By Naomi Hatch
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake was back in his hometown of Snowflake to celebrate Pioneer Days. He served as grand marshal of the parade, accompanied by his wife Cheryl. When he spoke at the Pioneer Program that followed, he noted that being grand marshal was the “pinnacle of achievement.”
A heavy rainstorm came during the parade, but it didn’t stop the festivities. At the program, Ron Smith, president of the Snowflake Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quoted the senator’s late uncle, Jake Flake, as saying, “It takes a mighty good parade to be better than a rain storm.”
Scott Flake introduced his brother Jeff, but first told a story of an excursion with their dad, Dean when Scott was 12, Larry was 11, and Jeff was 9 or 10. Scott said their dad raised children under the guise of raising cattle.
They were at Clear Creek and the boys went fishing while their dad finished his project. Coming out of the canyon Jeff fell, flailing and hitting the canyon wall as he dropped. When the boys got to Jeff his clothes were bloody and torn, and a man with a boat was there to take the two boys to where their dad was and Jeff to the boat dock, where Dean took him to the Holbrook Hospital. Jeff was released that day with little damage done.
Scott, still holding his fishing pole and a string of fish, remembers his dad asking, “Aren’t you glad we had family prayer this morning?”
Senator Flake noted that he was glad to be in Snowflake, and spoke of the memories he had of the Main Street LDS Church.
He also related that the U.S. House of Representatives swears in newly elected members all at once, but because there are only 33 senators sworn in each election cycle, they are sworn in individually, using their own Bible. He took his LDS Quad and was sworn in. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, borrowed Flake’s Bible. Following the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed asked Senator Flake when he would tell Nelson he took an oath on the Book of Mormon. He said he hasn’t yet, but plans to.
Flake also shared memories of attending Snowflake High School. One was the Board of Education paddle that was in Mr. McGraff’s office and also on one of the parade floats.
He remembered racing the school bus home and noted that there was a sign just past the Cottonwood Bridge he jumped. One day his pants got a little low and as he jumped over the sign he got hung up, taking a while to turn over and get off the sign.
He acknowledged the celebration of the Academy Building and that it was going to be a library, noting he wished he’d visited the library more often when he was in school.
“Nobody is more shocked to see me in this position than those I went to school with,” he said, then spoke of different teachers and what they could have said.
“There was no better spring board than this to prepare me for the Senate,” he said of his heritage.
The senator’s grandfather, James Madison Flake, was in his 30s when he stood at the bedside of his wife who died. His brother Charles was shot and killed the year before. James remarried, raised 24 children and traveled all over the state to promote the cause of women’s suffrage. Senator Flake said that is a good legacy.
The senator spoke of his mother, Nerita, and the number of events, organizations, committees and boards she has served on, the number of plays she has written, all while raising 11 children, and of his father, who served as bishop of the LDS church, mayor of Snowflake and on the town council, school board and as many other boards and committees as his mother.
He spoke of Sam Turley and his late uncle Jake Flake, who was Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, and how he often sought his uncle’s advice.
He spoke of the people who grew up in Snowflake, noting that they could disagree without being disagreeable.
Senator Flake touched on the political problems facing Americans such as terrorists who are bent on destroying our country, concerns with Iraq and North Korea that are “one election or coup away.”
He also touched on the financial state of the country and the fact that we spend more than we take in, as well as local issues including the forests that need thinning and the threat to coal fired power plants.
He said that in Washington the more he sees, the more he realizes that our forefathers had a good plan. On his first day in the Senate he was taken to the vault and saw many artifacts from the Civil War, from women’s suffrage and much more.
Flake recalled that there were many brilliant and inspired leaders, and many problems the U.S. has faced, but the country has survived. “This is an enduring form of government that we have,” he said.
Senator Flake noted that it is a privilege to represent his hometown of Snowflake in the Senate, saying there is no better way than a town like Snowflake to ensure that individuals and families can live life to the fullest.
He recited a poem written by Henry Van Dyke, then spoke of travelling to 60 to 70 countries in the last decade or so, and said that there is no country in the world that offers what America does.
His wife Cheryl played the piano and sang a song about the flag.
Smith closed the meeting by speaking of a CEO with a mining company that came to his door and shared his vision of what he plans to do with the mining company. That gentleman said, “We feel something different in this community,” noting he had been to a lot of small towns before, but none had a greater feeling than right here.
“I’m glad we have a young man in the halls of power, in Washington, D.C., who feels the same thing I feel,” said Smith.
The Community Choir, conducted by Eugene Webb, sang several songs throughout the program, including several arranged for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as well as High On A Mountain Top, which was arranged by Eugene’s grandfather.
“We give thanks to Eugene for keeping music alive in Snowflake,” said Smith.
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By Naomi Hatch