Lonnie Loveday: A life of service and jokes

Image: Lonnie Loveday: Friend to all, servant to many!

Lonnie Loveday: Friend to all, servant to many! (Corey Burger)

A few blocks east of the city office sits a conservative home, with a nicely landscaped and well kept yard. Inside lives a man who has spent his life serving the community and making life better for the residents of Utah. Oh, and if you stop by you’ll most likely leave with a new friend and a few new jokes to tell as well.

On November 8th 1925 a baby boy was born in Logan, Utah. No one at that time could have imagined the impact that this one life would have on multiple generations of students and residents of Cache Valley.

Lonnie Loveday grew up in Logan, and remembers playing sports from the time he was in elementary school. Eventually he remembers in junior high playing basketball and running track. Through a valley wide track meet Lonnie was selected to represent Cache Valley in a statewide track meet in Salt Lake City, along with the 8th and 9th grade representatives. With a long jump score of 17.5 feet Lonnie took first place at the meet.

At Logan High School Lonnie continued with his love of sports running track, and playing football and basketball. At the end of his junior year, Loveday joined the military entering the U.S. Navy putting in two and a half years service. Originally stationed in Hawaii sorting mail, after about one week, Lonnie’s old junior high school football coach found him and asked if he liked what he was doing, or would he rather work on a carrier. With the help of his coach, Loveday’s military days were spent aboard the aircraft carrier U.S. Enterprise, nicknamed the “Fighting Lady.”

Once aboard the carrier the nearly 50 new recruits were told they could choose whatever job they wanted to do, however that turned out to not be true. An officer went down the line and said, “you, you, and you follow this guy.” Following his designated leader Lonnie ended up in the engineering room on the ninth floor of the carrier. Believing he wouldn’t have much chance for survival if the ship got hit Loveday spent time when he was not on duty or in battle walking the flight deck looking for the safest place, and escape routes in the event of an attack. He tried to calculate where he would have to jump if the carrier were going to sink and how far away he’d have to get from the ship in order to not get dragged under if the carrier went down.

At Okinawa a kamikaze plane hit the starboard side of the ship and went half way into the ship. A five hundred pound bomb also hit the ship but ended up being a dud and came to rest on the flight deck. Several of the sailors pushed the bomb off the fan tail into the ocean. Lonnie is sure that if the bomb had exploded it would have sunk the ship. In another Kamikaze attack the number one elevator was hit and launched over four hundred feet into the air. After getting hit the ship was sent to Seattle for repairs and during that time the war ended. Having participated in eight major battles Loveday is proud of his service and being part of the most decorated ship of that time.

After leaving the service Loveday came home and planned on finishing college before he got married. However, he met a girl from Brigham City named Vernetta Jensen. Lonnie and Vernetta were married at the end of his junior year of college. The Loveday’s had four daughters and one son beginning with Cathy Stokes, then Nancy Smith, Lonnetta Brady, Jeff Loveday, and Tracy Chicola. Lonnie and Vernetta’s posterity include twenty nine grandchildren and forty great grandchildren.

Lonnie’s career was spent doing something that he has loved his entire life and that is working with children. Beginning with a teaching job in Price, Utah for a couple of years after college he then went and taught in Franklin, Idaho for two more years. From Franklin the Loveday’s moved to California for a teaching position for thirteen years before moving back to Smithfield in 1967. When the Loveday’s returned as a member of the Cache Valley Teacher’s Association there was an opening in Providence, as well as a position as a math teacher at North Cache Junior High in Richmond. Preferring the math teaching job Lonnie took the North Cache job where he taught for twenty five more years before retiring.

After nearly four decades of teaching many would have considered that a fulfilling life and called it good. That is not the way Lonnie works though, throughout his life at the urging of friend and community people Lonnie served on the city council in Smithfield for four years and also spent four more years as the mayor in this small community.

Serving also as the director of the recreational center in Smithfield, Lonnie touched many lives along the way. Organizing several events such as “Huck Finn Days,” an event where the kids all dressed up in their best Huck Finn costumes Lonnie would have the canal stocked with fish and give prizes for the biggest fish caught. Another activity he helped to organize were pet shows where the kids would get prizes for the most unique pets. Children would show up with skunks, mules, and a variety of other animals. Another activity that Lonnie helped organize was a beauty school where ladies from USU and the community would work with the young girls and show them how to walk, and dress, and do make up and things like that. Overall these programs were all very successful. Lonnie reminisces saying, “I don’t know if I could have gone anywhere else and had the parents and community support me like they did here in Smithfield.”

For twenty two years Lonnie spent his summers off from teaching working as the recreation director. During this time he taught young kids from about the ages of five to seven to play baseball in what he called the “grasshopper league;” teams of kids with almost twenty to thirty kids per team. He gave them the nickname because he said it looked like a field of grasshoppers hopping around. He always pitched to the kids and was known to ignore the three strike rule and pitch to a kid until he got a hit.

For all his time working in the community and in the school district Lonnie has been honored many times over. A wall in his home is covered with plaques and awards that have been given to him. Awards include, Outstanding Teacher in the District, Who’s Who among American Teachers (sent in by some of his students). His wife and he were honored as the couple of the month in Smithfield City. The Elks honored him for outstanding service working with the youth. Smithfield City honored him with an outstanding citizen of the year award. North Cache honored him with an outstanding service award for his many years teaching there. His love of teaching was rewarded by being named Teacher of the Year on three separate occasions.

In talking of working with the youth Lonnie says, “I really enjoy working with the youth, if you give them a pat on the back they will work very hard for you, and they are so excited to participate they just go all out.” Lonnie says he has the youth who are all grown men and women now who come up and ask if he remembers them. Believe it or not at 86 years old, Lonnie remembers almost every one. As a matter of fact while I was there Lonnie played me a voice mail that had been recorded a day or two earlier from a former math student and grasshopper league player. The person on the voice mail said, “You were my math teacher at North Cache and you taught me to love math. You were also my grasshopper league coach when I was a little kid . . . I just wanted to visit with you and tell you how much I love you. You are a great man, and a wonderful friend. My dad loved you and my mom loved you, thank you for all you taught me about baseball . . . you always made sure I got a hit, and you helped me have fun.”

This is not an isolated incident Lonnie says many of his former students and grasshopper league players stop him in the store or on the street and express their gratitude for all that he has done for them. Lonnie’s daughter Lonnetta Brady says, “When we go out almost everywhere we go someone will come up and say hi, sometimes I just have to sit down and wait because there are a so many of them.”

Lonnie has also benefitted from his life of service. “I’ve had good communication with the youth. They’ve treated me great, and worked hard for me, and I think it helped me a lot to because it makes you feel younger and that means a lot to me. I feel when you work with people and you put your heart and mind into it, and you’re successful, you’ll love it.”

A deeply spiritual man Lonnie says that when he was on the ship during the war that it was pretty scary at times when he was in battle. During those times Lonnie says, “I prayed a lot . . . when you are in battle you don’t know what is going to happen. I told the lord that if I got out of that situation and could be blessed to get back home I’d never turn down a calling.” As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, when he was called to be in the first of three bishoprics that he served in as a councilor he had been busy working as both a teacher and a recreation director in California. He thought maybe he was too busy for a calling of that magnitude at that time. His wife reminded him of his promise made on the ship and he accepted that calling, and a host of others along the way. Lonnie’s list of church callings is as long as his legacy with the youth.

When asked what during his lifetime has been the most impressive things he’s seen invented Lonnie says going to the moon, and the invention of the shuttle.

As far as passing on some wisdom to the next generation Lonnie says, “We’ve got good youth; all we’ve got to do is head them in the right direction. I think if the parents will encourage those that are capable and willing to run for an office, or participate in high school activities and sports, I think they should do it. I think when you participate in those sports or in an office I think you’re learning. You’re getting a lot of knowledge from that, but your helping a lot of people when you do that and serve . . . I think people have to go out and do things, try to help one another. I think that brings happiness and joy to your life.”

Anyone that has got to know Lonnie Loveday knows there is also one other thing that that this spry and vibrant 85 year old gentleman is known for, and that is his jokes. I like many was treated to a few while at his house, Lonnie has a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable and happy.

Oh, if you want a treat and have time for a short story, the next time you run into Lonnie make sure you ask him about the ticket he got in Richmond a while back.