife’s condition the day of the accident until he arrived at the hospital after being informed she had been taken there. At the time of her transport, she was listed as being in poor condition.

At the hospital, someone showed him photographs of the accident. “I fell to pieces,” he said. “I lost it. You don’t stand much of a chance against a garbage truck.”

The driver of the North Sanpete Disposal garbage truck was Kevin Taylor, 50, of Ephraim.

According to UHP, Taylor was headed eastbound toward the highway, did not stop at a stop sign at the intersection, and proceeded directly into the path of Marjorie Monnett’s vehicle.

Jack Monnett said the owners of North Sanpete Disposal have been very supportive, their daughter even going to the hospital to support the Monnets.

“It’s been as hard on them as it is on us” he said.

UHP stated that charges are pending against Taylor. As of Tuesday, none had been filed.

Gena and Rondo Latu share a happy life together, some 20 years after Gena fled an abusive relationship in California. She now has found a way to help other victims of domestic violence.

‘It Takes One Good Person’ —
Woman uses her own experience to help Kammy Mae organization

  • By John Hales
  • 08-17-2017


            SPRING CITY—Gena Latu directed her husband where to set up the Aloha Joe’s catering van, the three-month-old business they run together.

            As the strains of a string quartet playing familiar classical-music tunes as well interpretations of modern pop/rock songs drifted through Spring City’s park during a fundraiser for the Kammy Mae Foundation on Saturday, Aug. 12, the heavy smell of cooking oil began to waft from the food truck.

            It was such a different smell from the oil that leaked as though from a sieve from the car she drove from California to Sanpete 20 years ago. She spent two to three times as much on oil as she did on gasoline during the trip. It was the only vehicle her former husband had allowed her to have; it was the only way she could escape.

            “There was a visible trail of oil all the way from L.A. to Ephraim,” Latu says.

            Less visible, perhaps, was the trail of tears she shed from 12 years of an abusive relationship.

            It’s almost surprising how easily Latu talks about her experience with domestic violence, but it’s because she is practicing what she preaches.

            “It’s got to keep coming out,” she says. “Before, you didn’t talk about it.”

            Changing that is why the first $50 earned at any Aloha Joe’s catering gig, even before covering expenses, goes to the Kammy Mae Foundation, which held a fundraiser at the Spring City park last Saturday, Aug. 12. The foundation’s goals are domestic violence awareness and prevention.

            “It takes one good person to teach you you’re worth something,” Latu says. She found that person in her current husband, and the two have built what appears to be a happy family. They’ve adopted four children, in addition to the seven Latu had from her previous marriage.

            One of those seven children, at 26 weeks, was literally stomped out of the womb during a beating Latu suffered at the hands of her then-husband. She held the infant’s head inside her while she drove herself to the hospital. The boy was in the hospital for a year; he is still confined to a wheelchair.

            Even after that, Latu stayed for “another four kids.”

            Abusers “rob you of your self-worth,” she says.

            It was a 5-year-old daughter who finally brought her to her senses. During a vicious event, the girl found a hammer and with all her might hit her father in the head with it. It gave Latu enough time to escape, but it left her thinking, “My daughter had to save me? I’m not strong enough to save myself?”

            Though it doesn’t sound like it, Latu is one of the lucky ones.         

            On average, two to three people per month die in Utah in domestic violence incidents. This summer, there’s been a spike in that number.

            “Eight!” Tammy Coates, the mother of Kammy Mae Edmunds, all but shouts. “Eight in one month.”

            Indeed, eight women and children were killed though domestic violence between June 1 and July 15. If suicides of suspected killers are included, the number rises to 12, according to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

            By the beginning of August, Utah had already surpassed the 2016 domestic fatality number. Last year, there were 20. There have already been 21 this year.

            More than a third of homicides in Utah each year are the result of domestic-violence.

            Kammy Mae Edmunds, Tammy Coates’ daughter, was the Mt. Pleasant woman who died at the end of March, from an apparent domestic-abuse incident. (Her friends and family would say the cause of death was obvious, but the case against Anthony Christensen, who was living with Kammy Mae at the time of her death, is ongoing).

            At the beginning of the event, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox spoke to the number of domestic-violence deaths in the state.

            Cox lauded the manner in which the local community was coming together to bring awareness to the issue and raise the ante as a community in the fight against it.

            This week, Coates took her message beyond Sanpete, traveling to Vernal to meet Meredith Cherry, a woman who is on a four-year, 10,000-mile journey on horseback to raise domestic-violence awareness.

            Cherry is also a domestic-abuse survivor. She started her journey last January. While in Vernal, Cherry and Coates made a joint appearance on a local radio program.

            During the program, Coates mentioned a woman who went only by the name of Jenn because she was recently out of an abusive relationship and had a protective order against her former partner.

            Jenn, Coates said, had found letters written by her former partner’s ex-wife indicating that even though she had left him, she “was still harassed by him and bullied,” until she finally killed herself to get away from him permanently.

            “We all have the same goal: Getting the word out that we have to bring a stop to this, and getting the word out that there is help,” Coates said.

            On the way home from Vernal, she stopped for a drink at a store near Soldier Summit. The clerk saw her Kammy Mae T-shirt and mentioned she was also a survivor.

            “She never told anyone. Her kids were conditioned to not tell anyone,” Coates says.

            Stopping that kind of silence is what remembering Kammy Mae is all about, Coates and others say.

            As for Gena Latu, she says she can spot the signs of domestic abuse a mile away—and it’s everywhere.

            “When I go to the store, I can tell who’s getting it,” she says. There’s a look in the eyes of both victim and abuser; there’s the way the abuser says things; there’s the way the victim reacts. “You can tell.”

            Asked whether it’s painful to talk about her experience, especially when it’s difficult and painful to just to hear about it, her answer is surprising. With an end-of-discussion firmness, she says, “No. I survived it.”

            Yet she also laughs and jokes in a way that is heartwarming and disconcerting at the same time.

            “You have to have laughter,” she says. “I need to be strong, and take what happened and turn it into a good thing.”



We couldn’t have said it better ourselves: Search & Rescue volunteers are ‘phenomenal’


“These guys are just phenomenal!”

We wish the Messenger could take credit for that exclamation about the Sanpete Search and Rescue, but that honor goes to Sgt. Jayson Albee, the liaison between the S&R and the Sanpete County Sheriff’s Department.

But even if we weren’t the ones to first say it, we can at least echo it—loudly—through the streets, fields, valleys and mountains of Sanpete County.

Especially the mountains, where Search and Rescue volunteers spend so much of their time helping others.

The Messenger sat down with Albee after the successful rescue of a young girl on Skyline Drive, reported in the Aug. 10 issue of the newspaper. During our interview, Albee opened our eyes on just what these “guys” (the group does indeed include women, it should be noted) do.

Between July 2 and Aug. 9, the Search and Rescue responded to nine different calls, including two at the very same time, three in a single 12-hour period, and five in as many days. Some details about these calls will show why these local heroes are worthy of the name.


  • July 2 and July 15 — Two ATV accidents, which included locating injured individuals and transporting them to medical helicopters. One of them was an 11-year-old child who had to be LifeFlighted. (Did you know that it is up to the Search and Rescue to establish landing areas on the mountain for helicopter rescues?) In the other incident, the individual was trapped in nasty, steep, rugged canyon and, with broken ribs and possibly broken neck and back, had to be carried 1.5 miles to the landing zone.

“That’s always a little tricky,” Albee says.

That, our friends, is what we call an understatement.


  • July 20-21 — Two stuck vehicles in rainy, muddy, slick conditions. While Albee made it clear (and wished us to do likewise) that Search and Rescue means rescuing people, not vehicles, S&R volunteers made sure people who wanted to wait things out until drier conditions had enough food, water and fuel; the others, they brought safely down off the mountain.


  • July 23 — A person lost on the Ferron side of 12-Mile Canyon called in at 8:30 p.m. Cellphone coverage was so spotty that dispatchers could make out only “lost,” “injured,” and “Duck Fork.” The call was lost before they could even get GPS coordinates. With such an un-pinpointed area, S&R volunteers were on the call until 4:30 that morning, searching for a long while before using ropes and pulleys to finally rescue a man, who had slipped off a ridge into a deep ravine.


  • July 23 — A call came in at 9:03 p.m. (notice the date as the same as the previous one, and only 33 minutes later). Someone had a broken ankle, this time clear up the other end of the county in Fairview Canyon. Albee divided volunteers and resources “the best we could” between there and Duck Fork. The Fairview Canyon incident would require a helicopter to do a hoist. There are only two choppers in the state with that capability, and neither of them currently have the ability for night rescue. Volunteers hiked into him, took him pain medication and other supplies, built fires to keep him warm and spent about five hours with him until first light when the helicopter could lift him out. It took even these seasoned volunteers almost two and a half hours to hike to him through “really nasty, thick, very steep” terrain.

“That’s the neat thing about our guys: They’re prepared to do that,” Albee says.


  • July 24 — On the way home from Duck Fork, at about 8:30 a.m., another call: Someone had gone into anaphylactic shock due to a bee sting. Medical assistance was required. Almost any time medical assistance is needed on the mountain, it’s going to involve Search and Rescue because ambulances can’t go “off-road.”

Notice that the last few incidents all occurred during a time when everyone else in the county was celebrating a nice, relaxing, recreational four-day Pioneer Day holiday.

“When it’s a holiday, and we should be enjoying our holiday, we get called out to help somebody who’s having a bad day,” Albee says.

While that’s amazing by itself, the real tremendous thing about it is that Search and Rescue volunteers arent esentful about it.       “They’re a group of people who want to serve, enjoy serving, helping, and doing things that other people can’t do or aren’t willing to do.,” Albee said.


  • Aug. 4 — Another stranded motorist in very muddy, uncertain conditions—this time a young family of five, one of the children a 7-month-old infant. Search and Rescue got them back to their camp, where the campers made arrangements to get their vehicle. “They weren’t really prepared to spend the night, mom with a little baby,” Albee says. They weren’t in any real danger, “But you can understand the concern of a dad with little kids, wanting to keep his family safe and comfortable.”



Now admittedly it was a busier than usual period, Albee said. But it shows what our Search and Rescue volunteers do, and what they must be prepared to do. In that period, they put in 466 combined manhours. That’s the equivalent of more than 11 fulltime workdays.

Then there’s the additional 6-10 hours of training and meetings every month, more than that if they’re specially trained in water rescue (deep-water, swift-water and ice), snow rescue (avalanche, snowmobiles and snow cats), technical rescue (ropes, high-angle, low-angle, confined-space and heavy (weight) rescue), or on the communications team (radio operations, GPS and APRS—a real-time direct-to-computer tracking system).

Then you’ve got the parades and celebrations in which their presence is ubiquitous (think: Mormon Miracle Pageant or Sanpete County Fair).

Their dedication and sense of duty is nothing short of amazing. “The pager goes off, and they’re expected to run out the door, grab their gear, and go spend the night up on the mountain with little or no warning at all,” Albee says, and often in conditions that no other sane person would dare go out in.

“I keep saying,” Albee says, and we say it, too, “My hat’s off to them.”

If you see one of them, shake his or her hand and with us say, “Thank you.”


Sanpete Search and Rescue are:

Bart Hennagir

Mark Taylor

Aaron Broomhead

Todd Anderson

Joe Shoppe

Barry Bradley

Beau Lund

Orson Cook

Marc Lambert

Kevin Madsen

Spencer Mack

Scott Mower

Donald Childs

Les Haskins

Kerry Nielson

Niel Johnson

Claude Pickett

Andy Christensen

Zeke Stevens

Dave Welch

John Collard

Preston Pritchard

Jesse Bell

RL Taylor

Dave Taylor

BJ Roman

Dave Bowles

Dick Allred

Katy Sedlak

Lory Quarnberg

Glen Hoenicke

John Allsop

Noel Bertleson

Malcolm Powell

Brian Nielson

Jayson Albee

Brian Sorensen

Bruce Burnham

Jared Buchanan

Brett Olsen

Scott Watson

David Sedlak

Vote tallies for the Mt. Pleasant mayoral primary, and the Spring City council-seat primaries, as of Tuesday, Aug. 17.

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