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J.W. Marriott offers personal tribute to Romneys at church

September 02, 2012|By Maeve Reston

BOSTON — As he gave his acceptance address at the Republican National Convention last week, Mitt Romney for the first time gave America an intimate look at the role that his Mormon faith has played in his life and how his work in the church as a pastor helped shape him.

When Romney and his wife, Ann, attended church Sunday in Wolfeboro, N.H., his close friend J.W. Marriott (who is known as “Bill”) offered a bookend to that discussion — testifying during the service about how the spotlight on Romney this week had cast the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a positive light and had drawn welcome attention to good works of the church.

"There has never been as much positive attention to the church, thanks to the wonderful campaign of Mitt Romney and his family," Marriott told the congregation during his testimonial, which is a part of the service where church members often speak about what their faith means to them.

“Today we see the church coming out of obscurity and we see that 90% of what has been written … has been favorable. And that's a great tribute to Mitt and Ann and their family for living such an exemplary life,” Marriott said. “A life of love and compassion, a good Latter-day Saint life. A life of leadership, reaching out to others, and touching others, and worshiping the lord and putting families and the church first.”

He added that now that the church was in the public eye, “everybody is looking at us and saying, 'Are you as good as the Romneys?' And of course we all have to continue to do better and live the commandments, and do the best we can to serve our church.”

The Marriotts have been a major presence in the communities around New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. During a brief interview in July 2011, after a Wolfeboro campaign event, Ann Romney said she and her husband got their first glimpse of Lake Winnipesaukee when they came to the area to visit the Marriott family.

The friendship between the Marriott and Romney families extends over many decades. Bill Marriott, who spoke Sunday in Wolfeboro, has been a major financial backer of Romney’s campaign, and for a time Romney served on the board of Marriott International.

The Republican nominee's parents, George and Lenore, were close friends with J. Willard Marriott, Bill Marriott’s father. George Romney’s papers at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan show that he relied on his friend for advice throughout his life on matters of church, family and politics.

After their introduction to the Lake Winnipesaukee area, the Romneys have used their lakeside retreat in Wolfeboro to relax and gather with their five sons and grandchildren. The house is set up for family activities including boating and games on a sand volleyball court. A building that was once used as stables has been converted to bedrooms that can house all 18 of the Romney grandchildren in a series of bunk beds.

The family’s home is set in the white pines with views of the Belknap Mountains and is only visible from the lake. After a busy few days on the campaign trail, Romney will spend time there this week (and at a friend’s home in neighboring Vermont) preparing for his fall debates with President Obama while Democrats hold their convention in North Carolina.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

Twitter: @maevereston

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