I've traveled tens of thousands of miles on assignments throughout the world to cover the activities of General Authorities and other Church leaders. When asked to tell some of my “travel stories” I remember going to Tennessee with President Spencer W. Kimball and his wife, Sister Camilla Kimball, July 25-27, 1975. It was my first time traveling with a prophet.
We visited four cities in three days. President Kimball dedicated an LDS meetinghouse in Chattanooga early in the morning on July 26. Afterward, we rushed to board a small jet provided by a local member of the Church to take us to Nashville, where President Kimball was to meet later that morning with city government representatives and other prominent people, such as the celebrated Minnie Pearl of the Grand Ole Opry. Other events were scheduled for that weekend; I plan to write about them in a later column.
Since we left our hotel too early for breakfast that morning, the stake presidency arranged for a breakfast to be served on the plane. We were a small group: President and Sister Kimball; D. Arthur Haycock, President Kimball's personal secretary; Elder James I. Gibson, regional representative; and Jerry P. Cahill, press secretary of the Church's Public Communications Department.
Being the only “non-official passenger,” I was asked by one of the stake presidency if I would serve the food. I willingly did so. After everyone had finished eating, I was stowing the leftovers, which included a large plastic bowl of chopped peaches in their juice, a southern delicacy.
President Kimball said, “I'd like some more of those peaches.”
Standing in the aisle of the small plane, I cradled the bowl with my left arm and hand and started to lift the plastic lid with my right hand. The plane jolted. I lost my balance. I watched in dismay as the now-opened bowl of peaches tumbled out of my grasp and landed — upside down — in President Kimball's lap.
When we landed, members of the Nashville Tennessee Stake presidency were waiting to greet President and Sister Kimball. One of them asked, “President Kimball, did you get any breakfast?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact,” he said while pulling at a pant leg, “I'm wearing part of it.”
To my relief, he said that with the warm-hearted smile that endeared him to members and others throughout the world.
Several years later, I was at a dinner table with President and Sister Kimball and others. Someone spoke about an embarrassing moment he'd experienced. Others began telling of theirs. After a while, all eyes turned my way. I related the experience of the peaches.
When I finished, President Kimball looked at me, smiled and said, “I forgot about that.”
I'll always remember it.