Virl and Tom Osmond, the oldest of the Osmond siblings. Although significant hearing impairment kept them from being part of the performing family, their disability was the inspiration for the creation of the Children's Miracle Network.
As the Osmond family is laying to rest one of its own, Marie's 18-year-old son Michael Bryan, today in Utah, I'd like to pay tribute to the family from a perspective rarely heard.
The Osmonds get a bad rap. Teased a lot, bubblegum and superwhite smiles and clean living and all of it.
They take it on the chin, Donny and Marie particularly. From their variety show to Dancing With the Stars to Vegas they've traveled a lot of miles from the time the original Osmond brothers, four of Donny's older brothers, were discovered by singer Andy Williams.
I first saw them perform live not long after that, with Andy Williams in the 1960's, in a place called Valley Music Hall near Bountiful, Utah. Donny was the little charmer who came on to delight the audience near the end of the show after his brothers had done barbershop.
Years later, I was a freshman in college working part-time as a carhop at the local A&W drive-in in Provo, Utah. The Osmonds owned and lived in the apartment building next door and would come in for the requisite hamburgers and root beer floats from time to time. Marie was a tousle-headed teenager on the brink of another world.
But it's her older brothers I remember best, not the ones most of us grew up with, Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, then Donny, but Virl and Tom, the two oldest, who are deaf.
Most people don't know about Virl and Tom because they were not part of the performing family, which eventually came to include little brother Jimmy Osmond. Virl and Tom were homeschooled by their mother, Olive Osmond, became the first hearing impaired missionaries for the LDS Church and later, successful businessmen.
As a 17-year-old carhop, I took an order out to a Volkswagen Beetle one night at the A&W. The next day Tom Osmond, who'd apparently been driving that car, came into the restaurant with his wife and handed me a $20 bill.
According to them, the night before I'd given him $20 too much in change; realizing it later, he was concerned I might lose my job over it. He wanted to make it right and return it to me.
Over the next several decades I watched with interest as Osmonds married, had children, toured the world, had successes and heartaches in their personal and professional lives, but never forgotten this one simple gesture or the person behind it, whose honesty and kindess made a tremendous impact on a young college freshman.
I'm not the only person whose life was touched because of Virl or Tom Osmond. The two oldest Osmond brothers were the original inspiration for the Children's Miracle Network.
So, as Marie lays to rest a son she loves today and her family gathers around her, I ask for abundant blessings of love and strength to go her way, in tribute and thanks to the example of her brothers.
The late Olive Osmond homeschooling her oldest sons, Virl and Tom. (photos from the Jay Osmond official website, from Virl Osmond's private collection)
Tom Osmond at the Osmonds' 50th anniversary show in Las Vegas, August 13, 2007. The stellar example of this older brother positively influenced my view of the entire family. (photo: Reuters)
Funeral Service Held in Provo for Marie Osmond's Son - FOX-13 (video)