I can still hear him sing, "Aska 'bout Nebraska, Aska 'bout Nebraska, Aska 'bout my mission home, the country that I love".
Those are the first lines to the Nebraska Omaha Mission song written by the late Jack Bangerter, President of the mission from 1995 - 1998.
President Bangerter passed away just a few weeks ago on July 31. I learned of his passing just a few days ago and I wanted it all the settle in before I wrote about it on my blog.
Depsite the location differences, President Bangerter and I kept in touch many times of the last 11 and half years since I have been home. He lived in Salt Lake near my grandparents, and I live in California. I had the chance to visit with him 5-6 times over the past decade.
His energy, zeal, gusto never withered. The first time I took my wife to meet him he gave us the ultimate tour. He had speakers hidden all through out his property. Mostly in little outhouse like sheds. He was so excited to show us all of his improvements. At the end of the tour - he played throughout the entire the estate, the Mission song. It was great. We sat down and played the harmonica together. It was great.
I remember once being in town during a time General Conference. I attended the General Priesthood session at a nearby regional conference center - and saw President Bangerter there. He had been home just a few months from his mission. I remember watching him. He was dressed to the nines in his suit. He was obedient and carried with him the greatest tools he had ever worked with. The scriptures.
With other visits we just chatted about the good old times and I gave him updates on my mission friends like Dave Lee, Robert Graham, Andrea Hill and Debbie Dye.
I shared with him the miracles that happened to my family as we moved to Glenwood Iowa.
My last visit about a year ago was extra special. I showed up at the same time his home teacher was there. We enjoyed a lesson together with his Bride. We chatted about the good ole times some more. We sat in quiet. As the room grew quiet the spirit was poured upon us, and I asked for him a blessing. I dont remember all that was said, but I do remember how his hands felt on my head.
President Bangerter became more than a President and friend to me. He became a father figure. I looked to his life to pattern mine.
He was successful in every right. Business owner, state senator, Bishop, and Mission President. All who knew him, looked up to him.
I feel myself rambling on because I have no words that can express how I feel.
In summary. He was a mans man, a man of God, and loved by all. His integrity was infinitely whole and void of any conflict within himself. He did was right before God. But like all men, he had his flaws, but they were so insignificant, that most of us never saw them. I know I never did.
He loved his wife greater than most men love anything. His love for her shaped the way many former missionaries love and protect their wives now.
His legacy is that of being a Pure Servant of God. There is no greater legacy.
May God bless his family with their loss and may Heaven rejoice for its gain.