Emili Eaton Johnson
If you run into anyone who knew Stansbury Park mother of 4, Emili Eaton Johnson, you will likely hear the same thing time and time again, “Emili made everyone feel like her very best friend!” They will tell you that Emili was always the first one to welcome someone new to the neighborhood, to bring a handmade baby blanket to a new mother, or to offer a smile and a helping hand to anyone in need. Truly, Emili left behind countless best friends. As the second of 13 siblings, Emili never wanted for a playmate growing up in Cottonwood Heights, UT. Her sisters would forever be her closest friends—even living within walking distance of several of them in adulthood. Frequent travelers of the mountain trails near their home, Emili would always fondly recall the outdoor adventures they had as a family and the love and laughter that permeated their home. Always an incredibly hard worker, Emili became an accomplished gymnast, ballerina, and lover of books and learning. Yet, above all else, Emili always prioritized the relationships in her life. An idealist at heart, from a young age Emili was determined to do her part in creating a world where love and joy were present for all and evil and heartache ceased to exist. She continued spreading goodness wherever she went while attending and eventually graduating from Snow College and while serving an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in both Brazil and Iowa.
Love came unexpectedly for Emili in 2000 on a blind date with a young man by the name of Kevin Johnson. It may not have been the most romantic of dates—Chucky Cheese’s to be exact—but it only took a few laughter-filled games of skeeball and mini golf with Emili for Kevin to know that this intelligent, bright, and kind woman was the one. Soon thereafter, the couple settled in Stansbury Park, where Emili used her many talents to make their house into home, and where they have spent the last 16 years raising their 4 children—Preston, age 16; Dallin, age 11; Lauren, age 6; and Alyssa, age 3.
Although Emili believed in a world of happy endings for all, their lives would not be spared the pain and trials that are so common to this middle act, called earth life, in the grand play of eternity. In May 2019, after over a year of unexplainable pain, medical tests with indeterminate results, and almost constant illness, Emili went in a blood test, only to be told that her condition was critical and that she would need to be admitted immediately. Even with a prompt diagnosis of Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), still, no one could have predicted that Emili had mere days left to live. After one last burst of joy and energy with her family beside her on Mother’s Day, Emili slipped away in the early morning hours that following Wednesday.
Yet, because of the woman Emili was and the multitude of “best friends” she accumulated with her love and service during her life, Kevin and their children still feel Emili’s influence daily through the love and service that Emili’s friends now offer to them. “I receive letters, texts, meals, hugs, and kind words (from those who Emili loved) every day. This is how she continues to touch my life, because she touched so many, and they are touching my life now.”
In the days just before she passed away, Kevin and Emili read a quote together that gave them great peace and hope. “If you saw the size of the blessing coming, you would understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.” Although the battle rages on as they are physically separated for a time, there is no doubt that Emili’s grand happy ending still awaits her. As they await that joyful reunion, Emili’s example inspires each of us to spend the time we do have here developing those relationships that matter most, and to remember that every stranger we meet is just another best friend waiting to happen.
15-year Grantsville resident and father of five, Jeff Winder, is no stranger to rural, country living. Growing up as a farm boy in Santa Clara, Utah, Jeff learned to work hard and play hard on both their family farm and on the local church-owned farm with his Grandfather. He fondly recalls the days of his youth—not only pumping out plenty of hard, manual labor but also the more playful times of learning to drive farm equipment, motorcycles, and four wheelers at a very young age.
Those early years on the farm shaped Jeff into the hard-working, adventurous, and big-hearted husband, father, and friend he is today. It was only natural that he and wife, Rebecca, would choose small town, family-friendly Grantsville City to call home.
Rebecca feels like she “won the jackpot” when she met and began dating Jeff back in 2012. “Jeff is the kind of husband you hope your daughter, sister, or best friend will marry,” she says, describing Jeff as always respectful, loving and ever helpful—working two jobs to make ends meet in addition to frequently helping with the cooking and cleaning at home.
Jeff is also a devoted father to his five children: Natalia, age 15; Kanyon, age 13; Kahlia, age 8; Tayia, age 7; and Zuri, age 5. He loves attending their basketball games and dance recitals, enjoys doing the little things like reading them bedtime stories, and especially cherishes sharing with them his passions of fishing, camping, and of course, motorcycles.
Those who know Jeff know that he is the kind of truly good man that would do anything for anyone – even give them the very shirt off his back if they needed it. Perhaps Jeff’s easy going, unselfish and outward-looking personality is part of what has helped him to make it through the difficult battle that began on December 14, 2018.
That was the day his family heard words nobody ever wants or expects to hear: “Your husband and father has stage 4 colon cancer and it has spread to his lymph system and lungs.” These earth-shattering words came after months of unexplained symptoms and questions and several false diagnoses.
However, after multiple MRIs, CT scans, and a colonoscopy, the unthinkable truth emerged, along with the news that he was not eligible for surgery and would require biweekly chemotherapy treatments for the rest of his life.
Since that day Jeff’s cancer has been a very open subject in the Winder home. The kids continue to struggle with the reality of their father’s situation, but they have accepted that although their dad may not be around to see their own kids grow up and may not always be there to help them physically, they are confident that they will never cease to be in their father’s care—he will always be watching over them.
Jeff says that if cancer, albeit a cruel tutor, has taught him one thing, it has been to open his eyes to the incredible impact that one person can have on the lives of so many others. He has heard from incredible friends both near and far since his diagnosis and has been amazed at the care and concern so many have shown their family. Although he admits no one is perfect and that we all make mistakes, he believes that when we simply try to do good and treat others with love and respect, our impact for good can be so much more far-reaching that we know.
Although Jeff’s future remains uncertain, and his present consists of unusually large doses of pain and fatigue, Jeff is grateful for every day he gets to spend with his family. He finds hope in Jesus Christ and comfort in knowing he will be with his family again after this life. Indeed, he knows that the joy they share as family is really only just beginning.
Of the many beautiful legacies left behind by 30-year old, Stansbury Park mother of four, Alyssa McClellan, perhaps the greatest of all was her zest and love for life and ability to cherish every moment. As described by her army husband, SPC Thomas McClellan, “Alyssa was almost fanatical about telling people to live today to its fullest, because you just never know.”
Even in passing, Alyssa brought light and joy to her family and friends, requesting a Celebration of Life rather than a traditional funeral, complete with lively music, a taco truck, and a bounce house.
Spending most of her growing up years in Erda, UT, Alyssa was an avid tennis player, budding photographer, and competitively danced as a member of the All-American National Clogging Team. Later, she studied at Utah Valley University. Says her family, “sporting the brightest smile and most contagious laugh, it is fitting that she began her career as a Dental Assistant and ultimately became an Office Manager for several dental offices in the area.”
A basketball tournament eventually brought Alyssa and Thomas together and they were married just 9 months later at Wheeler Farm. They soon made their home back in the valley of her youth, settling in Stansbury Park and soon adding 4 beautiful boys to their family: twin boys Riley and Jackson, age 9; Blake, age 5; and Boston, age 2. All this in the face of multiple military activations for Thomas, including one in Afghanistan.
In addition to her own hobbies of crafting and tennis, Alyssa especially enjoyed spending time with her family: relishing happy times at Lake Powell, camping, and cheering on her boys in their various sports endeavors. Her friends describe Alyssa as not only just passionate about life, but also incredibly generous and truly and sincerely concerned for the well-being of others.
In June of 2018, Alyssa’s life took a drastic turn when she was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. In spite of aggressive chemotherapy treatments that seemed to be shrinking the tumors in her lungs and pelvis, further growth was discovered in January of this year. Alyssa was chosen to be one of this year’s nominees by the Kicking Cancer’s Can Committee in the following months, not knowing that she would not make it to the event and would eventually leave this life on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019--a day in which she will forever be remembered as the honored mother she was.
Alyssa’s obituary describes her as “tenacious” – a word meaning, “persisting in existence; not easily dispelled.” Perhaps no better word could describe Alyssa, as her influence and light continue to shine on even in death—in the faces of her four boys, in the memory of her words “we can do hard things!”, and in the hearts of those she loved and taught with her example of resilience in adversity. Her generosity and kindness also live on in the “Alyssa Alliance”, an organization set up in her honor to benefit other families battling rare forms of cancer. Truly, Alyssa’s love continues to persist in existence and her light will not be easily dispelled.