SALT LAKE CITY (AP) An estimated 1,300 people traveled from as far as Missouri, South Dakota, Oregon and Washington to attend a memorial service for the head of Utah’s second largest polygamist group.
Mourners packed a chapel in the small Juab County town of Rocky Ridge to eulogize Owen Allred, who died Monday at his home about a week after falling and breaking his hip. He was 91.
Allred was remembered as a humble head of the 6,000-member Apostolic United Brethren who took great pains to demystify polygamous culture and denounce child and sex abuses within it.
In 1977, Allred took over as head of the AUB after his brother Rulon was murdered by members of another polygamous group.
He gave followers free agency to enter marriages, though he asked that they complete high school or even vocational or college educations before marrying. He often talked with existing wives before approving plural matches to ensure they were OK with it.
He gained respect from state officials and academic researchers, to whom he opened his community to build understanding. But Saturday’s service was for his family, friends and followers.
“There are a lot of people here who simply loved Owen as a person,” said one son, Carl Allred.
Media were not allowed into the two-hour service, in part to protect the privacy of those who attended.
Carl Allred met with media in a small room at the chapel, and spoke on behalf of the family. His father, he said, had been ill for some time and “wanted to go home” for the past year.
“All of us shed our tears for happiness that he is at peace now,” Carl Allred said. “It is a happy occasion for us that he is no longer suffering.”
New AUB leader J. LaMoine Jenson presided over the service, according to a program shared with media. The service included renditions of “Oh My Papa” by Allred’s daughters and “How Great Thou Art” by sons of his deceased brother, Marvin Allred.
Allred is survived by 23 children and a large extended family, according to Carl Allred.
The family said he “had more than one wife” but the program listed one: Elsie F. Allred. He was buried at Taylorsville Memorial Park.
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