By Betsy and A. Kent Christensen
Gene England was an unforgettable friend for a great variety of reasons. We first admired him for his zeal in having the courage to fight against the Vietnam War. Having thoroughly researched the reasons behind the war and the ongoing problems there, he was brave enough to come out strongly against it—and he was almost alone. It was a long time before anyone agreed with him. Eventually, we all came to realize he was right, and had been from the beginning, but it was many months before most of us, and the nation as a whole, came around to his correct conclusions. That took real courage!
He was also an energetic leader of an effort by several Mormon families (including ours) to find a glorious natural retreat into the woods about 45 minutes from Palo Alto, which we purchased and named Bearmont. It included some areas of redwood trees. We met there for campfires, to enjoy a tranquil and beautiful place, to weed out the poison oak, to get away from the maddening crowds, and to enjoy each other and our families. The land was divided into lots, and each family had one. Gene was always the ringleader in the Bearmont Enterprise and deserves most of the credit for our happiness there, and for our many memories of that happiness.
Gene was a wonderful friend to our fisherman son, John. Off he would go with all the boys, and sometimes a few girls, who loved to fish. Gene would be their leader and also their buddy, loving fishing himself. They learned to fish in a new place, with new bait, probably in a new way. It was a wonderful experience for all the kids, and a true joy for those of us with a son that was included.
In 1966, Gene England and Wes Johnson founded the magazine Dialogue as a forum for Mormon scholarship. Kent used to go over one evening a week to edit manuscripts. Gene’s skill and energy played a decisive role in the magazine’s success.
Gene had a set of excellent values through which he judged not only the LDS Church, but the community and the world. His testimonies of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith were strong and uncompromising. However, some church leaders were not comfortable with Gene’s church scholarship, which was sometimes critical but always innovative. He personally brought back into the church fold many friends and acquaintances whose diminishing testimonies were a cause of great personal pain, not only for themselves but for Gene. There are many who now credit Gene for not only their present membership but for their church activities and the happiness of their entire family.
Gene was valiant, virtuous, and noble! We should all aspire to be more like him! He was a great man, a great husband, a great father.
He is greatly missed.