News / Utah / 

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin passes away at age 91


16 photos

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

**The funeral of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin will be broadcast on KSL digital 5.3 beginning at noon on Friday. The funeral will also be streamed on ksl.com.**Team Coverage

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away late last night at his Salt Lake City home. At age 91, he was the oldest apostle.

Today we spoke with Elder Wirthlin's son, who described him as a loving husband, father and grandfather and a faithful church leader.

Joseph B. Wirthlin Jr. says his father was in his office opening mail and taking care of correspondence just yesterday. Then last night, Elder Wirthlin passed away peacefully in his sleep from health complications due to his age.

His oldest daughter, Jane Wirthlin Parker, was with him. His son says she called him saying Elder Wirthlin had taken two deep breaths, then was gone. They called 911 and his cardiologist. He was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead there at about 11:30 p.m.

"Well, for me, being the only son, my relationship has been very close all of my life. He's always been a great father. We never missed a father-and-son outing. We always went to activities together. He always included the family," the younger Wirthlin said.

He spoke with his father just last night, talking about upcoming events. He also said that his father touched many lives over the years, including a nurse at a hospital. "He was the reason she had gotten her life in order," he said.

Elder Wirthlin was born in Salt Lake City in 1917. His father owned a food processing business. During the Depression, Joseph delivered food to the needy.

He served a mission in Switzerland in the late 1930s. After returning, he married Elisa Rogers.

The two were married for 65 years before Elisa died two years ago. Her passing, their son said, was the most difficult day of Elder Wirthlin's life, and he takes comfort in knowing his mother and father are together again. "There's a great reunion today," he said.

Elder Wirthlin also graduated from the University of Utah in business administration and played football at the U.

"He's known as a tremendous supporter, a tremendous fan of the university. He played football here many years ago, one of our star running backs, known as ‘Speedy Joe Wirthlin.' It is a sad day for the athletic department, really a sad day for all of us at the university," University of Utah President Michael Young said.

Elder Wirthlin would sit with President Young, and he was there for the big U of U-BYU matchup a couple of weeks ago.

"Many times he'd leave at the end of the third quarter, but he stayed the whole game for this last game, even though it was quite a defeat for the Y. He had great love for both teams," the younger Wirthlin said.

The flag is flying at half staff on the BYU campus today. Elder Wirthlin spoke to the students on a number of occasions and received an honorary doctorate degree at commencement in April of 2001. Students there remembered him with fondness.

"He was a great man. I loved especially his last conference talk, loved listening to him and getting the strength of enjoying every day," Amanda Pickup said.

Erick Casado told us, "I feel grateful that we were able to meet him and learn from him. So, we know he's in a better place now."

Elder Wirthlin served in many church positions throughout his life before becoming an apostle in 1986.

In his October 2008 conference address, Elder Wirthlin said, "Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, he understands our suffering. He understands our grief, so experiencing hard things that we, too, might have increased compassion and understanding of others."

"Dad never aspired to anything and always taught his children that we should never aspire, that we should work to serve others; that we should never look at how we would get gain but how we should serve others," the younger Wirthlin said.

Elder Wirthlin's answer to life's small problems, his son said, was always laughter.

In that same October 2008 address, Elder Wirthlin related an experience, saying, "There were at least nine of us in the car and we would invariably get lost. Instead of getting angry, we laughed. Every time we made a wrong turn we laughed harder."

His son added to the story, saying, "When he realized we were going the wrong direction, he pulled over, we had quite a laugh but then he walked around and got me out of the passenger's seat and said, get us there on time...so, that's the other side of that story."

The Wirthlins have a large family: eight children, 54 grandchildren and 87 great-grandchildren and counting. Four great-grandchildren preceded him in death.

Elder Wirthlin's funeral is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 5, at noon in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com
E-mail: mrichards@ksl.com
E-mail: pmchardy@ksl.com

Photos

Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Utah

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast