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Elder O. Vincent Haleck: Lord's hand evident in leader's life

American Samoa native a witness to several miracles

<pAfter being called as a General Authority during the April general conference, this native of American Samoa once again marveled on God's role in his life.

"How does an island boy," he asked with a smile, "end up in Salt Lake City sitting on the stand in general conference?"

Sister Peggy A. Haleck and Elder O. Vincent Haleck were serving in the Samoa Apia Mission at the time of Elder Haleck's call to the Seventy.
Sister Peggy A. Haleck and Elder O. Vincent Haleck were serving in the Samoa Apia Mission at the time of Elder Haleck's call to the Seventy. Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News

The answer to that humble question perhaps begins in his Pacific homeland. Young Vincent's parents, Otto and Dorothy Haleck, were earnest and industrious people who operated their own family business. American Samoa had much to offer a young boy. The people were loving and spiritual and looked out for one another. But educational opportunities were limited for Vincent and his siblings.

"My parents had made their children's education a high priority because they did not have that opportunity and blessing in their own lives," he said.

So when Vincent was 10 he left his parents and American Samoa and moved to Seattle, Wash., to live with an aunt and uncle in order to go to school. Life on the mainland was far different than the island. "I landed in Seattle in the snow."

Later he moved to California to live with another aunt, and later his maternal grandmother, to attend high school. Elder Haleck did not grow up in the Church. His father was not a member and his Latter-day Saint mother was not active when he was growing up. But that move to California proved pivotal to young Vincent's future. His grandmother was a member and faithfully served in the Los Angeles California Temple. Vincent also had the good fortune of finding a special group of friends.

"I noticed that my friends were different than the other kids at school," he said. "They invited me to something they called Mutual and I discovered they were members of the Church."

He enjoyed Mutual and the fellowship of his generous friends. Soon he was invited to Church dances and early-morning seminary. "It all progressed to my going to church," he said. In 1966, Vincent accepted an invitation to listen to the missionaries and read the Book of Mormon. He prayed and received personal confirmation that the words found in the book were true. He was baptized and began a life dedicated to gospel service.

The newly-called Seventy believes he lives in a time of miracles. Not long after his baptism, Vincent was driving on the freeway to pick up his grandmother from the temple. A speeding car in front of him spun out of control. He slammed on the brakes as the car veered violently toward him. The car came to a stop just inches from his front bumper. That harrowing experience prompted Vincent to think about those things in life that matter most.

"I felt I was being preserved for something more in my life."

After graduating from high school, Elder Haleck spent a year at Brigham Young University before accepting a call to the Samoa Apia Mission. At the conclusion of his mission, he told his president that he felt his place would be in his native American Samoa helping the Church to grow.

But first he needed to complete his education and start a family. He returned to BYU, studied advertising and marketing and met a young woman in his campus family home evening group named Peggy Ann Cameron. The two began dating, fell in love and were married in the Provo Utah Temple in 1972. Early in their courtship, Sister Haleck discovered that her future husband had the special ability to make others feel good about themselves. "He knew himself so well that he empowered anyone else he came in contact with," she said.

Elder Haleck, meanwhile, said he was drawn to his sweetheart's intelligence and "spirit of faith."

A year after they married, the Halecks both graduated and, with degrees in hand, boarded a plane bound for American Samoa. The island would offer professional and ecclesiastical opportunities for the young couple. While Sister Haleck accepted a job as a television teacher for the American Samoa Department of Education, Elder Haleck developed his own career that eventually led him back to the family business and later developed his own business enterprise.

They were still unpacking in their new home when Elder Haleck was called to the high council.

Sister Haleck said the Church in American Samoa provided her family with countless opportunities to serve and help others. Their testimonies were strengthened each time an Apostle or other General Authorities visited their tiny island. "We could not believe how much the Brethren look after [and care] for the world," she said. The realization of a lifelong dream occurred in 2000 when Elder Haleck baptized his father on his 80th birthday as a direct result of a visit made by President Gordon B. Hinckley. His parents were sealed in the Laie Hawaii Temple, along with four of their six children, in 2004.

Elder Haleck's missionary desire to continue to help the Church grow in the Samoan Islands was further realized in 2008 when he was called to preside over the mission of his youth. The Haleck's began full-time missionary service together and were immediately grateful to find that many Samoan villages that had once been off-limits to the missionaries had been opened.

"There has been a softening of hearts and the missionaries are now able to teach and baptize the people of those villages," he said.

The Halecks again witnessed the Lord's guiding hand after a tsunami devastated much of Samoa in 2009. The missionaries were counted among the first responders following the disaster, arriving in tsunami-impacted areas in white shirts and ties. They did whatever was asked to help relieve the suffering. The Church also provided long-term assistance in the form of food, building supplies and other needed provisions.

Those actions "helped to endear the missionaries and the Church to many people who had lost everything," said Elder Haleck.

Once again, this self-described "island boy" is again anxious to serve wherever he is called. "We so look forward to our calling and contributing what we can to the kingdom."

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Biographical information

Family: Born Jan. 19, 1949, in Utulei, American Samoa, to Otto Vincent and Dorothy Swan Haleck; married Peggy Ann Cameron on June 29, 1972, in the Provo Utah Temple; three children: Adam (Kimberly), Krista (Jason Corry) and Jared (Emily); seven grandchildren.

Education: Received a bacherlor's degree in advertising and marketing from Brigham Young University.

Employment: Operated family-owned food services business in American Samoa.

Church Service: President of the Samoa Apia Mission, 2008-2011, stake president, patriarch, bishop, high councilor and missionary in the Samoa Apia Mission, 1968-1970.

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