Life of Purpose, Man of Service: A biography of Cecil Erwin Waite
It was 1945 in the South Pacific. A typhoon had hit with 100mph winds, 100 ft. waves and non-stop rain for 14 days. The destroyer he was on would rock back and forth like a cork in a dark abyss of a vast ocean with no sign of rescue and avoiding thoughts of what tomorrow might bring. That is, if there was to be a tomorrow. Thirteen destroyers left port; only three would survive the violent storm unleashed in a furry. Hundreds of men had already perished in the dark, deep clenches of the sea. It was during these darkest, most trying times that Erwin remembered a folded copy of his Patriarchal Blessing that he had carried with him since he left home months before. It was a special blessing, given to him many years earlier with special promises if he but did his part. Mom had given it to him before he left for the service and encouraged him to read it often-especially when times were tough. He unfolded the soaked paper, not knowing if its condition was due to rain or his own tears. As he read, a certain calmness and reassurance came over him. He read that his life would be spared in midst of trials, tribulations and war, if he would but keep the commandments and live a life dedicated to the Lord. At that point he bowed his head and said a silent prayer. A commitment and a promise. It was a covenant with the Lord that he would keep for the rest of his life.
Throughout his life as trials and tribulations would come Erwin would find the strength and faith to overcome. As their first child was born and given no hope to live they were told to make funeral arrangements as he wasn’t expected to live through the night. Through their faith and prayers- and a miracle- their little one not only survived, but thrived and became a leader himself and a big brother to his three siblings. When Erwin was called to be a bishop of the new 5th ward with only 13 active families in the congregation and at the same time becoming a brand new school superintendent, life seemed overwhelming. How could he possibly do it? In a matter of a few years the ward had gone from 10% activity to almost 90%. More importantly, the lives that were touched through his countless hours of service would be etched in their hearts forever. The school had equally grown in its 22 years he was there, growing from a few students to a few hundred. When called to serve as missionaries in Sierra Leone in West Africa and establishing the church in a new country, Erwin & Colleen became true pioneers all while suffering through boils and shingles. They were watched over and protected. The results were astounding: going from six members to four branches of faithful, dedicated members in just 18 months- baptizing hundreds. It was another miracle. With each additional calling, whether stake president, mission president or temple sealer there were challenges and obstacles to overcome, but there were also great rewards and an outpouring of the Lord’s richest blessings.
So it is with Erwin’s life. A life of purpose. A life of service. A life of Christ-like example. He would remain steadfast and immovable, dedicated to not only staying the course, but also helping others to do the same.