Harvesting life's valuable lessons

Reliable. Honest. A man of integrity.

These are just a few of the descriptions you can use with confidence in regards to William W. (Bill) Tingey, one of northern Utah's most successful farmers. He retired recently after 59 years as a grower, buyer and seller for the Salt Lake Growers Market, and as a supplier for the Church's Welfare Square.Just a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday, he still lives in the rock house his grandparents purchased in 1870, the same pioneer-era dwelling in which he was born and grew up, and in which he and his wife, Sylvia, reared their 10 children.

Driving a 1969 truck and plowing with tractors he purchased in the 1940s, he is a strong advocate of the principles of taking care of belongings and making them last.

Whether sizing up land as good farming terrain or youth as good workers and productive members of society, Brother Tingey seems to have had an eye for what grows well. During the nearly six decades he raised fruits and vegetables to market, he has employed hundreds of young people, many of whom paid for missions and college tuition out of wages earned on his land.

Brother and Sister Tingey's own children were primary "hired hands" who learned life's valuable lessons on the farm. Their eldest, Earl C. Tingey, is a member of the Presidency of the Quorums of the Seventy. Other sons and daughters are Don C. Tingey; Sherman N. Tingey; Nola T. Hatch; Merlyn T. De La Melena; Alice T. Earl; Brent R. Tingey (deceased); Douglas W. Tingey; Loraine T. Nelson; and Mavis T. Nelson. All the children married in the temple. They have 56 grandchildren, and, as of this month, 106 great-grandchildren. Several more great-grandchildren "are on the way," Sister Tingey said.

Brother Tingey has been involved in farming from his earliest years. "When I was a young boy, I helped my father on his farm down the road from here," he said. His farming days were interrupted as he went on a mission to Australia in the late 1920s. On the first Sunday he was back home from his mission, he was given an opportunity to "say a few words of hello" in Sunday School. Sylvia Carr, then ward organist, was taller than any of the other teenage girls in the ward. She took one look at the returned missionary and measured his suitability: "He sure is short," she recalled thinking. That evening, however, she gained a different and more favorable impression of the young man at sacrament meeting. "As was the tradition for returning missionaries, he was invited to be the main speaker," she said. "When he spoke, everything else just disappeared. I fell in love with his voice."

With her mother, Annie Carr, coaching her on how to converse with a young man, and his uncle, Perry Tingey, orchestrating ways to get them together as a couple, their courtship progressed. "Bill's uncle told him that he knew a real nice girl." They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 6, 1932.

They had one child and were expecting another when they took possession of his family home. As other children were born, they juggled bedroom space, and, for a while, made a bed for one child on the living room floor. Eventually, they made two additions to the house, which still has just one bathroom, and is the central gathering place for reunions that bring together about 170-180 family members every two years.

"We got along just fine bringing up 10 children in this small house," Sister Tingey said, seemingly amused and curious about families today who feel they must have a bedroom for every child and a bathroom for every two bedrooms. "We had plenty of room," she said matter-of-factly. "You learned to do with what you had."

Sister Tingey pointed out some features of the 120-plus-year-old home, such as the 18-inch thick walls. From the tone of her voice and look in her eyes, it was evident she has never wanted to live anywhere else.

She and Brother Tingey both attribute much of their family's happiness to farm life. That doesn't mean life was easy. Most mornings they got up about 4 o'clock in order to get their produce to market in Salt Lake City in time for the 6 o'clock opening. "Our kids were all good workers," Brother Tingey said. "Most of them worked on the farm in one way or another."

The Tingeys started out with 10 acres that they bought from her father, Willard Carr. That property was mostly in orchards; Brother Tingey preferred "working on the ground." He bought property next to his family home, and, as years went by "bought a piece of land here and a piece there," Sister Tingey said. "When the boys got old enough they could produce the crops themselves."

Somehow, Brother Tingey managed his time well enough to not only tend his crops and get them to market but also to serve in the Church. He has been a bishop, bishop's counselor, stake Sunday School president, and served 16 years on the high council. The Tingeys are members of the Centerville 1st Ward, Centerville South Utah Stake. Except for tending to their milk cows and other farm animals, they did not work on Sundays.

In the early days of their farming enterprise, they didn't have enough produce to take to market to keep their family going. Brother Tingey started hauling produce for his neighbors as he went to market, taking a percentage of what was sold. It worked out for him and for the other farmers who had small yields. Sister Tingey did the bookwork for their growing business.

Abhorring waste of any kind, Brother Tingey began taking surplus produce to Welfare Square. "The Salt Lake Growers Market opened at 6 a.m. By 9 a.m., anything that hadn't sold probably wouldn't sell that day," he said. "Some of the produce we could hold over. But other produce wouldn't keep. We didn't have refrigeration for it. I started taking our surplus over to Welfare Square. They were glad to get it."

He soon started collecting surplus from other growers and sellers at the market, and Welfare Square began depending on him as a major supplier of produce.

Kevin Nield, manager of Welfare Square, and Larry Ruesch, a supervisor of the Bishop's Storehouse at Welfare Square, are among those who have worked with Brother Tingey over the years.

Brother Nield said, "He's this good old gentleman who was always there early. I can't imagine what time he got out of bed to do this work. He'd be there so early in the mornings, and I'd drive home in the evenings and see him out in the field.

"He has always had such a willingness to remember people in need. It was not uncommon for him to bring surplus items from produce houses, such as strawberries, that was still good but wouldn't sell that day. He'd bring produce here by the pallet, and we'd give it to people in need that day. It was a real blessing. What he brought us was always very acceptable and much appreciated by the people who received it. I assume the produce would have been thrown out if he hadn't brought it here. He always went out of his way to try to get it to somebody in need. His service was so good, and he was so reliable. We knew we could count on Bill Tingey to deliver the goods."

Brother Ruesch said, "If I had to find just one word to describe Bill Tingey that word would be integrity. If I've had anything that wasn't good quality, all I had to do was call him up. He always made sure it was replaced the next day.

"I used to think that he must be making quite a bit of money delivering for us. But then a representative from a big company came to us and said they would like to be our supplier. I told them to send us some prices. When I saw what they were charging, in comparison to what Bill was charging, I knew he wasn't in this business for the money."

Brother Ruesch said that Brother Tingey brought not only produce to Welfare Square but also other items as they were needed. "If we were running short on eggs, we'd call Bill, and he would check around until he found a good source for us at a good price. We could always count on him."

One of the images Elder Tingey has of his father is the concern and caring he always had for others. "We would come home at night, after having been up since 4:30 in the morning, harvesting all day," Elder Tingey said. "Dad would get cleaned up and put on his Sunday-best clothes to go out and give blessings. I knew he was tired, but he always went. He was called on a lot to go to the homes of sick people, widows and others who needed blessings. He has always been very compassionate. Every Christmas, he would bring home produce that you couldn't get in the stores in those days, things like bananas, oranges and grapefruit. We had our own carrots, and he'd bring potatoes. We would put together 15-to-20-pound boxes and give them to families in our community that were in need. He'd tell us, `Whatever you do, no one is to know who is giving this food to them.' We would load the boxes on sleds or wagons, put them on porches, ring the doorbell and run.

"We didn't have a lot of material things; farming was a hard way to make a living, but I learned from him that the gospel principle of caring for the poor was to be lived, not just talked about. He has really lived it."

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