Retired educators are Ephraim Middle School Candlelight honorees
By Suzanne Dean
Dec. 21, 2017
EPHRAIM—Two retired educators who have also given decades of service to their communities received Christmas candles during the Ephraim Middle School Candlelight awards program on Wednesday, Dec. 13, in the Eccles Center at Snow College in Ephraim.
The awards went to Bob Bessey, 82, of Manti, who taught math for 27 years in the South Sanpete School District and who also served four terms on the Sanpete County Commission, and to Ralph Brenchley, 76, of Ephraim, who taught 44 years at Snow College as well as served in the Utah National Guard and in the LDS Church.
Nineteen eighth-graders who have maintained a 4.0 grade-point average since sixth grade participated in presenting candles to Bessey and Brenchley.
Bessey admitted to the audience, which filled the Jorgensen Concert Hall, that the honor wasn’t a complete surprise: “When my wife came out with a change of clothes at 6 p.m. and said we had to be at the Eccles Center at 7, I started to get suspicious.”
Brenchley said he had no idea he was going to be recognized. After listening to Ephraim Middle School administrators read a glowing biography of him, he said, “After that eulogy, there’s nothing left but to bury me.”
He said sometimes people come up to him and tell him they were in his class at Snow College. He said he doesn’t always remember them. “But know that I love you,” he said, “and when I was teaching, there wasn’t a day I didn’t look forward to going to work.”
Bessey and three brothers were raised in Manti by a single mother, Ethel Bessey Ahlstrom. According to Bessey’s biography read at the Candlelight ceremony, his mother was “a classic example of the hard work required to survive in the mid-1930s through the 1950s and taught her boys to be good, dependable workers.”
When Bessey was in high school, he found he was talented in math. He helped friends and his older brother with math so they could maintain the grades required to stay on the basketball team.
Bessey went into the army in order to get money for college. From there, he attended Snow College and graduated from Utah State University.
He got a teaching job in Kearns in Salt Lake County, but he and his wife, Carolyn, wanted to get back to Manti. So they moved back, and Bob took jobs outside of teaching until a position opened up.
Bob taught full-time at Gunnison Valley High, then part-time at both Gunnison Valley and Manti High and finally full-time at Manti. According to the biography read during the program, “He became known and knighted as ‘Sir Bessey’ or just ‘Sir,’” in recognition of his lifetime of devotion to the Manti Templars.
During the 1970s, he was elected to the Manti City Council and later as Manti mayor, a post his great-grandfather, Anthony Wayne Bessey, had also held. From there, Bob was elected to the county commission, which included service on many Six-County and state committees.
Even after Bob retired from the commission, he served on the Utah State Water Resources Board, the Utah Community Impact Board and as president of the Sanpete County Farm Bureau.
After retiring from Manti High, Bob purchased a sheep herd, “a lifetime dream of his,” according to the biography. He and his wife have four grown children.
“Bob loves his wife, Carolyn, his dogs and his fellowmen. He is happy to help where and when he can and grateful to be a resident of his beloved Manti.”
Brenchley grew up in Preston, Idaho, as the oldest of seven children of Reed and Nell Brenchley. His parents taught service to God, family and country. At age 17, just after graduating from high school, he joined the Idaho National Guard, and he and 11 buddies took a train to Ford Ord, Calif., for basic training.
Later, Ralph transferred to the Utah National Guard, where he served for 34 years. For a time, he was commander of the Manti unit and later became commander at Camp Williams. He retired as a colonel.
His three sons have followed his example. All have served in the guard, all have been deployed and two currently serve as officers.
Ralph graduated from Utah State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history and at age 26 was hired as a Snow College professor. He taught for 44 years at Snow, “touching the hearts and minds of thousands of students along the way,” according to a biography read at the Candlelight ceremony.
When the college ran into financial problems, he taught his final two years without compensation.
Ralph has filled many callings in the LDS Church, including bishop, stake president, patriarch, temple worker and sealer. As a young man, he served in the Southwest Indian Mission in New Mexico and Arizona. In later life, he and his wife, Clarene, served in Columbia, S.C.
He has volunteered his time to the Boy Scouts, to elementary and middle school history fairs and to the Sanpete Valley Hospital Foundation Board. And, according to his biography, “He has spoken at countless historic and patriotic community events.”
He and Clarene have been married for 53 years and have five children and 12 grandchildren.
“Together, Ralph’s and Clarene’s examples of sacrifice, true charity and service continue to be an inspiration to his family, his friends and his community,” his biography said.