Children often carry within them pieces of their parents. The same goes for Jon Huntsman Sr.’s offspring.
But besides any personality traits — from ambition to wittiness, compassion to curiosity, principled to practical — Huntsman’s eight surviving children (daughter Kathleen died in 2010 at age 44) also bear very visible parts of his legacy.
Several years ago, the family patriarch said he expects his descendants to follow his lead and give back to the community through business, civic and charitable engagement.
So here is what his daughters and sons are doing, one could say, in their father’s name:
Jon Huntsman Jr. • At 57, he is the eldest and has embraced his father’s passion for politics.
Jon Sr. worked as a young man in the Nixon White House but got out when he began to see the cancer consuming that administration. He later flirted with running for Utah governor.
Jon Jr. did more than flirt. He ran for governor twice (2004 and 2008) and won twice.
He served as an ambassador in the administrations of George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, with expertise in the Pacific Rim and China before becoming President Donald Trump’s top diplomat in Russia last year.
Jon Jr. even pursued the presidency in 2011-12, a proud moment for Papa. Jon Jr. fell short but his prospects for further government service and future elective office seem bright.
“Jon loved to explore and take part in spirited conversations. He found everything interesting, from motorcycles to the White House,” Jon Sr. wrote in his 2015 autobiography, “Barefoot to Billionaire.” “He is articulate and thoughtful, equally at ease talking with Alice Cooper and the Dalai Lama.”
Peter Huntsman • The second born took to his father’s business side.
“From the time he was a baby,” his dad wrote, “Peter’s trademarks have been tenacity and integrity. … I used to send him out to sell the leftover inventory from my Christmas album business. Peter would not return until he had sold every album.”
When he was still a teenager, he ran Huntsman’s Top Stop convenience-store chain, which consisted of 17 outlets. He rose to CEO before he turned 20.
Now, Peter is president and CEO of Huntsman Corp., the chemical products conglomerate founded by his father.
Christena Huntsman Durham • She was featured in her father’s book mostly as a wonderful mother and grandmother.
But Christena also administers the endowment he started for The Road Home to provide services to the homeless. That fund now totals $9 million.
Christena also helps oversee the Huntsman World Senior Games, a popular sports program founded by her father in which senior citizen athletes from across the globe compete in an Olympics-style format each year in St. George.
“A one-time championship diver,” Huntsman wrote of Christena, “she could well be the best athlete in the family. From the start, she was driven, competitive and smart. I used to call her Little Miss KIA (Know It All).”
David Huntsman • He appears to be the child who will carry on the tradition of service in high circles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although several siblings have been local lay leaders.
David has worked in several family corporate positions and as president of the family’s foundation and CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.
But, right now, a full-time ecclesiastical assignment tops the list. David, whose grandfather was Mormon apostle David B. Haight, is an LDS mission president in Washington, D.C., the same post his father held decades earlier.
“He truly gets what giving is all about,” his father wrote. “He emphasizes and connects with people with an ease that is inspiring.”
Paul Huntsman • He is in charge of Huntsman Family Investments, seeking to funnel profits to cancer research and other philanthropic endeavors, and is the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.
“It is ironic that he, like me, makes deals based on emotions and tries to avoid conflicts and calculations,” his father wrote. “He reads me better than anyone and is surprised how poorly some people understand me.”
James Huntsman • He “is spirited, fearless and fun-loving,” Jon Sr. wrote, joking that James inherited his “prankster genes.”
James spent a few years as a moviemaker, joined the Screen Actors Guild and produced two films, prodding his father into playing a cameo role in each one.
James now works on the distribution side of the movie business, following his father, in a sense, whose first venture was selling music albums in grocery stores.
Jennifer Huntsman Parkin • She was the child most involved in helping her mother, Karen, on the domestic side of the Huntsman household and in taking care of Mark, the Huntsmans’ special-needs child.
But Jennifer, too, is keeping the torch burning for a segment of the family’s community outreach, overseeing the Huntsman Education Awards, which hand out financial rewards to outstanding teachers and principals every year.
“As she was growing up, Jennifer always told me she would end up leading the company,” Jon Sr. wrote. “Perhaps some day she will. Meanwhile, she enjoys leading her family as an admirable homemaker while serving as PTA president.”
Mark Huntsman • At 43, the youngest son, whom everyone calls “Markie,” suffered brain damage at birth.
“He is an active, cheerful, handsome young man,” his father wrote. “His vocabulary is limited, but he loves to be around people.”
Despite his limitations, Markie plays a role in the Huntsman empire. He strides through the halls of the corporate headquarters greeting everyone he meets. His official title: corporate messenger.
“He judges everyone by their hearts,” Huntsman wrote. “He is a gift from God and lifts my spirits daily as he spreads his brand of joy.”
In fact, Markie may best exemplify the best piece of Huntsman’s hopeful dynastic legacy: love.