It was a special family reunion that took years to achieve. For the first time, Darrell Wilford Haag, 87, of Sacramento, Calif., traveled more than 7,000 miles to Haifa, Israel, in February 2014. The purpose of the visit was to see the grave of his grandfather, Adolf Haag, an early Church missionary who left a wife and two children to serve in Israel but never returned. His story is one of sacrifice and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Adolf Haag was born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1867. His mother Louise was a religious woman but was not satisfied with the churches of the day. A published family history paper about Adolf Haag titled “For Life Must Yet Come” written by relative Larry Draper said, “She was seeking a ‘spirit’ that she could not find and until she found it she would attend no church.”
In 1880, missionaries from the Church began teaching her and she was baptized in March of 1881. Adolf Haag, her son, was baptized a month later, as well as two younger brothers and a sister, the family history states.
In Louise’s confirmation blessing, she was promised that she would “come to Zion with all her children.” She made immediate plans to accomplish that. “Adolf and his brother Richard were the first to leave for the Unites States,” said Valerie Proctor, a great-granddaughter of Adolf Haag. “They eventually settled in Payson, Utah.”
Their family history records indicate that Adolf’s mother, sister and younger brother made the trip to Utah a short time after, but had a mishap on the train from New York to Utah. “On our way somewhere near Denver, there was a train accident. Several cars left the track, but there was three passenger cars that stayed on and it was those which were occupied by Latter-day Saints. But we [the LDS] went a little ways on to a little hill, where we had prayer and thanked the Lord for [His] protection. It was really a miracle, as we saw it from the hill, as two cars ahead of us were off the track and three cars behind us also.”
“Adolf got married to Bertha Elizabeth Schramm, the daughter of the missionary who had given Louise Haag’s confirmation blessing about coming to Zion,” said Beau Burk, another great-granddaughter of Adolf Haag. “They had two little girls who died and eventually Bertha passed away as well.”
Adolf Haag married a second wife, Eliza Marolf, a 21-year-old Swiss emigrant and had a son, Wilford Haag, named after the prophet Wilford Woodruff, the family history states. With his wife expecting a second son to be named Joseph, Adolf received a call to serve in the European Mission and possibly Germany. They waited until Joseph’s birth before Adolf began his journey to Europe. He caught a train out of Payson, Utah, on a cold, windy February morning in 1892.
At age 27, Adolf left his family behind and made it to New York by Feb. 28. He caught the steamer Wyoming on March 1, and headed for Liverpool, England, states the family history. Two weeks later he arrived in England and met with Brigham Young Jr., the president of the European mission. In his diary, he recorded, “I received my appointment from Pres. Young to labor as a traveling elder in the Turkish Mission.”
Stopping in Paris to see his brother Herman, who was serving an art mission for the Church, and eventually making his way to his birthplace in Stuttgart, Germany, Adolf reunited with his twin brother and father whom he had not seen for 10 years.
With a short stop in Switzerland on April 5, 1892, Adolf met his wife’s parents, performed a baptism and helped mission leaders with some emigration and translation matters. An illness struck, which delayed his departure to Turkey, but he improved and arrived in Constantinople on Aug. 8, the family history states.
Taking an Egyptian steamer, Adolf arrived in Haifa in early September but his health had deteriorated. He suffered greatly from the strenuous travel and heat. A colony of German saints in Haifa tried to nurse him back to health but he grew worse. He died Oct. 3, 1892, seven months after leaving his family in Payson, Utah.
“The Church offered to ship his body home to his widow, Eliza, or send her $500 to help with things back at home,” said Sister Burk. “She decided to take the $500 so he was buried in Israel.”
Adolf’s two surviving children, Wilford and Joseph, eventually married and had families of their own. Wilford had four children and Darrell Haag, who visited his grandfather’s grave last year, is the only son. Darrell made the trip to Israel with his wife, two of his 12 children and three grandchildren.
“We had a service at his grave site on his 149th birthday,” said Sister Proctor. “As we planned and laid out our predicted schedule, we had no thought about his birth date. It was exciting when we realized that we had planned to be at the grave site on his birthday.”
Darrell Haag said, “It was a magnificent thing to visit his grave. We think we have it hard today but imagine leaving behind a wife and two children.”
What may seem like a mission failure, the Lord turned into a grand success through Adolf’s posterity. Together they have served more than 70 missions around the world, including five missionaries serving at the present time. In a letter to Eliza just a few months before his death, Adolf’s words sum up his family’s commitment to the Lord’s Church. “Dear Eliza, the gospel is sweet, it is a rich and costly pearl. It is worth all our efforts and sacrifice.”