“Elder Durrel A. Woolsey Of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1990, 109
“Follow the Brethren,” says Durrel A. Woolsey, a newly sustained member of the Seventy. “You can’t go wrong if you follow them.” He should know. “Following the Brethren has been the theme of Elder Woolsey’s life.
And “that’s been his constant advice to the missionaries,” says his wife, LaRae. When he received his call to serve in the Seventy, Elder Woolsey was presiding over the Arizona Tempe Mission.
Born on 12 June 1926 in Escalante, Utah, Elder Woolsey is the eldest of four children born to W. Arden and Ruby Riddle Woolsey. Helping care for the livestock and farm as a boy taught Elder Woolsey how to work hard and accept responsibility—now dominant traits in his personality.
At age sixteen, young Durrel moved with his family to Cedar City, Utah, where he finished high school in May 1944 and then joined the U.S. Navy.
“There were several times when I recall seeing kamikaze planes coming right for our ship,” says Elder Woolsey, “and there was no place to go. Fortunately, none of them ever made a direct hit on our ship, but I certainly learned the power of prayer—both my own and that of my family.”
After his service in the navy, Elder Woolsey returned briefly to Cedar City, Utah. He renewed his friendship with high school classmate LaRae Wood, and on 3 August 1946 they were sealed in the St. George Temple. “The greatest treasure in my life is my eternal companion,” says Elder Woolsey.
The Woolseys are the parents of three children: Bruce, Geri (Nielsen), and Gena (Jepsen). A close, cooperative family, the Woolseys love to take family vacations together with their children, children’s spouses, and grandchildren—especially to the ocean.
Elder Woolsey’s church experience has been almost exclusively in leadership positions since his first calling to the branch presidency in Trona, California, at age twenty-four. With few Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the branch, Elder Woolsey often cleaned the meeting area before church, conducted the meeting, led the singing, blessed and passed the sacrament, taught Sunday School, and cleaned the meeting area again after church.
When the family moved to Taft, California, in 1954, Elder Woolsey was called to serve in the bishopric. He remained in that calling for ten years. In 1970, the Woolseys moved to Stockton, California, where Elder Woolsey served on the high council and then in the stake presidency. He was a counselor for eight years and president for another eight before his call as mission president.
Professionally, Elder Woolsey began his career with Standard Oil as a salesman. He became a distributor for the company in 1954. In 1970, he became an independent jobber and established Woolsey Oil Company.
All of these experiences helped prepare Elder Woolsey for his new calling in the Seventy. A natural leader with boundless energy, Elder Woolsey has loved serving in the mission field. “I have really felt the inspiration of the Lord,” says Elder Woolsey. “There are challenges, but the rewards are there, too.”
“When you have a willing heart,” says Sister Woolsey, “you can do anything. Because we are Heavenly Father’s children, each of us has divine potential. There’s nothing like watching young missionaries begin to realize their potential and to keep encouraging them to reach beyond what they can see to what we can see.”
Both Elder and Sister Woolsey have a strong Church heritage. They both acknowledge the fine training they received in their homes. “There’s never been a time in my life when I questioned the Church,” says Elder Woolsey. “I’ve always known it was true. I just think the Lord has been especially good to us.”