It was literally the wedding of the century! When Christina Henrie of the Central Ward, Phoenix East Stake, married David Barker in the Mesa Temple last June, the couple was blessed to have both maternal grandfathers as witnesses. A tender experience, but when you consider that both men are centenarians—that is, over 100 years old—it is remarkable!
When Christina and David met through a friend on Facebook, they already shared a heritage of faith, service, and longevity. Christina’s grandfather, Don Zundel, is a 101-year-old Arizona native. Born in Thatcher in 1915, he witnessed Arizona transform from the rugged pioneer culture of the early 1900s into a thriving, modern state.
As a young man, Brother Zundel served a mission in Canada. After returning to Arizona, he worked for a time on the original survey crew for Luke Air Base, later for SRP, and finally the City of Phoenix, retiring in 1970.
Brother Zundel was married in 1945 to Helen Harris in the Mesa Temple. The couple had three sons and one daughter, Christina’s mom. They were married for nearly 64 years until Helen’s death in 2009.
When Christina’s father was stricken by early onset Parkinson’s Disease, Brother Zundel helped provide priesthood support and strength for Christina and her nine younger siblings.
“My grandfather is a very strong man, spiritually and in terms of physical endurance,” says Christina. She admires his commitment to the Gospel. “We are grateful to have him as the patriarch of our family.”
When asked how he accounts for his longevity, Brother Zundel says, “genetics and the Word of Wisdom.” Three of his 11 siblings also lived over a century.
David’s grandfather, Thomas Flenniken, was born in Louisiana in 1914. He worked in the oil fields until he was severely burned in an accident. In 1944 he enlisted in the US Army and was trained in German and French. Towards the end of WWII he helped recover art works stolen by the Nazis. After the war, Brother Flenniken served with Border Patrol and Immigration in Arizona and California for 35 years.
In 1936, Brother Flenniken married Erma Meadows. They had a daughter, David’s mom, and a son. Sadly, Erma passed away one week before their 50th anniversary. In 1986 he married Elizabeth Romney Johns and they were married for 23 years until her death in 2009.
Brother Flenniken enjoyed missionary work, serving for 2 ½ years as a Stake Missionary in California. Later he and his second wife served a mission to England. His commitment to the Gospel was evident in many callings, including serving on the High Council from the age of 86 to 93.
“My grandfather is one of the kindest people that I know,” says David. “He will do anything for anyone.” When David asked his grandpa for advice before the wedding, Brother Flenniken replied, “I don’t think I am qualified. I lost both of my wives before I was done with them!”
At 97 he opened a Facebook account and when the wedding pictures were posted he was proud of having more “friends” than the bride and groom. Brother Flenniken attributes his longevity to “Pure dumb luck…and the Word of Wisdom helps, too!”