Wednesday, February 25, 2015
LDS patriarch ordained by President Kimball still giving blessings at 95
It’s been almost 80 years since Jack B. McEwan received his patriarchal blessing — but the words of that blessing continue to guide, comfort and protect him.
The 95-year-old member of the Arcadia Ward, Arcadia California Stake, approaches his own patriarchal blessing as a precious, even sacred, text. With each reading, he traces the Lord’s loving hand. He still reads that blessing over and over, and each time he learns something new of the Lord, and of himself.
Patriarchal blessings remain a defining element of Brother McEwan’s long life. Spencer W. Kimball, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, ordained him a patriarch 42 years ago. He has actively served as a patriarch in southern California ever since except for a three-year period while presiding over the Los Angeles Temple.
In all, he has pronounced 1,630 patriarchal blessings.
“Just last week I gave a patriarchal blessing to a wonderful 16-year-old girl and it was just thrilling,” he said in a voice cracked with emotion. “It was a tremendous blessing. I know that girl is going to be a leader among women.”
The nonagenarian said his greatest desire is for every young person who receives a patriarchal blessing to make that blessing a guiding force in his or her life.
Born in 1920, Patriarch McEwan spent most of his youth in Los Angeles. His own family was not active in the Church — “I missed out on the benefits of Primary.”
He was mentored in the gospel by an elderly man in his ward named Bob Wilson. Brother Wilson was a youth leader who filled his young charges with confidence and a love for the gospel.
He often told young Jack and his fellow Aaronic Priesthood holders that they may not be the fastest athletes or the smartest students, but he said, “You boys have the priesthood and that is the greatest thing in the world.”
Jack McEwan had planned to serve a mission. He even had a missionary interview with Elder George Albert Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. But the outbreak of World War II changed everything. Instead of accepting a mission call, he was drafted and sent to pilot training.
“I ended up flying my mission,” he said, smiling.
He was still learning the cockpit procedures of the B-17 bomber when he was called into combat. Feeling unprepared, he sought the counsel of a Latter-day Saint chaplain.
The chaplain told the young pilot to remember the Book of Mormon account of the 2,000 stripling warriors. “He told me, ‘If you live the gospel, the Lord will take care of you.’”
Flying combat missions in the Pacific was a terrifying experience. The volatile tropical weather could be as lethal as the enemy. Seeking comfort during his sorties, the young pilot would softly sing the words of a hymn his mother taught him as a child:
The Lord is my light; then why should I fear?
By day and by night his presence is near.
At war’s end, he returned to civilian life, attended university and became a dentist. Sixty-six years ago he married “the sweetest girl in the world,” a young BYU student named Betty Clark. The McEwans have three sons, 16 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
In 1972, Elder Kimball visited California to reorganize the Pasadena stake. He called Jack McEwan as the stake’s new patriarch.
Once again, he felt scared, unprepared and unworthy for such a spiritual responsibility. The apostle and future Church president gently assured him that the Lord would assist and direct him in his new calling.
“Elder Kimball put his arm around me and I collapsed into his chest, sobbing,” he said. “And then he kissed me on the cheek.”
Decades have passed and Patriarch McEwan has given many, many blessings. But he has never grown casual in his calling. He will prepare for his next blessing as he did his first blessing — with prayer, fasting and scripture study.
Today’s young people live in an evil world, he said. More than ever, they need the divine direction and comfort found in a patriarchal blessing.
“A patriarchal blessing can inspire you and keep you close to the Lord,” he said. “A patriarchal blessing will help you know who you are.”