Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


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MARCH 8, 2010 4:09PM

With Love to the Osmonds

Rate: 37 Flag

virlfam009Virl 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.


Olive Virl Tom 2 

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) 



Marie Osmond's Son Remembered at Utah Funeral - CBS2 

LDS President Spoke at Osmond Funeral - AP 

Mary Hart Mourns With Marie Osmond and Family - ET

Marie Osmond Joins in Solemn Final Hymn for Her Son - People 

Funeral Service Held in Provo for Marie Osmond's Son - FOX-13 (video)


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It just proves that behind the public persona are everyday, down to earth folks. Too bad that part of them is not better known.
simple kindnesses ... thanks, Kathy!
Who knew? Very interesting, indeed.
Well done, Kathy. Thanks for this.
Nice, Kathy! I had no real image of the rest of the family.
What a lovely memory! Thanks for sharing.

What a lovely memory! Thanks for sharing.

Kathy, this is great. _r
What an inspirational pair, and family!
What a great post. Thanks. Rated.
Very loving and, for me, educational. I have been feeling awful for them, the past few days.
Thank you Kathy for relaying a wonderful story about the Osmonds and the moral fibre of this family. It's considered dorky to admit .... but I was a real fan of the Osmonds when I was a young teenager. I devoured all the information I could about them so I'm not at all surprised to hear that Tom returned the $20.

This is such sad news about Marie's son ... I didn't know till now.
Having lost a brother to suicide after years of depression and mental illness I understand the anguish and pain that will bring. They will be in my thoughts today.
Kathy, thanks so much for sharing this perspective. I was a huge fan of the Donny and Marie show growing up, and never doubted their kindness and goodness.
I've been thinking about them lately too. Such a tragedy. They haven't always been my cup of tea (in an entertainment sense), but there has always been an earnest sweetness about the family.
Very nice post. I've always thought of Donnie and Marie as good, nice people... just like their persona. Very sad what happened to Marie's son... so tragic. They seem like a great family and I had never heard of Virl or Tom, in fact I've never heard of the name "Virl."
Lovely post. I've always liked the Osmonds.
I feel bad for Marie. She must be really low.
Terrific insight into a family who is all too often reduced to the status of a punching bag for comedians, or wannabe comedians. Nicely done. Rated!
Great post! I just feel so sad for Marie and her family! I can't imagine how hard that must be and yet she showed such grace at the funeral.
The Osmonds *were* 'bubblegum,' but when I was in grade school, I didn't know any better!

I still like "Down by the Lazy River" (1971), which receives virtually no airplay, and has faded into obscurity.
What a lovely Tribute to this wonderful family., Kathy.
I have loved them and followed their trek, through public life, since I first saw them on Andy Williams. I believe them to be SPIRITUAL WARRIORS.
Thank you for this gentle look at an infamous family Kathy - a perspective I would have never known if it wasn't for you. Great thanks - I have sent my prayer off for the Osmonds....
In this day and age when we seem to like to gleefully burst bubbles and mock famous people for being human, it is nice to see such simple gestures.
(Cracking up at what Padraig said) and agreeing with Gwool. Nicely done.
This is a lovely tribute, Kathy. Thanks for sharing it with us.
I have always found this family interesting. Thank you so much for sharing.
I've never been into their genre of music however, from your story, they seem like a decent family~~so rare in the entertainment world.

I have to admit that the very best thing about your story is that wonnnnnderful A&W rootbeer float.YUM!!
I feel very sad for Marie Osmond-- mothers shouldn't have to bury their children. I was a big fan of "The Donny and Marie" show when I was a child back in the '70's, and I was fascinated by the Osmond family in general. (Did all those siblings get along all the time? Did Marie ever wish she had sisters?) I remember that Donny and Marie closed every show with the same song, a kind prayer/wish from the heart, for all of their viewers and fans:

"May tomorrow be a perfect day
May you find love and laughter along the way
May God keep you in his tender care
'Til he brings us together again."
Reminds me of grade school. Thanks for sharing, Kathy!
A lovely memory. The Osmonds seem to have a basic decency about them.
Thank you for this kind and lovely post about a wonderful family.
Your touching post about a bunch of nice people almost makes me forgive them for inflicting such lame music on America that it made me ashamed to be white.
I'm so glad you PM'd me about this post! Being a true Osmond fan I knew all about Tom & Virl, but I loved your personal story of A & W.