Byron T. Geslison
1914 – 2001
Religious Leader/Humanitarian Spanish Fork, Utah
Melva and Byron Geslison
Order of the Falcon Ceremony 1993
Byron T. Geslison received the Order of the Falcon on Aug. 6, 1993, the highest honor bestowed by the government of Iceland. Byron helped open missionary work in Iceland in 1975 and has served three missions to that country.
The Honorable Tomas Tomasson, Ambassador of Iceland, presented the award to Byron T. Geslison at a reception center in Spanish Fork, Utah. The Order of the Falcon is "selectively conferred upon Icelandic and foreign subjects, men and women, who above all others have furthered the welfare and honor of the Fatherland or have accomplished achievements in the interest of mankind.
Before pinning the award on Byron, Ambassador Tomasson told those present: "I am here on official errand of the government of Iceland. It is a pleasure indeed for me to be here with you tonight in Spanish Fork, the oldest Icelandic settlement in the United States." He added that the president of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, had commissioned him to "honor one of the outstanding western Icelanders, Byron T. Geslison. I want to tell you that the great missionary work that Byron has done - both as a missionary from Utah in Iceland and as a missionary of Iceland in Utah - has been highly valued by the authorities in Iceland. "We value highly both the fostering of family bonds, and also the promoting of the Icelandic culture and heritage here in Utah and the Western Icelandic identity here," he added.After the ambassador pinned the award on his lapel, Byron said, "I accept this honor, but not entirely on my own behalf." He then beckoned to his wife Melva to stand beside him as they received applause from the audience. "I couldn't do much of anything without her," he added. Continuing, Byron asked the Icelandic ambassador to "please convey to the government my great and deep appreciation for this honor that has been bestowed upon me. ”I'd like to thank those on this side of the ocean as well as those in the old land. I love the Icelandic people dearly." In speaking of the former Icelandic president, Byron said: "He gave great service to us. He was one of the first we met when we arrived in Iceland. We became friends, and I'm grateful for what he did.”
Byron Theodore Geslison was born in Spanish Fork, Utah on May 15, 1914 the son of Sigmundur Geslison and Sveinmsina Arnadottir known as Sina and Mund. They were both born in Iceland and came, when they were young, to America and settled in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Byron’s grandmother, Steinnun Thorstiensdottir, a widow lived next door. She who was also an Icelandic emigrant taught him about Iceland and the Icelandic language. She spoke mostly Icelandic to him and told many tales of Iceland and happenings she remembered. He developed a strong desire for Byron to go to this rugged land of his forbearers. She passed away when he was 10 years of age.
Byron became ill in the 9th grade and had to miss a month of school. It may have been rheumatic fever. He was advised by the doctor to take it easy that summer. He had been studying the Old Testament in seminary; he decided that he would read the entire Old Testament that summer. It was a large undertaking for a fifteen year old, but he did it and this was blessing throughout his life.
The summer of 1938 Byron spent in Iceland with his cousins and their families. His family took him too many part of the country and he grew to love it. He was able to meet people in important positions and heads of Churches; this was good material for his report to President Grant. He developed a great interest in the land of his forefathers and maintained a life-long bond with family and friends.
Byron graduated from seminary as a junior in 1931 and from Spanish Fork High School in 1932. He graduated from BYU in the spring of 1939 in secondary education and German. He went to work for the Nebo School District and continue his work on his M.A. degree at BYU. He took ill and went to a hospital in Ogden, Utah where he spent the next year. This is where he fell in love with one of the nurses that he describes as “a beautiful dark haired, brown eyed nurse.”
Melva Ilene Holt was called to serve a mission to the Northern California Mission just about the time Byron was released from the hospital. He waited for her and they were married December 1, 1943 in the Salt Lake Temple. Byron and Melva made their home in Spanish Fork next to his parents. Their children are; Elaine, Allen, Mary Kathleen, David and Daniel. Byron and Melva also had Earl Riggs, a Navajo Indian, live with them for several years, as well as Rose Eichler, a German girl that stayed with them for two years.
Byron was appointed Bishop of the Spanish Fork Fifth Ward in September 1946 and served there for ten years until 1956, at which time he was called as 1st counselor in the Spanish Fork Stake Presidency, a position he held for nearly sixteen years.
His work included working for Spanish Fork City as City Clerk and Treasurer, school teacher in Spanish Fork, Electrolux Corp., National Public Services Insurance, teaching Seminary and Principal of the Spanish Fork LDS Seminary.
In 1954 he was appointed to the executive committee for the Icelandic Centennial Celebration along with J. Victor Leifson and John Y. Bearnson. This was an outstanding event that even brought Icelanders from Iceland and Canada to Spanish Fork.
Byron was active in the Icelandic Association of Utah all his life. He was often asked to translate old letters and books into English. He was a devote Mormon Church Leader, having a guiding influence on many of the young Western Icelanders in Spanish Fork as their spiritual leader. Whether it was serving as their local Bishop, in the Stake Presidency and/or as their Seminary teacher, he lived his life as a humble servant of his Heavenly Father.
Byron T Geslison died on October 10, 2001 at 87 years old. He is buried in the Spanish Fork City Cemetery.
Missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
David A. Ashby
10 April 2014
Taken from an autobiography of Byron T. Geslison