Like all great stories, Colleen Yeoman's path to finding the Mormon church began unconventionally. She was baptized in Salt Lake . . . as a Catholic in the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Some day she would find herself inside the walls of an equally beautiful edifice there—the Salt Lake Temple. But it was a long and winding road with several fascinating stops along the way.
Colleen was born to a Mormon mother and a Catholic father. In fact, she was even blessed as an infant in a Mormon church. But her mother died when she was four and Colleen was raised by her Catholic father. At the age of 13 during the peak of World War II, they moved to South Dakota because her father, who owned a Hudson auto dealership in Murray, UT, was tapped as the automotive advisor to the 8th Army/Air Force Regiment.
Eventually, Colleen ended up in San Diego after marrying her first husband in 1943. He wasn’t Mormon either, and when Colleen began taking the Mormon missionary lessons at the age of 21, he didn’t particularly mind. And even when it took her two months after joining the Mormon church to actually attend a meeting, he seemed fine with her choice. In many ways, Colleen had dream life: not only did she have four healthy children and a dream house, they owned a profitable TV store and lucrative rental property. When her kids reached the age of eight, her husband didn’t object to their baptism. But their attendance at church began to put fractures in their marriage. In those days, Sunday School, sacrament meeting, primary and Relief Society were spread throughout the week and her husband resented his family’s attendance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays too.
Colleen knew that it was what was best for her kids so she held firm. Her husband wanted her to leave the church, but when she wouldn’t he grew verbally abusive and eventually gave her an ultimatum: leave the church or he would leave her.
And so Colleen left behind her affluent lifestyle so she could continue to raise her children in the gospel. She was a single mother for eleven years and moved to Utah so she could have the support of her extended family. There she was able to send her son on a mission and see all of her children married in the temple.
While she was happy and busy a mother, Colleen needed to work. She’d always had a talent for drawing and soon took a job drawing house plans for a large development company where she would work for many years. But she did feel a missing piece in her life: a husband to love, one who would treat her with respect and love the gospel like she did.
One night a cousin of hers called her and said she was going to listen to her husband, Jim Sharpe, play with his band at a pizza parlor and wanted to know if Colleen would like to go. Jim had a friend in the band named Harvey Yeoman, a gifted musician whose wife had left him after he suffered a heart attack. He was living with his kids in California when Jim invited him to come teach stringed instruments in the Springville schools. Jim liked Harvey quite a bit and when they had an intermission during the pizza parlor performance, he brought Harvey down to the table to visit with his wife and Colleen. Jim gave Colleen the third degree, asking all kinds of questions as Harvey listened quietly.
Colleen liked Harvey, but he wasn’t LDS. In fact, he’d been a Pentecostal minister with a very famous band called the Christian Troubadours. They performed gospel music all over the United States and even got some gold records. When they toured, the band would play then Harvey would preach the good word of God. But life had now brought him to the hotbed of the LDS church, and he found he liked the Mormons. He’d been studying the gospel for a year, attending his local ward, even paying his tithing. His high priest group thought he was already Mormon!
But Colleen knew he wasn’t. She’d been down the road of marrying someone who didn’t share her faith, and she wasn’t interested in doing it again. She liked him, though. He was a warm, charismatic man, and so she invited Jim and Harvey to come perform at a single adult fireside held at her home. Jim left after the performance but Harvey stayed, and during the course of the evening, Colleen bore her testimony.
It wasn’t long after that when she received a curious invitation in the mail. The card showed a little boy with a fishing rod hauling a giant fish from the water. It was captioned, “We caught a big one!” It was an invitation to Harvey’s baptism!
Seven months after Harvey listened to Colleen bear her testimony, they were married. They lived in Springville and Orem, and as Colleen said with a twinkle in her eye, “We were very popular.” They had 25 wonderful years before he died of cancer.
Colleen was never one to let grief or tragedy hold her back. She has taken solace in the gospel and her talents throughout her whole life, especially in her art. She never had much formal training; as a child in South Dakota she took lessons once a week for a while, but she was gifted enough that when she divorced, she was able to support herself teaching lessons in her garage for a while. And talent ran in her family: her uncle was a famous sculptor in Utah named Maurice Brooks. He made the angel Moroni atop the LA temple as well as the This Is the Place monument. Funnily enough, he is one of her Utah Catholic relatives, not one of the Mormon ones!
Over the years she continued developing her talent and moved from drawing to painting, selling and trading a lot of her art over the years. “Oil is forgiving,” she explains. “You can keep working until you get something you like.”
While she has primarily worked in sea and landscapes as an artist, she has recently taken up a new challenge: studies. This is where she recreates the work of famous artists in beautiful oil canvases as a way to keep her skills sharp and learn new techniques. “It’s something I’ll do until my hands won’t let me anymore.”
Above all else, even more than her passion for art, it is her passion for the gospel that keeps her smile on her face. At 80+ years of age she’s taken on another challenge: uprooting herself from Utah to move to Santa Margarita to be near her daughters, grandchildren, and great-greatchildren spread across the Tijeras Canyon and Live Oak Canyon wards. “I’ve been in the church for fifty years and it’s made my life and the lives of my family much better. I believe in the Restoration. I moved here (to California) hoping I could get people in the gospel because I haven’t had a chance to be a missionary.”
Colleen Yeoman’s beautiful art is a reflection of the beautiful woman who makes it.