If you were to ask Tooele resident and mother of six, Patti Whitbeck, about her childhood, she would likely tell you with a big smile on her face that it was pure “magic.” With the “best parents on earth” and the freedom to let her imagination run wild while exploring alongside her 4 sisters and 2 brothers in the small and intimate setting of Beaver, UT, Patti grew up feeling safe, loved, and very blessed.
As wonderful as those years in Beaver were, however, over the years most of the family has made their way out to beautiful Tooele County, including her parents, with whom Patti and her husband of 20 years, Ted Whitbeck, and their two youngest children, now reside. Patti describes this living situation as a win-win for everyone-Patti and Ted can support Patti’s parents in their golden years, and her parents are now there to support, comfort, and laugh with them through the trial of cancer and other life events. They cherish spending time together as a family – especially enjoying delicious home cooked meals, game nights, and making holiday memories.
If you have ever met Patti Whitbeck, you will not be a bit surprised at her response to being asked about her favorite hobbies and interests. She simply says, “I LOVE PEOPLE!” Patti loves to meet and connect with all kinds of people and makes instant friends wherever she goes with her bright smile, willingness to listen with understanding and empathy, and with her words of encouragement and hopeful wisdom.
Patti is no stranger to the hardships of life. Her incurable diagnosis of Neuroendocrine Carcinoid Cancer in 2020 is just one of the many difficulties she has faced over the years. But perhaps Patti’s friend, Heidi, put it best when she said, “Patti knows struggle. Life has drug her through depths that most of us can’t even fathom...but it seems that every time life throws her a curveball, (and it has thrown many), she comes back even stronger, kinder, and more hopeful than before. She knows how to ‘get real’ about the hard times, then rise above them with joy and genuine connections with others. To know Patti is to know resilience, determination, grace in the face of fiery trial, and absolute pure charity for others.”
Perhaps these qualities are what make Patti such an incredible advocate in her passion for suicide awareness and prevention. Her message? She just wants everyone to know that “No matter how dark life gets, there is always hope.”
While Patti’s cancer cannot be treated with traditional chemotherapy and radiation, and although she carries an awareness that she will never have the opportunity to ring a “cancer-free” bell, she holds on to the fact that her cancer is slow growing and receives monthly injections to further slow the growth of the tumors that began in her abdomen and have spread to both her lymph nodes and liver.
In the meantime, she is doing everything she can to enjoy each day to its fullest. In fact, she says this appreciation for life is one of the greatest lessons that cancer has taught her. Although to some extent she has always known that life is fragile, she says that cancer has magnified that reality a hundred-fold. “I have learned to enjoy to the max the moments with those I love most. Every act of kindness matters,” declares Patti.
And although cancer creates incredible stress for Patti and her family both emotionally and financially, she appreciates the “silver linings” of coming to see how many people there are who truly and genuinely love her. She has keenly felt the prayers, tears, and service offered up in her behalf and has felt lifted up by her hope and faith in Jesus Christ. Undeniably, she has seen the words of the Savior in her favorite scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 84:88 come to life before her eyes: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” Patti is an angel to so many. It’s our turn to be angels for her.
When 36-year old Soji Larson thinks back on her childhood, she pictures the bright colors of a desert sunset and the sounds of sprinklers watering the fields around her hometown of Grantsville, UT. Surrounded by family, cousins galore, and many great friends, growing up a Grantsville cowboy is still a great source of pride and a memory that she holds close to her heart. So close, in fact, that she and her childhood friend turned husband, Jay Larson, chose years ago that there was nowhere they’d rather raise their own family than in their very own hometown.
Jay and Soji have the perfect love story – they met in Mrs. Shrewbury’s kindergarten class, remained friends throughout high school—often walking the dirt roads of Hollywood in between sprinkler moves in the alfalfa fields, and then reconnected after Jay’s LDS mission by recreating their first date together – and the rest is history. Soji now enjoys spending her days as a stay-at-home mom to Josie, age 10, and Jack, age 6, as well as reading, decorating, and painting – a talent which she shares with Josie, who also has a flare for watercolor. Along with Jay and Jack’s shared love of rugby and soccer, they seem your picture-perfect all American family.
Yet on April 7, 2021, life took a sudden turn when Soji experienced a frightening loss of the ability to read, recall names, or find the words to speak. An MRI soon revealed that what first appeared to be a stroke, was actually an Oligodendroglioma brain tumor. After cherishing an unforgettable weekend a family, Soji faced surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, knowing that she may wake up on the other side with at least partial verbal, vision, and memory loss.
Yet, in what Soji describes as a miracle, the neurosurgeon was able to remove 50-60% of the tumor, and Soji woke up feeling indescribable gratitude as she realized she was able to both speak and recognize her husband. The miracles continued as Soji was approved for a new proton radiation therapy that was only developed in the last few years. Since then, Soji has undergone both radiation and chemotherapy – a painful regimen that will likely not be the last. As her cancer is not curable, it will need to be treated throughout her life.
Yet, cancer has taught Soji that she is stronger than she thinks she is and that she has more people in her corner than she ever imagined. Her husband Jay describes Soji as a beacon of light – a willing worker who is witty, smart, authentic, and seeks to connect and care for others. For someone who is always thinking of and reaching out to help others, it has been humbling for Soji to see her own family being showered with so much support, love and kindness in a way that seems to counteract the dark moments with equal amounts of light.
Through it all, Soji says her relationship with her Heavenly Father and Savior have been her greatest sources of peace. With Their help, she and husband Jay have felt comforted as they have come to embrace this trial as an opportunity for growth. They love the quote, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor,” and recognize that although there is a certain safety and comfort on the shore, embarking on the raging seas allows them to see glimpses of beauty on the other side of the storm that they never would have experienced otherwise. They take comfort in knowing that no sorrow is permanent and in knowing that are never, ever alone.
Tooele-resident and mother of 3, Jesica Thompson, may have grown up in south Salt Lake, but after spending the last 23 years in Tooele, it’s the only place she considers “home”. After a childhood filled with sweet memories of fishing and hiking with her grandparents, what better place to settle down and carry on her love of camping and hiking with her own family than in Tooele, UT-where the opportunities for outdoor adventure are limitless?
The Thompson family beginnings trace back to a simple blind date on Nov 1, 2001. A trip to Olive Garden, a Jazz Game, and a friendly game of bowling later and the rest is history. Chris and Jesica were inseparable from that moment forward and were married 6 short months later on May 17, 2002.
Since then they have added to the family 2 beloved dogs, 3 sons, and a daughter-in-law: Carter and wife, KauriAnna, both age 22; Maddux, age 17; and Morgan, age 16.
While she enjoys reading and listening to True Crime podcasts, there is nothing Jesica loves more than her family, who she loves to spend time with-- going camping and to Lagoon, attending sporting events, and watching both Harry Potter and NASCAR racing.
She especially loves volunteering with and watching her boys perform with the Tooele High School Buffalo Brigade marching band and THS Majestics winter color guard, as well as supporting her oldest son as an Airman in the United States Airforce.
Although Jesica has been diagnosed with 3 triple positive metastatic invasive ductal breast carcinoma with level 3 lymph node involvement, Jesica says that cancer has taught her that she is stronger both physically and emotionally than she ever knew she was.
And while cancer and the chemotheraphy have taken a toll on Jesica and her family, she says that her family, friends, and her dogs bring her peace and that her great desire to see her kids grow up keeps her fighting day in and day out.
Her kids hold a special place in her heart and she receives no greater gratification than from helping and supporting them in their passions.
Perhaps her dedication to her family and others is why her friends describe her as compassionate, selfless, and as someone who looks for the good in everybody.