1929 ~ 2017
Douglas Heal Thayer, 88, died at home in Provo, Utah, during his favorite season of the year, his third battle with cancer finally taking the ultimate toll on October 17, 2017. Born April 19, 1929 to Lily Nora Thatcher and Edward "Frank" Thayer, Doug was the consummate Provo boy. He grew up hiking the mountains overlooking his town, roaming the fields, fishing the streams, swimming in the Provo River. Doug was a noted short story writer and novelist - called "the Mormon Hemingway" and "the grandfather of modern Mormon fiction". His memoir, "Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood", captured the life of a boy growing up in Provo during the Great Depression. In recognition of Doug's ties to the community, Mayor Lewis Billings proclaimed Doug's 75th birthday "Douglas Thayer Day" in Provo.
All his life, Doug worked hard without complaint. As a boy, he scrubbed and cleaned the old Sixth Ward Meetinghouse and the Clark Clinic with his mother, the indomitable Lil. He found jobs - collecting night crawlers in the dark from neighbors' lawns to sell to waiting fishermen, sweeping floors and washing dishes in cafes, delivering papers. As a young man he worked at the office of the Provo Herald, as a helper on a uranium drill rig, a construction laborer, a railroad section hand, and a seasonal ranger in Yellowstone National Park.
In 1946, Doug dropped out of BY High School to join the Army, serving with the US Occupation Forces in war-shattered Germany, an experience that changed his life and greatly influenced his writing. He returned to Germany for 30 months as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back in Provo he took a bachelor's degree in English at BYU, then did graduate work at Stanford (MA American Lit), University of Maryland (PhD study), and the University of Iowa (MFA Fiction Writing). He taught at BYU for 54 years, serving as Coordinator of Composition, Director of Creative Writing, Associate Chair in the English Department, and Associate Dean of the College of Humanities.
Doug was an avid Scouter, from Senior Patrol Leader and Eagle Scout under the mentorship of Harold B. Jones, to decades guiding others (including four sons) towards their Eagles. He served on Scout committees into his eighties. As a young man he hunted and fished with his sidekicks Dean Conant and the Jones clan. In his mellowing years he perfected fly fishing - the cast and the art of catch-and-release - with his friend and colleague Eugene England, who passed away in 2001. He kept fishing with Dean, Scouts, sons, grandsons, and his new ace buddy Randy Rogers, almost to the end.
A lifelong member of the LDS Church, Doug held the office of seventy after his mission and until local units of seventy were discontinued in 1974. He served on lesson-writing committees for the Church, in three bishoprics, and on two high councils, and in his seventies volunteered to be the Ward Representative supervising the meetinghouse cleaning crews.
Doug married Donlu DeWitt in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple in 1974. Long accustomed to walking to and from BYU every day, he kept up the practice, from their home on First South and then from the home they built in Edgemont in 1978, where their six children grew up. Doug's habits were regular and sound. His students, colleagues, friends, and neighbors knew his relentless wit and dry humor, and his trustworthiness, and his selfless, unheralded service.
Doug published four collections of short stories and four novels. His work includes prizes from "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought", the P. A. Christensen Award, the Association for Mormon Letters Prize in the Novel, the Karl G. Maeser Creative Arts Award, the Utah Institute of Fine Arts Award in the Short Story, and the 2008 Smith-Pettit Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mormon Letters.
Doug was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Rowland, and his sister Marlene. He is survived by his brother Robert (Brigitte) Thayer, his wife, and their six children, their spouses, and their 21 "offspring", whom he adored: Emmelyn (Steven) Freitas and Vivienne; Paul (Sharolyn Shields) and Marcus, Aaron, Heather, Justin, Spencer & Alice; James (Elizabeth Benson) and Benson, William, Anna, Simon, Madeline & Sara; Katherine (Jonathan) Willson and Jacob & Lilian; Stephen (Amy Finnell) and Maxwell, Miles & Alexander; and Michael (Jill Myers) and Abigail, Owen & Sienna.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m., Saturday, October 28, 2017 at the Edgemont South Stake Center, 2950 North 350 East (Canyon Road), Provo, Utah. Friends may call at the Berg Mortuary of Provo, 185 East Center Street, Friday, October 27, from 6-8:00 p.m. and at the church Saturday, from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. prior to services. Interment will be at Provo City Cemetery. Condolences may be expressed at www.bergmortuary.com