Skip to main content
Expo Murals

Vivian DeRosa: A Memoir

New York Fair

Vivian attended NY World’s Fair with her family when she was 11 years old and the spiritual impressions from the pavilion lead to her conversion to the gospel a few years later. Vivian donated a copy of the Book of Mormon from the NY Mormon Pavilion that is currently on display in the BYU-Idaho center along with murals from both expos.

A Memoir of the New York World’s Fair and My Conversion to the Church

By Vivian DeRosa

It was the Summer of 1965 and I was 11 years old. Me and my parents and two younger sisters had decided to go to the New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. We lived on 81st Street and Riverside Drive, on the west side of Manhattan and traveled to the Fair by way of the 7 Train. We walked around the fair grounds all afternoon in the hot sun and visited many of the pavilions from around the world. Finally, we sat down in front of a reflecting pool, where I could see the façade of the Salt Lake Temple. I recognized the temple from the cover of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas album that I had on my bookshelf at home and had enjoyed singing along with for many years. I was so impressed to see that the picture on the album had become an actual building right here in New York City. I told my parents that I needed to see what was inside. I just had to know.

We all went in and we were seated in a beautiful auditorium – a great side benefit after walking all day. We were shown a movie, “Man’s Search for Happiness”.  

The Lord had planted some very special seeds in my heart that day. There were questions at the beginning of the movie that I would think about for the next 8 years. Who am I? How did I come to be? and Where did I come from?

So many beautiful thoughts were expressed and narrated throughout the movie.

It said I had two precious gifts: time and choice.

I loved the journey the family in the movie was going on. From birth, to living with a family, enjoying time with grandfather and finally the grandfather passes away. Then he sees his family on the other side, in heaven. I was very close to my grandparents at the time so that touched me deeply. No need to fear death.

That was comforting to me. The Savior has a plan for me and he loves me. I felt for the first time that my Savior was real. However, my family and I did not embrace the Church at that time.

At age 19 I auditioned for the U.S. Tour of Disney on Parade (Small World Unit). I got the job, signed a contract and left for California, where the tour would originate in November of 1972.

After a month and a half of rehearsals, we started touring. In January 1973, we performed a week in each city. We went to San Antonio, Texas. Then Cleveland, Ohio and finally, St. Louis, Missouri. In St. Louis I roomed with the company secretary, Vicki Corely, she was originally from Texas and a recent convert to the Church. Our first night rooming together, she told me about the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, and the Prophet Joseph Smith and the first vision. I was quietly thinking about God’s work in our day. I woke up the next morning and I told her that if God wanted to reveal new scriptures to the world, why not? I was ready for a spiritual rebirth and to find out more about Jesus Christ and the “Mormon Church”. The Spirit was speaking to me the whole time I was on this tour. I had no time to waste. I was ready to learn more.

There were five members of the Church hired on this tour by executive producer Michel M. Grilikhes, who was also a “Mormon”. He was known for putting big arena shows together and he also helped organize the first Polynesian Cultural Center Show at BYU-Hawaii.

Two of the young men in the group were returned missionaries, and they all prayed to find out who they should take to Nauvoo, Ill. Monday was our day off and Nauvoo was just a few hours away. My new “Mormon” friends rented a car and they asked me, the Puerto Rican-Italian from NYC, to go with them. That car ride changed my life forever!

I was taken to the visitor’s center at Nauvoo and guess what movie they showed me?

“Man’s Search for Happiness”! It was as if God were reminding me of what he had begun preparing me for over eight years ago--even longer if I include the warm feelings I had about singing along with the Christmas songs on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir albums. The feelings that I had that day opened my heart and I was willing to learn more.

After the trip to Nauvoo, my friends gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon to read and I began to meet with the missionaries. We were on tour, so every week we were in a new town. I met with different pairs of missionaries as I progressed through the lessons that were taught to people learning about the Church at the time. As I read the Book of Mormon, I had no doubt that it was the word of God and that it was what I had been searching for.

Three months later, I was baptized in Chicago, Illinois, on April 23, 1973 by, Garth Peay from Provo, Utah, and confirmed by Doug Allred, from Long Beach, California.

Jynene Zeek and Julie Allred were my roommates at the time, and I looked to them for instruction on how to live the gospel in my daily life, by the way they spoke, the way they dressed and studied the scriptures daily. They taught me so much by their example and truly lived the gospel. They were happy inside. Truly, “men are that they might have joy” 2 Nephi 2:25

I have fully embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I know my Redeemer lives. I have found the happiness I was searching for. I am happily married and sealed for 39 years to a wonderful, kind, and faithful man Robert DeRosa, who is currently the Lynbrook, New York Stake President, and I am the stake Young Women’s President. We were sealed in the Washington, D.C. Temple. We have three married children: Michael, Matthew and Rebekah, who have each been sealed in the Temple. We currently have five grandchildren and another one on the way.