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Clayton "Jim" James Kearl

Clayton James Kearl passed peacefully in his sleep, on April 11, 2018 in his 97th year, to a rapturous reunion with loved ones that have preceded him.  He was a man of ennobling humility and stalwart integrity.  His life was marked by service to his family, his community, his country, and his Church. Dad was born May 16, 1921, in Smithfield, Utah to George Robinson Kearl and Violet Rebecca Pitcher, the ninth of 14 children.  He was the first son to survive. He married Betty Loraine Ford of Salt Lake City, on May 12, 1944, while on leave from the Navy. Jim and Betty became engaged in late 1942 while the country was gearing up for war during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Jim and Betty were authentic sweethearts for nearly 76 years.

Growing up in Smithfield, Jim was a renowned prankster, earning the title of Mr. Mischief. He was related to almost everyone in town; one of his cousins was a member of the draft board.  When Jim’s name came up for induction, his cousin gave him the heads up allowing Jim the opportunity to join the Navy rather than being drafted into the Army. Through the years Betty often chided him for putting a ring on her finger and then running off a few days later to join the Navy.

During WWII, dad served as a Radarman aboard the USS Salt Lake City, the first heavy cruiser equipped with radar technology which made it a specific target for the Imperial Forces of Japan. He participated in seven of the eight major sea battles in the Pacific Theater of the War.  The ship was dead-in-the- water at the Battle of Komandorski Islands, in the far north Pacific. The Captain was about to order “abandon Ship” in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean, an almost certain death sentence for the crew.  Miraculously the engines restarted, and they were able to move into smoke cover to make repairs. Dad often attributed the “miracle” to the prayers of Betty and his mother. Jim also witnessed the flag raising on Iwo Jima.

On Memorial Day 2017—just last spring, Dad was invited to represent the Navy at the National Memorial Service at the World War II Memorial Monument, in Washington, DC.  Not only was he honored at the memorial service representing the few surviving veterans of WWII, but he was also personally honored and thanked by those currently serving in the Navy as they marched with him in the parade and passed him on the street.  It was awe inspiring to see squads of sailors in full-dress-uniform surround him and each shaking his hand and expressing gratitude for the service he had given. Jim was proud of his service in the navy and often regaled us with stories of his exploits and adventures onboard the USS Salt Lake City, noting that it was a ship not a boat.

Jim was an avid Boatman and water skier, taking his family and the youth on innumerable boating trips and teaching them to water ski. He was an enthusiastic fan of endurance skiing challenging any and all to see who could remain up longest. He also loved fishing, hunting, golf and tennis and baseball, playing on a team for the Firestone Volcanizers where he was a true “Babe Ruth” with his legendary home runs record. He was a switch hitter loving to confuse the opposing pitchers. Moreover, he was a fabled gardener. His rose garden rivaled the municipal rose gardens and his vegetable garden provided endless cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and winter squash for most of his children’s home use.

He set a standard and tradition of traveling with his family on vacations and taking many of us along as he had carpet jobs across the country. He was the owner and operator of “Kearl’s Karpets”.  Much of his business was laying and maintaining carpeting in chapels and temples in the northern hemisphere. It was intriguing to go to a Temple with Jim and hear him announce that he had laid the carpeting in (giving the date). It was in this trade that he trained his sons and some of his sons-in-law.

In their travels, the family visited most of the states; they were among the first to go to Disneyland when it first opened in 1955. They visited most of the church history sites and sought out the graves of ancestors who died crossing the plains to Utah. Many cherished memories were made on these family vacation adventures. One, in particular, being finding a replacement bell for the chapel at the Brighton Girls camp following the fire that destroyed the original chapel. They serendipitously found the bell in a remote, out-of-the-way antique shop in Missouri. Since the station wagon was already bulging at the seams, they took turns sitting around the huge bell as they transported it the 1300 miles back home. After this experience, Jim purchased a motor home for their road trips, providing a bit more leg room for his burgeoning family.

Dad loved people—loved being with them and serving them. He was a very active member of the LDS Church, serving as Young Men’s President, Elders’ Quorum President, and, back in the day, a 70. He served for 9 years as Bishop’s Counselor.  He also served as Bishop, High Councilor, and a counselor in the Stake Presidency.  He and his wife served 6 missions for the Church and Jim also served as Director of the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center in San Diego, where Jim was invited to be the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Old Town, San Diego.  In addition, Jim and Betty served several tours as Shuttle hosts bringing those with layovers at the Salt Lake International Airport to Temple Square to see the sights of Mormondom.

Jim is survived, remembered, and esteemed by his wife of 74 years, seven children, Susan (Robert) Sorensen, Clayton (Marcia), Aland (Janis), Marianne (Wayne) Samuelson, Bonnie Jeanne (Robert) Tingey, Barbara (Doug) Brown, Thomas (Nanette), 32 grandchildren, 69 Great-grandchildren with four still in the “cooker”, two sisters, Laura (Robert) Monson, and Donna Bergner.  He was preceded in death by his parents, 11 siblings, a granddaughter, two grandsons, and a daughter-in-law, Nita Rowe.


Services will be held Thursday, 19 April 2018, in the Belvedere Ward Building at 607 E Downington Ave, at Noon.  There will be a viewing at 10:30 AM.

The Family wishes to express their deepest gratitude to the workers and attendants of the Ridge and Mt. Olympus Care Centers for their loving assistance and help during these past few weeks.  Blessedly, Jim’s illness was of short duration and he went rather quickly.  We are also grateful for the counsel and assistance of the Brighton Hospice team and the wonderful Harp recital they provided during his last afternoon as the family gathered for the inevitable.

As word spreads, the Facebook is filled with his praises from children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends. A hero, mentor, and a giant has left his mark and a rich legacy.  Well done, Dad, well done! In the language of my mission, “Tschüß, Bis Auf wiedersehn!”

Interment will be at the Mountain View Memorial Cemetery, 3115 E Bengal Blvd, in Cottonwood Heights.

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