63 years later

In early August 1905, Chess Lee and his father, Jonathan Calvin Lee, were about to close their combination general store, post office and cobbler shop in the little settlement of Abbot Post Office, located in the Catawba Valley of southwest Virginia.

Their activities were interrupted by two obviously weary young men in dark suits and bowler hats. They introduced themselves as Elders Strong and Story, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.The young men quaffed several cups of water. Then Elder Ralph Strong inquired about where they might find hospitality for the night. Jonathan invited them to his home.

After staying several days with the Lee family, the missionaries visited the farmsteads in the area. They then went west into nearby Sinking Creek Valley, where they found lodging and food with another of Jonathan's sons, Chrintz Lee.

The Mormon elders stayed with this family for about three weeks. When they left, they presented the Lee family with a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Chrintz's son, Rabbi (Rab), was only 7 years old when the elders stayed at their home. He still remembered their stay when 63 years later two LDS missionaries contacted him and his wife, Louise, in Roanoke, Va. They were soon baptized. Brother and Sister Lee remembered seeing the Book of Mormon at the old Lee home in Sinking Creek Valley.

A short time later, they met an Elder Dennis Strong at Church. Elder Strong said his grandfather, Ralph Strong, had served as a missionary in the Roanoke area many years before. The connection was immediately recognized by the Lees. They were delighted to find out that Ralph was living in Salt Lake City, and they wrote to him. He was thrilled to know that the gospel seed he planted with a 7-year-old lad had finally borne fruit after more than 60 years.

Brother Lee died eight months after his baptism. Soon after, Louise, who is now 87, made a trip to the Salt Lake Temple for her endowments and to have the ordinances performed for her husband. While in Salt Lake City, she visited Brother Strong. They spent most of the day talking about Brother Strong's missionary experiences in Virginia during the early 1900s. - George H. Hill Jr., Roanoke, Va.

(Another in a series of "Missionary Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)

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