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First all-female Honor Flight includes Air Force vet from Provo

For the first time, Utah’s Honor Flight program will take an all-female flight to the nation’s capital on Thursday. LaRetta Johnson Duncan, 87, of Provo will be on that flight.

Stephanie Harmon, chairman of the Honor Flight program said 23 women will be flying, all but Duncan are veterans of the Vietnam War.

“I was shocked when they called,” Duncan said. “They finally put together an all-female flight and I’m so honored.”

Duncan was a member of the Women’s Air Force during the Korean War. She will be the oldest and only Korean War veteran on the trip.

Duncan said she is more than excited to be on the trip, the only drawback is she is required to be pushed in a wheelchair, something completely foreign to her.

“They always pick out men (for Honor Flights),” Duncan said, “But I want people to know the women were just as important. Don’t you think?”

Duncan was raised in Spanish Fork, and with her aunt Mary Johnson (the same age) they joined the Air Force after graduation from high school.

They were the first women to go to George Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert for basic training and then on to stenographer’s school at Oklahoma A&M University.

“I was trained by a Sgt. Barton. I have learned everything from Sgt. Barton,” Duncan said. “She was the toughest woman I know. I was scared to death of her. If a paper was not typed write she would rip it out of the typewriter and throw it at me.”

Duncan added, “I learned from her to do it right the first time. It got me so far.”

Duncan graduated top in her class. That distinction probably led her to her final destination as the secretary/stenographer to a four-star general.

“I’ve been an achiever all of my life,” Duncan said.

Duncan served from 1950 to 1953. She met her husband, who was also in the Air Force, at Westover Air Force Base and six months later they were married. They have four children.

Their oldest, Debi, was born in the U.S., Rodney was born in Paris, Kirk in Brussels and Selena in Mons, Belgium. She said she calls Kirk her “Brussels sprout.”

After traveling all over the world from New Delhi to Saudi Arabia, and Turkey to Greece, the family settled down in Provo.

Duncan worked for several years in the Utah County Sheriff’s Office as a stenographer/secretary in the investigations department.

She loved all the people she worked with and has held parties for them, even after her retirement. Their favorite appears to have been a biscuit and gravy breakfast event.

“(Duncan) was a pleasure to work with and always helped establish a pleasant and welcoming work environment,” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “The instant you walked into her office, you knew she was in charge. But it was always in a warm and friendly way. And only now do I find out she also served in the United States Air Force. My admiration for LaRetta continues to grow. It has been a privilege to have known her and to call her a friend.”

Duncan is also an avid supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and has been awarded the Silver Beaver, one of the highest honors in Scouting.

“I have lived by four things: hard work, always be happy and kind, always be positive and do service to your fellowman,” Duncan said.

According to Harmon, the all-female flight came about because two years previously, a Vietnam War veteran had taken the flight and he thought the women should be honored. He made a $30,000 donation to make sure that happened.

The all-female Honor Flight tour will be from June 6 to 8 and the women will see the Capitol, National Mall, the Women at Arlington, the changing of the guard, a tour of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and attend an honors banquet.

For information about Honor Flights contact https://utahhonorflight.org.

Isaac Hale 

LaRetta Duncan, a U.S. Air Force veteran who served as a stenographer during the Korean War, holds a photograph of herself from when she was in the military as she poses for a portrait at her home in Provo on Friday, May 31, 2019. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Attorneys for woman suing LDS Church drop out of case

Attorneys representing a woman who claims she was raped in 1983 at the Provo Missionary Training Center by her mission president have withdrawn as her representatives.

Attorneys Craig K. Vernon and Jeffrey R. Oritt were granted withdrawal Monday from McKenna Denson’s case by Judge Dustin B. Pead.

A representative for Vernon’s office said, “There is no comment at this time.”

In documents filed May 31, it states the Denson had not responded to outstanding discovery requests by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the defendant in the case.

Denson’s responses were due April 15 and to date, had not yet been filed.

Denson has also reportedly provided conflicting information on issues including an alleged forthcoming book.

“Ms. Denson’s productions and responses to interrogatories are incomplete and inconsistent with her deposition testimony,” court documents state. “For example, Ms. Denson testified that she is writing a book about her allegations and this case. She produced only a single page ‘outline’ and, when pressed, she indicated that was all she had written. Just a few days later, however, Ms. Denson posted on social media that her book is ‘nearly complete.’”

The court has given Denson 21 days to find new representation for her case.

If she fails to file a notice of substitution of counsel or notice of appearance, the case may be dismissed or show a default judgment.

The court has ordered all litigation dates be stayed until new representation is obtained.

A number of documents regarding the withdrawal of the Vernon and Oritt have been redacted and sealed by the court.

Timpanogos Cave announces opening date with new visitor center

Timpanogos Cave National Monument will reopen to the public on June 19 with a long-awaited new visitor center.

The cave, Utah County’s only national monument, has been closed since Sept. 3 while the new visitor center has been under construction. The cave is always closed from approximately Labor Day through Memorial Day, though closure was extended this year for work on the new visitor center to be completed.

The old visitor center has already been torn down, and work on the interior of the new center continues, according to construction updates on the park’s website. Because of construction, both the cave and the trail have been closed for both tours and hikers.

A construction update posted Wednesday said the building is already connected to power, and that trees are being planted around the construction area. In the next week, the post said, doors will be hung and restroom partitions will be completed. Some finishing work needs to be completed on the roof, and more concrete will be laid for sidewalks.

The main challenge now, the post said, is the weather. Five warm, dry days are needed before asphalt can be laid in the new parking lot. The building is located on the other side of the road from where the old visitor station stood, and will be designed to last longer. It will actually be a little smaller than the old visitor center, and will not contain a concession area. The park is currently looking for food truck vendors to fill that gap.

The old visitor center, a trailer which was supposed to be temporary after the visitor center burned down in 1991, ended up lasting for 27 years.

The visitor’s center was at one time scheduled to be completed for the 2017 season, but was once again stalled when construction bids came in higher than available funding.

For the 2019 season, tours may be reserved up to 30 days in advance. Tickets may be purchased at recreation.gov.

Lehi celebrates National Trails Day with local businesses, new trail opening

Saturday, the Traverse Mountain Trails Association celebrated National Trails Day by unveiling the Traverse Mountain Trail System Master Plan, along with its first trail, the Sensei Trail.

The master plan, created in partnership with Lehi, will require a $2 million investment, a press release from the event states. The funds are expected to come from a combination of public and private funds, and grant monies. To date, the group has raised $200,000, or 10% of the money required.

National Trails Day encourages people to get outdoors to hike, improve a trail or support trails in their local community, making it a fitting setting for the opening of the Sensei trail.

Ben Crookston, president of the Traverse Mountain Trails Association, said the master plan includes a 60-mile network of mountain biking, hiking, trail running and walking trails.

“When complete, the system will connect the Draper and Corner Canyon trail system, giving people access to one of the most extensive trail networks in the country,” Crookston said.

About 250 people attended the event, including Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson, who spoke in support of the master plan and cut the ribbon for the trail. There were also pop-up tents from Skyridge Mountain Bike Club, a local sports drink manufacturer and a local custom bike maker alongside tents for the association and Lehi city.

Community members were able to use the new five-mile trail for the first time and were greeted by refreshments and prize drawings at the “finish line,” hosted by Toll Brothers, the homebuilding company currently building the Canyon Point community at Traverse Mountain in Lehi. Adobe public relations representative Lea Anna Cardwell wrote in an email that the “finish line” for the trail was well attended, “despite the cool weather, sprinklers and wind.”

“Access to the trail network is an important feature for homeowners in our Canyon Point community and provides a healthy way for families to enjoy Lehi’s scenic beauty,” Scott Ilizaliturri, vice president of Toll Brothers Utah division, said.

Adobe, a donor to the association, was given the honor of naming the trail.

“As Adobe and other innovative companies in the area continue to attract talent to the region, readily accessible recreation infrastructure is increasingly important to the active lifestyles of our employees and to keeping them engaged and retained,” Jonathan Francom, vice president, employee and workplace solutions at Adobe, said. “As an early sponsor of the Traverse Mountain Trail system, we are delighted to see the Sensei Trail grand opening as the beginning of what will become an amazing asset to Lehi and surrounding communities.”

Johnson spoke highly of the trail and the master plan as well, and said the system will provide “a sustainable outdoor experience.” In regards to Saturday’s event, he said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with the efforts of the people and groups involved.

“This is a magnificent example of the positive impact volunteers can have in accomplishing something they are passionate about.”

Learn more about the Traverse Mountain Trails Association and view the master plan by visiting their website, https://www.traversemountaintrails.org/.

Jared Lloyd, Daily Herald 

BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake (left) poses for a photo with Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham during the 2019 Liberty Mutual Invitational golf tournament at Hidden Valley Country Club in Sandy. The event benefited the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho.