SNAPSHOTS FROM NEW ENGLAND AND BEYOND
By Bonnie Dalton and Kate and Ken Hadley
Gene and Charlotte England were never happier than when they were among their many friends. Gene attracted people to him like a magnet. He was somewhat of a “pied piper” who had a following of people wherever he went, and from all walks of life. Gene and Charlotte loved entertaining people in their home, so they decided to build their new home in Provo right across the street from BYU, which allowed easy access for friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors to gather there. No excuse was too small to make a call to a bunch of people to enjoy Charlotte’s homemade bread and lots of good conversation. No special invitation was needed; everyone was welcome.
We—Kate and Ken Handley and Bonnie and Gene Dalton—were among the people caught up by the magic of getting to know Gene and Charlotte England. We became friends during the summer of 1958 when we all arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the same time. We were all going to different graduate schools but attended church together at the Cambridge Branch.
Kate describes their first meeting:
Gene and Charlotte were the first couple to invite us to dinner. We had just come out of the Cambridge Branch and they hurried up to us and invited us. We were green as green, and we felt very lucky to be invited. We were newly married and they were old hands with four young children. That dinner invitation started our friendship which lasted all our lives.
Bonnie describes the way she and her husband Gene began their friendship with the Englands.
We were attracted to Gene and Charlotte immediately when we first attended the Cambridge Branch. We knew that we wanted to get to know them. So when we received their invitation to spend a day on a beautiful Cape Cod beach with them, we couldn’t turn it down. It didn’t take us long to pack a picnic lunch and head south for our first experience on Cape Cod and our first outing with the Englands. Gene (Dalton) was already heavily involved with his studies. so it was a big commitment of time to spend an entire day playing on the beach. But it turned out to be one of the most important and rewarding decisions that we ever made. Getting to know Gene and Charlotte England has enriched our lives in a way that no other experience has ever done.
Kate reminisces about life in Boston with the Englands:
We got caught up immediately in Gene’s whirl of activity, discussions, trips, dinners, etc. We planned a trip to New York City, and Gene and Bonnie Dalton volunteered to take care of the England children so they could go. We went very early to the England home, at their suggestion, and of course they were not ready. Someone was mopping the kitchen floor as I remember. But we finally got in the car and left for our big adventure: dinner in a great Italian restaurant, a show, and lots of fun. We remember a very heavy discussion in the car about capital punishment.
Back in Cambridge we continued our get-togethers of eating out, going to shows, talking, talking, talking, and much laughter. Games of Scrabble combined with intense philosophical discussions. When Gene was finished with his studies in meteorology at MIT, they left for California and George Air Force Base. We remember fondly visiting them there a few years later. Over the years we got together many times. We heard Gene speak at a Sunstone conference on whether the church was truer than the gospel. We remember so well his speaking out on the Vietnam War. He was always prodding us to think more deeply and more honestly about a host of issues.
• The memorable times we got together for an evening of fun with Gene and Charlotte and the Handleys where the dessert of choice was most often strawberry shortcake or brownies topped with ice cream.
• Auditing Gene’s incredible Mormon Literature class he taught at BYU. He challenged us to think deeply about issues one doesn’t have the opportunity to discuss in most Sunday School classes.
• Discussions with Gene about the possibility of the blacks someday holding the Priesthood. I know of no person who was happier than Gene when that glorious event occurred.
• Many trips to art museums where we heard private, informal lectures by Charlotte and Gene about the art works in the exhibit. Because of this, Gene (Dalton) and I became especially knowledgeable about the museums on Cape Cod.
• A weekend at the Handley’s cabin where the mattress fell to the floor in the dead of the night. No one claims responsibility for that little accident.
• The weekend when we tended the England children while they took a trip to New York City with the Handleys. Jody was discovered examining her Mom’s sewing supplies, most notable being the box of pins she was playing with and putting in her mouth. This set in motion a trip to the emergency room where an x-ray of her stomach revealed nothing that would cause harm to any vital organs. As laid-back, very experienced parents, Gene and Charlotte only laughed at our mishap. But we were chagrined at not keeping better watch over their two-year-old child.
• The slumber party held at our home the night before Gene and Charlotte left Boston after finishing his studies at MIT. We were living in a tiny one-room apartment at Gibson Terrace (Harvard married student housing) in Cambridge. The accommodations weren’t luxurious by any means, but we found floor space for everyone: four adults and four children, including two newborns. We didn’t notice if it was not comfortable because it was our last opportunity to enjoy the warmth of a friendship which was born that year in Cambridge and continues to this very day.
• How Gene was always first in line to give of his time and money to those in need and to think of creative ways of doing it.
• Gene’s pure faith. Gene had a testimony as strong as anyone I’ve ever known. He not only shared it with others but he tried to find ways to help everyone he met increase their faith in God. He was instrumental in beginning the publication of the journal Dialogue which provided for everyone a place to express their feelings and thoughts.
Kate expresses fond final thoughts:
We saw Gene healthy for the last time at a wedding in Park City where we watched him and Charlotte dancing the night away—looking young and happy as ever. They were still in love and still enjoying life to the fullest.