Ross was the baby of the family, and we always thought he was awfully spoiled (which of course he was). He didn’t look like me at all, I thought, with his reddish curly hair and sly grin. He liked to be the center of attention (My dad always said he was a “ham”), and he usually got it. Danny resented the attention Ross got and picked on him mercilessly.

I remember when Ross was about four years old, and he had apparently picked up some language from one of the neighbors. At dinner one night, he said in a very polite voice to my mother, “Please pass the f***ing butter.” Mom’s jaw dropped, and the rest of us just burst out laughing. Another time when he was about seven, he and his friend from across the street brought a stack of Playboys home. Mom was mortified.

As I said, Danny hounded Ross for a long time, mostly because Ross was smaller by quite a bit. But when Ross was about thirteen, he suddenly grew into a tall and rather solidly built kid. Danny stopped bugging him. Somewhere along the line, Danny started calling him “Otis” because he thought it was funny. Ross was not bothered at all, and soon everyone was calling him Otis. Once my dad went to pick him up at a church dance, and when he asked for Ross Williams, no one knew who he was talking about. Finally, someone said, “Oh, you mean Otis.”

During his teenage years, Ross became quite a good surfer, and he and Danny surfed just about every weekend and every day during the summer. I think it was the surfing that made him so strong. He had massive shoulders.

By the time I got home from my mission, Ross was big and tall and strong. He met an African American girl at youth conference, and she persuaded him to start dressing and grooming himself as if he too were black. Danny called him the “pseudo-black.” What made me sad was that this girl treated him really badly and said terrible things to him, such as that she was embarrassed to be seen with him. He really withdrew during that time and became really quiet and unsure of himself. I used to pick him up from his job at Builders’ Emporium and we would talk for hours about life. I kept telling him that no one was worth the abuse he was taking from her. Finally he broke up with her, and soon he was back to his old, happy self. Later I read his journal from this time period, and it made me cry to think of how sad and hurt he was.

After graduation, he and Danny spent a week surfing in Mazatlan. Ross ended up surfing alone much of the time because Danny got stung by a Portuguese Man-O-War. He was pretty good about staying with him and taking care of him, but Danny insisted he go out and get in some waves.

That fall he headed off to BYU like most of us in our family had. The first day, he went to class and realized he’d forgotten a pencil, so he turned to the girl sitting next to him and asked if he could borrow one from her. They immediately hit it off, and soon they were inseparable. Just a couple of weeks into the semester, I was working one night at my low-paying job cleaning the Wilkinson Center floors when someone knocked on the window behind me at about one in the morning. It was Ross, and he wanted to introduce me to Becky, the girl he had met. He was much taller and bigger than she was, but they both seemed so happy together.

For my birthday, Danny and Ross rented a couple of movies to watch at our house. The only one I remember was “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” At Christmas that year, we all gathered at my parents’ house in California and took a family photo. For some reason, Ross didn’t have his dress clothes with him, so he squeezed into one of my sweaters. (I have no idea how. He was about 6’2″ tall, and I’m six inches shorter than that. )

As I said, the last time I saw Ross we were swimming in the Richards Building at BYU. Both Danny and I commented on how huge he was, his shoulder muscles big and strong. We felt like dwarves standing next to him.

Ross was driving the day they were killed. His girlfriend took a picture of him behind the wheel, a big licorice pipe in his mouth. He looked really happy. I wish they had not done a viewing, as Ross did not really look like himself there in the casket. I much prefer thinking of him standing outside in the cold, his arm around his girlfriend, a big contented grin on his face.


18 Responses to Ross

  1. Odell says:

    What a beautifully written tribute to your brother. Thank you for that. What happened to the others in the car? I know your brothers passed away, were there others? If others survived, do you know what became of them?

  2. Becky says:

    I debated whether to leave a comment, but I guess I’ll answer Odell’s questions. Yes, there were five of us in the car. I survived, along with Johnson(Danny’s friend). I was badly hurt, (mostly my legs and face) and I still suffer from these injuries every day. Eventually I married a great guy and I have four beautiful daughters. Thanks Runtu, for the walk down memory lane. You’ve described Ross exactly.

    • runtu says:


      Wow, I never expected to see you commenting here. I’m glad you are doing well. I know how much Ross loved you, and I am glad you were part of his life. Thank you for commenting here.

  3. John,

    Ross sounds like a great guy, and this was a wonderfully-written memorial. Thanks and my deepest condolences.


  4. Mina says:

    runtu, this may be my favorite thing you’ve written. It’s absolutely perfect. The ending, the photograph, Becky. It stopped me cold.

  5. aerin says:

    Beautifully written Runtu, thank you. We (the world) lost a lot when we lost your brothers.

  6. Becky says:

    I have looked around your blog here since I discovered it. Wow, I never expected to see you doing this. Tell Nancy she’s in my prayers.

  7. froggey says:

    Becky, why is Nancy in your prayers?

  8. Odell says:


    Thank you for the follow up. I am glad that you married a great guy, although I am sorry that you continue to suffer from injuries sustained on that terrible day.

    As for John, Nancy should feel fortunate to be married to a man like him. I have come to know John over the last several years and have found him to be thoughtful, kind, and honest.

    My thoughts are with people like you who judge from ignorance and prejudice, who form beliefs and opinions while refusing to open their eyes to see, who feel safer tossing stones then attempting empathy, and who somehow believe that god, if there is one, would condone such maltreatment.

  9. Rollo says:

    A beautiful tribute. My heart goes out to you for the loss of your brothers.

  10. Becky says:

    Odell, I agree that Nancy married well. John, I don’t doubt is today a noble and honorable man. (Sorry to talk about you like you’re not here, I didn’t mean that.) I’m sure you know John very well, and I don’t pretend to. I remember quite well Ross’s stories and description of you, John and through that, I assure you I absolutely love you. (Perhaps you don’t realize that Ross talked about you to me *a lot*. I’m sure I know you much better than you ever knew me. And I still remember everything all too well.) I’m sorry if my comment came across judgmental. I was surprised, moreso about the person who sent me this link than anything. I felt sort of ambushed.
    I certainly didn’t think I was tossing any stones to simply say that I would pray for Nancy. (I should’ve said I was praying for John and Nancy but as a woman I instinctively felt concern for her). I pray for a lot of people I care about. I will always love and care about Ross’s family, second only to my own.
    I have been in a strange and precarious place for 21 years: I will always love Ross and his family, yet I must keep my distance. It’s not good for my marriage, or for my emotional health.
    I ask *you* not to judge *me*. You have no idea the road I have traveled.
    There is just one more thing I’d like to add: Ross loved you too, John. He never spoke a negative thing about you. He was excited to be an uncle again. He craved your approval, and I thank you that he always received it. And yes, he had marvelous shoulders, didn’t he?

  11. Odell says:


    Thank you for your such kind remarks. John is one of the best people I know, Mormon or not, Muslim or not, Jew or not, Catholic or not, Texan or (well it has to end there).

    Thanks fore being beautiful.

    Odell, my email is if you ever need to chat.

  12. runtu says:


    I’m sorry that you had to come across this in this way. I hope you understand that what I have written here I have written both from my heart and from my head. I respect your beliefs, and I hope you can respect mine.

    I’m curious as to who would have directed you here, but that’s neither here nor there.

    And for what it’s worth, I think you’ve handled a difficult situation with my family the best way you could. We will always have a place in our hearts for you.

  13. Odell says:

    Thanks Becky

  14. Bull says:

    Becky probably doesn’t realize that there was a recent thread on this blog about how people pray for Runtu’s wife as if she’s suffered some sort of catastrophe because her husband has realized the truth about his church. I recently had a similar response from a brother. Neither Becky nor my brother realize the judgment implied in their comments. It is a programmed response and part of their world view that the church is the end all and be all of their existence. With such a belief, someone leaving the church is a disaster.

  15. GBSmith says:

    It would have been nice if you would have updated your post “so much for a reconnection” with Becky’s follow up comments. For several days people have been posting some very cruel and angry comments about her that appear to be totally undeserved.

  16. runtu says:

    You know, I hadn’t even paid attention to that at all. Will do.

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