The “Big Mike”
A Cherished Legend in Three Episodes
And now, dear reader, you get to learn of the “Big Mike.” Back in October, 2009, I completed a version of this account of my 1961-64 mission in France and sent it out to those mentioned in it, as I could find them. It included this passage (uncorrected here, although I could, now):

Episode 1963: Here’s what I’ve retained: Elder Mike Jarvis (joyously present at the annual French Mission reunion last October 5 [2008]) was and is an impressive physical presence. The Poirier family of Seraing, Belgium, ran an ice-cream parlor out of their home, and it was already a favorite of the local Mormon missionaries when, one day in 1960 or 1961, Elder Jarvis filled the front door and inquired, perhaps in French, “I’m BIG MIKE: do you have anything here big enough for ME?”

Undaunted, the delightful M Poirier went behind the counter and invented, on the spot, the “Big Mike:” three generous scoops of their wonderful, rich, Belgian ice cream, pressed down to fill a decorative bowl level with the top, with a cookie stuck in the top.

It’s not recorded, here at least, how many “Big Mikes” “Big Mike” himself consumed on that occasion, but there was soon a highly unofficial competition afoot, to determine just how many a missionary could put away at a sitting. I seem to recall that the record stood at eleven when President Hinckley heard about it and delivered some gentle but authoritative guidance on the subject of the dignity of our calling…

Valerie reminds me that when I stopped by with the folks while we were across the river for Youth Conference, Mammy took President Hinckley’s position before he enunciated it, and I managed to absorb only two “Big Mikes” on that occasion.

I plan to have more to say on this beloved topic in the context of my second French Mission, in 1968, when Mitt Romney and I shared a particularly sweet and memorable visit to the Maison Poirier.

To my delight, “Big Mike” himself kindly contributed his own recollections in an e-mail the following 6 January:

Episode 1961: In about June or July 1961 Elder Graham Dodd (then Second Counselor to President Hinckley) and a companion came to Seraing, Belgium to visit Elder Richard Thornton and Elder Mike Jarvis. The day was hot and Elders Dodd and Jarvis went and visited several active and inactive members. Also, we visited a family Elder Dodd had taught when he had been a missionary in Seraing. Elder Dodd invited that family to let Elders Thornton and Jarvis come back and teach them more. The family was polite and friendly but never became interested in the church during the next 1-2 months that Elder Jarvis was there.

In the early evening Elder Dodd asked Elder Jarvis if he would like to take a break and have the best ice cream in the whole mission. Elder Jarvis was of course anxious to find some real good ice cream. We had come back to our apartment and could not find the other Elders so we walked down the street about 200 feet onto a small city square. I think it was called Place Poirier due to Mr. Joseph Poirier

Graham Dodd
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