George Virl Osmond Jr. sits in his modest living room in Lindon. On various shelves sit family photos. A closer look at the photos and one sees the trademark smiles of the Osmond brood, the nine children of George and Olive Osmond, along with their 20 grandchildren.
Virl is the oldest and embodies the trademark Osmond looks and grace with a broad smile, the pug nose and the heartfelt concern for whomever he encounters. He and his brother, Tom, were born hearing-impaired, and therefore not part of the performing acts of their seven siblings.
In spite of his handicap, he exudes that bright, contagious enthusiasm that people associate with the famous performing family.
"My brother and I helped with the Osmond Brothers' act -- we taught them sign language, so they could communicate on the set," he said. Virl's eyes twinkle as he continues. "And I taught them to dance. When they became well-known as a barbershop quartet, my mother, Olive, sent me to tap dancing classes so that I would not feel left out. I came back and taught the boys to dance."
He slowly rises to his feet aided by a cane and does a short soft-shoe routine, flashing an impish grin. The cane is necessary to steady himself because of an automobile accident about a year ago.
Virl lives with his wife, Chris, and their two dogs, one of whom is Nibley, named in honor of Hugh Nibley. They are parents of seven grown children. Virl has a degree in art from BYU and has been a graphic artist for most of his career. He also managed the Osmond Fan Club during the height of his brothers' success.
He has recently finished writing a biography of his beloved mother entitled, "The Untold Story of Olive Osmond." It contains large segments from her carefully-kept diaries and photos that people have not seen of the family.
"I was her confidante for many years," Virl said. "I'm so happy that this book has now been published. It gives people a better look at her early years, the love story of my parents, and the reasons behind my siblings' remarkable success. It was her philosophy that we will stay the course. One of my favorite sayings of hers was, 'We may as well laugh about it now; we will later anyway.' "
Olive began life in Samaria, Idaho. There is a celebration planned on the weekend of May 2-3, where the restored cabin she was born in will be open to the public.
"I don't know that many people who were born in their grandparents' cabin in 1923," Virl said. "My mom was definitely a product of the LDS pioneer ethos."
With Virl's help, Olive started the Children's Miracle Network, originally to help hearing-impaired children.
"My mother was determined that Tom and I would be as normal as possible," he said. "She did not institutionalize me in the School for the Deaf, which was the doctor's recommendation. Instead, she sent away for every possible teaching program for the deaf and supplemented our education with a colorful home classroom and delightful, interesting lessons. My other brothers loved coming to class after school; they found it so fun and enlightening."
Virl recounted that he was in charge of milking the family cow, Pansy, in the wee hours of the morning on their Ogden "farm." Their father was a veteran of World War II, so his soldiering carried over to his parenting style.
"Mother loved to sew, so we were dressed in the same style shirts and lined up for Dad's sake when we took family photos," Virl said. "I wouldn't like to leave the impression that we didn't have fun, though. When we would be out in the orchard picking apples, we'd play baseball with the rotten apples. One of us would pitch, the other would hit the apple over the fence, sometimes aiming for the nearby cow. I miss living on that farm. I was sad when we moved to L.A. so that my brothers could pursue their dream. I'd go back in a heartbeat -- if I didn't have to milk cows."
From that early education with his mother and continued support from both parents, Virl was prepared to be the first deaf missionary sent out on a mission by the LDS Church. Sometime later, he was joined by his brother, Tom.
Virl and Chris are beginning to turn over the soil in their Lindon backyard in anticipation of being able to plant soon. Another interest and concern of Virl is Native Americans. One of his future projects is to collect hearing aids and distribute them on reservations around the United States.
About the recent family tragedy and his sister, Marie, he said, "We never read the tabloids, but I heard from someone that they were saying that Marie had a nervous breakdown. That couldn't be farther from the truth. My sister has great spiritual strength. I know that she believes with all her heart that she will be with her son Michael again, and that he is being cared for by our departed parents. She has an amazing work ethic, as do all my brothers. That was instilled in us from the time we were little."
Nibley shifts around in Virl's lap, and an aging Basset Hound nuzzles his hand. The dogs, like a lot of people, are hooked on Virl's warm energy and care.
• Pam Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.