Inside the Story: Keeping memories alive of LDS missionaries who died while serving

Inside the Story: Keeping memories alive of LDS missionaries who died while serving{ } (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) LDS missionaries who have died while serving are being brought back to life--through paintings.

JR Johansen, 73, paints the portraits in his backyard studio in Huntsville.

But for him, it's much more than just painting on a piece of canvas. It's about bringing to life a son or daughter who is dearly loved and missed by so many.

"There is something about painting someone who has passed away," Johansen said.

Johansen started the portraits nearly three years ago when someone asked if he could paint an LDS missionary who had passed away. He then started to get requests from others.

He has done them all for free.

When he paints, Johansen feels as if the missionary is there to help guide his hands.

"I was pretty certain they were present because of things that have happened while I was painting," he said.

One of those experiences involved Elder Jeremy McCauley, who passed away in May of last year.

"During that painting process, I learned a technique that I had not used before," Johansen said, getting emotional. "Come to find out the young man was an artist."

That technique was a different way of smudging.

"I swear he helped me paint his portrait," Johansen. "I painted his portrait in less than four hours."

To date, Johansen has painted 41 missionaries.

The third missionary was Elder Connor Thredgold, who passed away--along with his companion--from carbon monoxide poisoning while serving in Taiwan.

Connor's mother, Cindy Thredgold, remembers the day she got the news.

"That's not something you ever want to happen," she said.

But receiving Johansen's painting has brought her new peace and comfort.

"It was like looking at Connor; literally looking at his face," Thredgold said.

Johansen is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from his own health issues. But he believes these paintings are bringing him some healing, too.

"I think it's keeping me alive, to be honest," he said.

Cindy Thredgold, an avid genealogist, is now helping Johansen find people to paint.

If you would like JR Johansen to paint a portrait of a missionary who passed away while serving, you can contact Cindy at

Here is a link you can also get in contact with Connor's mom:

She also has a database of names she has collected since the year 1830.