“A Witt That Won’t Quit,” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 66
Though bedfast with multiple sclerosis (MS), Leonard Witt thrives on his wonderful wit and his compelling gift of gab. And so do those around him.
For the past twenty years, since MS began to cripple his nervous system and weaken his physical body, Leonard has had to rely on his own faith, his devoted wife, Irma, and the memories of all the good things of his life to that point. As his health deteriorated, this very active and busy sociology professor suddenly found that confinement was more challenging than the disease itself.
But even MS is no match for the remarkable spirit housed inside his ailing body. He credits his wife for much of his contentment. With five children involved in a variety of activities, Irma has had a lot to do to keep things going, but her greatest concern is helping her husband feel involved in all that takes place.
“It takes a great deal of determination for Len to insist that the children lead as normal a life as possible,” she says, commenting on the challenges of adjusting to his illness.
The family’s home teachers have made arrangements with the high school to bring in videotapes of the athletic games involving the Witt children so Leonard doesn’t have to miss them completely, and the high priests group helps out with meals and support when the rest of the family is away for any period of time.
“I don’t worry about a thing,” says Leonard. “I’m surrounded by many wonderful people. I have absolutely no regrets. The things that keep me going are the things that matter: life’s meaning, faith in God, fun memories, my admiration and appreciation for others’ accomplishments, a sense of humor, nature’s beauty, and good friends.”
A memorable example of Leonard’s gift of gab and his wit once saved his life in a danger-filled situation. While working on his doctorate, he had a job in a finance company. As he came back from lunch one day, he discovered that the secretary was being held at gunpoint by a former delinquent customer, who came in to rob them.
Leonard still chuckles a bit nervously at the memory of that moment when he walked toward the robber—whom he noticed was very nervous—and said, “Dick, ol’ boy! What the heck are you doing here?”
Appearing disoriented, the robber thrust the .38 caliber pistol against Leonard’s stomach and said, “Hi, Len.” Leonard’s prayers were desperate, and he remembers saying, after a quick prayer, “What kind of crazy joke are you pulling on me anyway, Dick?”
Although the gun remained pointed at Leonard, the man said, “I knew this was your office, and I just wanted to play a little prank on you.” The two joked back and forth in an awkward sort of way, with the gun still thrust against Leonard, and the secretary began to think it had been a joke on her. She screamed at both men hysterically and left the room.
She immediately called Irma to tell her what was going on, and Irma explained that he would never joke that way, adding that he was still in great danger. Soon they had the police there to capture the man.
Leonard’s wit came to his aid on that day, and those around him today feel they are blessed by his frequent jokes and his good humor. But Leonard Witt doesn’t consider himself all that extraordinary: Life is just too full of experiences, he explains, to ever want to quit.—Luis E. Sanchez, Fort Washington, Maryland