Nanci McGraw: A Voice of Belief
For thousands of radio listeners, Nanci McGraw’s voice had become as pleasantly familiar as the gentle breezes that float up the Sacramento River delta. She was afternoon drive-time anchor at KXOA-AM/FM in Sacramento. Then came an offer to be news director at KYXY-FM in San Diego. “My family urged me to accept the position,” she says, “especially my one-of-a-kind husband.” Along with being news director, she is morning news anchor and produces features of people involved in current issues.
Service in broadcasting and service in the Church are one and the same for Nanci. “I am trying to consecrate my talent to building the kingdom, whether I’m at the piano in Primary, with my three wonderful children and husband at home, or at the microphone giving my own view of events and issues,” she says.
Nanci is confident that she is doing what the Lord wants her to do in her choice of broadcasting. “My patriarchal blessing makes more than one reference that confirms my choice to serve the Lord this way,” she affirms.
She served a mission in Germany and has been a Relief Society president twice, a Primary president, and a ward organist.
Nanci has a degree in psychology, with minors in English and German, and has done postgraduate work in broadcast communications. She has been a high-school teacher and a retail business manager. Her broadcasting career dates back to high school, when she hosted a regular teen record show on the Armed Forces Network. She “retired” from radio to have children and live overseas, where her husband, Bob, was a symphony musician, then resumed interest in broadcasting after the family returned from living in Cape Town, South Africa.
Since then she has received more than two dozen national, state, and local awards both for her broadcasting skills and for community service. The greatest joy in her broadcast work, however, has been her regional calling, with Bob, as producer/host of “Moments of Reflection,” a weekly TV program that broadcasts uplifting, inspirational messages through word and musical selections performed by talented local LDS performers.
“The best part is working with so many talented people, members and nonmembers alike,” Nanci says.
She tells of a woman whose family problems kept her from sleeping, so she turned on the TV one Sunday morning and happened to watch “Moments of Reflection.” She became a fan of the show, and today the lady and her family are members of the Church.
“The Lord has guided me more than even I realize,” Nanci acknowledges. “I knew Bob for ten years before we married, and I corresponded with him. Most of that time we didn’t even live in the same state. He wasn’t a member of the Church, and I guess the Lord didn’t want me to give up on him.
“While I was on my mission, he decided to join the Church and also went on a mission. When he came home, we got together again and became engaged. It hasn’t all been easy. Life has its problems, which the Lord uses to humble us and teach us important lessons.
“One lesson I try to remember is that each person must set priorities. Your neighbor’s priorities may not be the same as yours, but they still may be just as correct for that person. The only truly important priorities are family and Church; if there is a career for a woman, it has to come after those priorities.”
No audience—and certainly no award—is as important to Nanci as her family. “The things I would want to be remembered for are that I was a good wife and mother and that I encouraged my children to set high goals and strive for them,” she says.
Louise Clark: Out of Suffering, Compassion
The hospitals in Madison, Wisconsin, are as familiar to Louise Clark as are the halls and rooms of her own home. She’s neither doctor nor nurse, though she nurtures many.
A devastating auto accident and twenty-one years of suffering from acute rheumatoid arthritis have not prevented her from volunteering her time to help soothe the pain of hospital patients and their families.
Sister Clark is a volunteer worker with LDS Social Services in Madison, and her work brings her to the aid of pregnant teenagers as well as couples seeking to adopt a child. In addition, she finds the time to volunteer at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, where she attends families of burn and trauma patients. “As doctors and nurses concentrate on severely injured patients,” she points out, “their families are suffering. I am in charge of the family waiting room, and I try to help them cope with the great emotional pain of these highly traumatic situations.”
The mother of four grown children and wife of a University of Wisconsin professor, Sister Clark has endured crippling arthritis since the mid-1960s, having experienced fourteen operations in that time—including replacement of two knees and a hip joint.
Then, in 1977, a near-fatal car accident resulted in massive trauma for Sister Clark, who suffered numerous internal injuries and broken bones.
After a priesthood blessing, she began to improve rapidly, to the surprise of the attending physicians. She lay in traction in the hospital for four months, enduring repeated surgery to restore use of her limbs. Her husband, David, spent many hours by her side, and her children rallied to her support throughout her lengthy confinement and extensive recovery at home.
Due to the extent of her injuries, her doctors didn’t know whether she would ever walk again. Sister Clark recalls, “I was encased in a body cast and had a steel rod in my right arm.
“I wasn’t afraid I would die,” she says, “but rather, I thought that my active life was over. When I work with unwed mothers, I try to teach that their lives are not over just because they’ve made a serious mistake. How I struggled to adopt this philosophy for myself! And if there is anything I have learned through all this, it is that my active life is not over. We should never give up; life always has good things in store. This realization was most vividly impressed upon me two years ago as I strolled across Red Square while visiting Moscow after spending much time previously wondering if I would ever walk again.”
Sister Clark’s faith in the gospel through her long convalescence has deepened her appreciation for the gift of life and has drawn her into vigorous service. She is sought out by the suffering and the discouraged.
“We’re here to learn,” she says, “and, if we will learn, these bad experiences are powerful teachers. It helped a lot to grow up in the Church and live the gospel teachings. My deep faith in God had not really been tested before.”
Besides her assistance to youthful mothers and adoptive couples, Sister Clark helps place foster children, administers the “Becoming a Better Parent” program, and helps with clinical counseling. She puts in as many as one hundred hours a month working with these Social Services programs. Her service doesn’t stop at the hospital, either. She teaches Relief Society in the Madison Fifth Ward.
When she isn’t out helping others with their problems, Sister Clark passes much of her time reading.
“I like to study. If I can’t keep my body active, then I like to keep my mind active. Foreign languages are my favorite subjects to study. I sign up for credit classes so that I don’t bog down mentally.”
Louise’s outlook ahead is bright, too. “There is the possibility that David and I will go on a mission together sometime in the future. But with arthritis you don’t look too far ahead. You just make the best of each day as it arrives.”
If someone can be an expert at facing trials with a glad heart, Louise Clark qualifies.
Donna Lee Turley: Finding Sweet in the Bittersweet
Donna Turley formed a dream for her life as she listened beneath a quilting frame to the conversation of her mother and the other sisters in tiny Woodruff, Arizona. There would be a mission, an education, prosperity, and a home with flowers and fruit trees. There would also be children, good health, and happiness. This dream contained seeds of both disappointment and fulfillment, because so much of it would never be hers—yet she would find unforeseen richness in adversity’s crucible.
Donna grew up in pioneer-like conditions, reading by candlelight and bathing in a washtub. She was baptized in an irrigation ditch, and she believed her family was rich because her mother had two pairs of shoes. Conditions improved gradually until her parents, Wallace and Margaret Wimmer Turley, brought the whole family, a cement mixer, and a washing machine to Provo in 1949 to help support Donna as she began her college career at BYU. She was the second child after Ella Mae (Judd), and was followed by Loreine (Despain), Alan, and Wayne.
After graduating in 1953, Donna taught at Snowflake High School in Arizona. The football players who came by her room for treats still remember the “all boys” home economics class Donna organized for them. They all made shirts and washed them each night so they could wear them days on end.
She went without a car for her first three years of teaching to help finance her father’s mission. Of her parents she later wrote, “No one will deserve my loyalty, trust, and forgiveness more, because they tried all through the years to bless and to build me.”
Donna taught clothing and child development at Dixie College from 1955–58, but found her real love in being appointed Dixie’s first girls’ dorm “mother.” One Christmas she made housecoats for her forty-eight girls out of surplus GI material that had been given to the school. The girls proudly wore them down the main street of St. George in an impromptu midnight parade. Her role as gifted confidant to the Dixie girls steered her toward a career as a professional counselor.
This sunny picture of life began to darken in 1959, when Donna was stricken with crippling rheumatoid arthritis while serving as an LDS missionary in New England. With characteristic grit, she simply tried to outwork her illness, but her condition only worsened. In the physical deterioration that followed, Donna gradually came to know the world of doctors, medication, surgery, incessant pain, and the frightening specter of total immobility.
After her mission, Donna was a teacher and counselor at B.Y. High for ten years. She earned an M.A. in counseling at BYU and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology at Arizona State University in 1972. Clark Moustakas of Detroit’s Merrill-Palmer Institute became her mentor, encouraging her publication of Mosaic of Myself, a book of poetic reflections now in its third printing.
Since 1968, Donna has been school psychologist for California’s Redwood City School District, working with educationally handicapped and emotionally disturbed children. She has also been the Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Cupertino Ward for the last ten years.
Amid a worsening illness and an urban life far from the flowers and fruit trees of Woodruff and Joseph City, Donna worked and groped and grew. After years of professional intimacy with troubled families, nothing surprised her any more. She remembers the shy little boy who lived with grandparents, after having watched his father kill his mother; the child who vowed not to live if his parents divorced; the girl with a seventy-five-year-old father and a young retarded mother who begged to stay at school because her parents had said not to come home that day.
Yet Donna also discovered the magic chemistry between a caring adult and a troubled child. Motherhood never came to her, but, she says, “my children have been the children of the world. I have had my private moments with trusting, shining eyes. I have felt their hugs and known the sweet sharings of little hurts and joys.” Here Donna found an echo of her childhood, when she would take the cows to the sun-baked hills to graze. There she had learned that there is a “wonderful serenity” in “happy aloneness, needing nothing and no one to make my joy complete.”
Donna Lee Turley is a bright and peaceful light in the darkness of a society drowning in its own self-pity. “I am determined,” she once wrote, “not to leave this life with an ounce of anything left in me that could be a stepping-stone or a light to another.” As many elements of her childhood dream have slipped from her grasp, she has reached deeper to find new ways to dream. For Donna, happiness is not a place, but a way of seeing life. She is happy for being alive, having work to do and gifts to give. She knows some who feel undervalued in a Church that emphasizes family life, but she will not let being single rob her of the blessings of full membership in the Church.
Her native insight, heightened by fine training and intense professional experience, has made her tolerant and perceptive about human nature to a rare degree. Now she understands the little boy she once scolded when he kept playing while his new kittens were hungry. “Aunt Donna,” he had asked, “what do I do? Why didn’t you tell me they were hungry?” Now she writes, “I came to know that we cannot be angry with people for not knowing what they haven’t had a chance to learn.”
Her intellectual integrity is wrapped in a blanket of kindness, yet her honesty moves beyond modest sincerity toward understanding and meaning: “Loneliness is feeling while other people are laughing./ Loneliness is admiration when you wanted love./ Loneliness is feeling that you understand another better than he understands you./ Loneliness is praise from someone who doesn’t know you.” Donna’s personal relationships have become a devoted multitude, nurtured by her gentle understanding. No matter the length of time between visits, when she sees family or friends, “the softness … it’s here again. I feel the world is tender and loving, as I used to feel.” Then Donna will send them home with cookies or a note and will wonder to herself, “Why do I love to clean up a messy kitchen after feeding a group of my friends? Does everyone love life as dearly as I do?”
Donna Turley grew up wanting life to be perfect, then discovered through bittersweet experience that she could make life perfect, however it comes. To the outside observer, she has not had an easy time of it. But Donna knows that she spends herself fully, all the days of her demanding life. Whatever she has to give, she gives. She has forced herself to go on and on. “That persistence came easily, because I loved life and felt it to be finite—but I wanted it to be infinite.”
We would do well to emulate the fulness, integrity, and faithfulness of her example.