Cover photo for Dell R. Van Orden's Obituary
Dell R. Van Orden Profile Photo
1935 Dell R. Van Orden 2024

Dell R. Van Orden

September 27, 1935 — June 27, 2024

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Editor. Reporter. Photographer. Journalist. World Traveler. Author. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Church leader. Veteran. Friend.

Throughout his career as a passionate and lifelong newspaperman, Dell R. Van Orden had many titles (and wore many hats) while covering the news. Today it is our turn to make Dell the subject of the record as we mourn his passing, share the story of his life, and highlight who he was to us – son, brother, husband, dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa.

Dell was born at home in Idaho Falls in 1935, during what was perhaps the bleakest point of the Great Depression. He and his older siblings (Jeanne, Naola, and Roy Lynn) were raised on rations and hard work. His parents (Sylvin and LaVinia) provided the examples of grit and tenacity, enabling the family to cobble together a modest living. As a young child, Dell sold newspapers on street corners to help the family make ends meet (evidently he was destined to be a “Newsie” from the get-go). Tragedy and heartbreak struck the family in 1948 when 14-year-old Roy Lynn died from an untreatable brain tumor. The grief from the devastating loss of his only brother (and best friend) affected Dell for the rest of his life.

As a teenager and young man, Dell persevered despite hardships. He worked hard and merited many titles in his youth, including Eagle Scout, Idaho Falls newspaper employee, boxer, motorcycle rider, missionary (West Central States Mission, serving in Montana), and, after putting himself through college, BYU graduate (of course with a degree in journalism)!

During one summer break from college, Dell worked at Hart’s Bakery in Idaho Falls. There he met charming co-worker Sharon Larsen of Star Valley, Wyoming, and the pair immediately hit it off. Our punny parents used to say, “He thought she was a smart cookie, and she thought he was rolling in the dough.” She was his butter-half. Despite the bad jokes, and within just a few short months, Dell and Sharon married in 1958, in the Idaho FallsTemple, bestowing Dell with the title of husband. Dell and Sharon’s partnership here on earth lasted for 63 wonderful years until her passing two years ago. Dell had lovingly served as her caretaker for several years. Their decades together were filled with love, humor, tears, friendship, service, sacrifice, pranks, travel, challenges of all stripes, loafing around, and six dough-lightful children (if we don’t say so ourselves)!

Meanwhile, beginning in 1960, Dell served for seven years in the US Army Reserve, receiving a direct commission to First Lieutenant. Ever the resolute reporter and communicator, Dell served as Public Information Officer in the 91st Infantry Division.

While still in college, Dell worked three years for The Salt Lake Tribune as a reporter and photographer while running the one-man Provo Bureau. Dell then began a 38-year career with the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. At the Deseret News, Dell first worked as a reporter on the City Desk, and he enjoyed the high-intensity and adrenaline of this position. Upon transferring to [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] Church News, Dell served as assistant editor for eight years, with the last 23 years of his career (1976 through 1999) spent as editor of the Church News.

Throughout his career, Dell was a meticulous storyteller, a careful crafter of words, and a proud grammar and spelling nerd. He expected the same from his colleagues. He was a rigorous, yet compassionate, boss with high standards in the fast-paced, deadline-driven newsroom. Dell’s professional words to live by were “Attention to Detail!” He was proud to have mentored many journalists and photographers who followed in his footsteps.

Upon receiving the title of editor, it did not take Dell long to realize that leading the Church News team of reporters and photographers was his journalism dream job. Dell was honored to be able to personally cover the travels and speeches of six successive Church presidents (Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith through Gordon B. Hinckley), as well as other General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As editor, Dell traversed the globe, visited six continents and nearly 50 countries, met eight heads of state, and published his stories, photographs, and editorials in countless issues of the Church News.

When Dell retired in 1999, he expressed his gratitude to have been able “to stand at the window for the past 31 years and see the work of the Lord unfold.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was central to Dell’s identity, values, purpose, and service throughout his life. He had an unshakeable testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and of His Atonement. Dell touched countless lives through his service as home teacher (ministering brother), elders quorum president, high priest group leader, bishop, high councilor, stake president, and, for many years, beloved Gospel Doctrine teacher. He spent many hours reading scriptures, gathering stories and insights, and preparing lessons and talks. His countless visits to neighbors and friends in need have left lifelong influences on those Dell served.

Dell also loved genealogy, as well as researching and writing extensive family histories, especially about his pioneer ancestors. He co-authored six books with his long-time mentor, colleague, and friend J Malan Heslop, including a book on President Joseph Fielding Smith; another on LDS prisoners of war in Vietnam; three instructive books on writing personal and family histories; and an audio book about President Spencer W. Kimball. In 1974, Dell originated and developed the idea for the Church Almanac. For many years, this one-of-a-kind almanac was published annually by the Deseret News. Dell’s Almanac work will soon be able to be accessed online in perpetuity.

Dell’s favorite titles, however, were husband, father, grandpa, and great-grandpa. He wore those titles with pride as he labored to provide for his family, often picking up an extra odd job or two. He passed on to his children the value of hard work, which most of us can attest we learned while pulling a bucket of weeds. Dell also worked hard and took pride in his yard, whether it was by planting two dozen peach trees or carefully trimming the evergreens to look like gumdrop trees.

Dell was also a playful teaser and had a competitive side while playing games like chess, croquet, and Rummikub with his family. It was a rare celebration if you could ever beat Dell in chess.

In the evening, you might find Dell cheering on the Utah Jazz or some BYU sports team if he wasn’t giving an answer to Jeopardy or Family Feud. Or he might be watching an old Western movie while eating an oatmeal raisin cookie or ice cream sandwich. Dell loved to travel, and was thrilled to have visited all 50 states. He especially enjoyed visiting 39 national parks and numerous lighthouses. He collected pin buttons and had an impressive display of them from various sports teams, political candidates, or tourist locations. He also enjoyed stamp collecting. If he was doing projects in his home office, he most likely was listening to his favorite Somewhere in Time soundtrack on repeat. At Christmas, Dell loved displaying his and Sharon’s nutcracker collection (over 200!). On New Year’s Eve, Dell could always be found cooking pancakes for a festive family celebration at midnight.

Most kids want to believe their father is Superman; we think ours really was. Just since the spring of 2023, Dell survived, then thrived, after multiple falls, four major surgeries, Covid, and pneumonia. He lived well (with a great deal of assistance) for over 15 months after doctors repeatedly told us that he would not survive. Dell worked hard to learn to walk again, and as he declined, he adjusted to life in a wheelchair. In the end, not even dementia could dull his sparkle. Living in a memory care facility was never in his plans, but Dell made the absolute best of it. The staff often told us (and we saw firsthand) that Dell was almost always smiling, and he endeared himself to them with his unexpected quips and surprising playfulness.

In his final months, as his “check engine” light came on even more frequently, Dell often called out to Sharon. She is still his “butter-half.” We like to think that our angel mom was in the room with Dad, watching over him as he prepared to leave this life and join her in the next. In addition, after grieving the loss of his brother for 75 years, what a joyful day it must have been when Dell was finally reunited with his cherished brother, his parents, and both of his sisters.

As Dell’s children, we will always be incredibly grateful to Copper Creek memory care for taking such good care of our dad, especially the amazing and kind-hearted director Lela. Warmest thanks to Susie and Kari for the many activities that enriched Dell’s life. Additional thanks to Linda and Jordyn for spending many hours with Dad during his sleepless nights, as well as sincere thanks to the rest of the Copper Creek staff members (too many to name), all of whom cared for Dell like family. Heartfelt thanks to Ovation Hospice, including Raul, Tiffany, Monica, Kasey, Anna, and more.  Sincere thanks to occupational therapist Chris, and physical therapist Jesiree, for helping Dell rehab and learn to walk again. Special thanks to outside caretakers Jose, Audrey, Rachelle, Fareeha, and others, all of whom made Dell’s days brighter.

Our hearts are also full of gratitude for Dell’s friends and fellow ward members who often visited him during this difficult year, including his ever-faithful ministering brother (and friend), Ron, as well as friends Myrna & Terry.

Extra shout-out to our sibling Diana, who has worked hard at being Dad’s primary caretaker for years.

Now that Dell’s final earthly story has been written and his final news deadline has come and gone, our family finds ourselves with gratitude, grief, and love. We will strive to honor and emulate his inspiring legacy. While each of us, like our Dad, wears many hats, we are all proud to have the title of his children: Steve & Tracy; Debbie & Brent; Mike & Lynnette; Rich & Noelle; Julie & Pete; Diana & Ari.

Dell was especially happy whenever he was surrounded by his 13 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

Services as follows:

Viewing: Monday, July 1, 2024, 5:00-8:00 p.m., at McDougal Funeral Home, 4330 So. Redwood Road, Taylorsville, Utah.

Viewing: Tuesday, July 2, 2024, 9:00-10:30 a.m., at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3836 West 4100 South, West Valley City, Utah.

Funeral Services: Tuesday, July 2, 2024, 11:00 a.m., at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3836 West 4100 South, West Valley City, Utah.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to one of the charities that was near and dear to Dell’s heart, especially the Alzheimer’s Association or the Huntsman Cancer Institute. It would also make Dell smile if you would surprise someone with an act of kindness, since he spent his whole life trying to serve others.

 Join us virtually to view services by clicking this link: https://envisionutah-org.zoom.us/j/83560755734?pwd=63udJblEbxdv8B5kFAkRjPuQ8sqNHq.1

To order memorial trees in memory of Dell R. Van Orden, please visit our tree store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Viewing

Monday, July 1, 2024

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Mountain time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Viewing

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

9:00 - 10:30 am (Mountain time)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Building

3836 West 4100 South, West Valley City, UT 84120

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Mountain time)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Building

3836 West 4100 South, West Valley City, UT 84120

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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