Vera Hilton: Perennial Bloomer

You might be tempted to call some people late bloomers. Not so with Vera Snow Hilton; she’s been blooming all along. Like the perennial flowers that bring forth color year after year, Vera just keeps on going.

When she accepted a mission call eleven years ago at the age of eighty-four, some of Vera’s friends were astounded. “Are you really going?” they asked. “That’s a lot of walking at your age. Do you think you can do it?”

“Well,” she replied, “President [Spencer W.] Kimball is about my age, and he said to lengthen your stride. If he can, I guess I can.” When Vera left for the Arizona Tempe Mission, she had learned all of the missionary discussions. Whenever younger missionaries grumbled about the rigors of mission life, Vera’s mission president talked about her example, saying, “Sister Hilton doesn’t complain.” That would end the complaints.

For the last five years, Vera has worked in the family history name extraction program, putting in about twice the number of hours she was called to give. And she has comforted two generations of Hiltons with her quilts—dozens and dozens of them.

“I’m not wonderful,” she responds, characteristically, to those who try to commend her for doing so much. “I grew up believing that the Lord sent his children to earth to serve one another as my own father taught and exemplified. That’s all I’m doing.”

She remembers attending high school as a young girl in St. George, Utah. Even the wagon trip to school from Pine Valley involved service, as the young people would sometimes deliver tithing goods to St. George on their way.

People in Delta, Utah, know Vera by her pale green 1949 Chrysler, which her children have attempted to replace along with her 55-year-old kitchen stove. But she just tells them, “They both serve their purpose, so why should they be replaced?” That’s sound philosophy from one who just goes on serving, blooming all the way.

Lorraine Jeffrey teaches Home and Family Education in Relief Society in the Delta First Ward, Delta Utah West Stake.

Ronald M. Pike: Micro-Chemist, Macro-Saint

Finding the chemistry lab on most college campuses is easy, if you use your nose. But the odors that for years have extended well beyond the walls of most chemistry classrooms may become a thing of the past, thanks to Ronald M. Pike, a professor at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Brother Pike and two colleagues from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, have teamed up to change the way chemistry is taught. Their innovations in micro-scale chemistry could help to cut down the amount of toxic chemicals dumped into the environment and the soaring costs of chemicals.

The result of their work is a revolutionary new college textbook that may also be used in secondary schools within a few years. “Micro-scale chemistry is not really new,” Brother Pike explains. However, it is bringing great changes in the teaching of chemistry and could reduce the quantity of reagents and solvents students use in experiments by as much as a thousand times. It will now be possible, for example, to conduct one of the most common experiments used in classes with a mere 2.5 milliliters (a fraction of an ounce) of ether (which has a very strong odor) instead of 150 to 200 milliliters.

But there are other advantages to micro-scale chemistry. By using micro-portions of chemicals, students can immediately see certain chemical reactions that usually require hours.

“Students can get excited about these kinds of advantages,” claims Brother Pike. But he admits that there are some things students don’t like about micro-scale chemistry. Measuring and working with such small amounts of material is demanding and requires precision and dexterity. “Before,” he says, “it didn’t affect the experiment if they spilled a few grains or drops of a substance.” However, he says, when students attain the precision to work with micro-measures of chemicals, “they feel an even greater sense of accomplishment in their efforts.”

Major national chemical organizations are recognizing the significance of Brother Pike’s achievement, and schools and organizations are requesting seminars and workshops to acquaint teachers with the new procedures.

Brother Pike, a former bishop, has served as executive secretary in the Nashua New Hampshire Stake for more than ten years. And despite his busy schedule, he is also adept at his calling.

“He knows what is needed to keep schedules and programs running smoothly while still caring genuinely for people,” says Leo Pitcher, past president of the stake. That caring is also manifested in Brother Pike’s teaching. “He has been known to receive standing ovations from his chemistry students at the end of lectures,” adds President Pitcher.

[photo] Photo by David Powell

Gretchen P. Mourtgos serves on the Primary board in the West Jordan Utah North Stake.

Eric and Noni Thomas: 100 Percenters!

At Christmas Creek, on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia, members of the Church enjoy 100 percent attendance at sacrament meeting and Sunday School. A New Zealand couple, Eric and Noni Thomas, the only members of the Church for hundreds of miles, dress in their Sunday best and hold sacrament meeting in one room of their house. Then they move to another room for Sunday School, where they discuss, read, and mark scriptures they have studied during the week.

Brother and Sister Thomas are teaching in an Aboriginal secondary school. They and the two local elementary school teachers constitute the entire non-Aboriginal population in their community.

With no television or radio, except shortwave in just-right conditions, entertainment for the Thomases comes in the form of exploring in their four-wheel-drive vehicle—sightseeing, prospecting for gold, and fishing. They also watch Church videotapes supplied by the Australia Perth Mission, of which they are a part.

Electricity for refrigerators and air conditioners, supplied by the community powerhouse, makes life bearable in Christmas Creek, where temperatures often reach 124 degrees Fahrenheit. The Thomases cook with gas from cylinders, purchased along with fresh vegetables and fruits at Fitzroy Crossing, 60 miles away. About every six to eight weeks, they make the trip to Derby, a city about 250 miles away, for groceries.

“Unwavering knowledge of who we are and of the plan of salvation gives real purpose to our work in one of the truly remote areas of the world,” say the Thomases. These 100 percenters enjoy doing everything together. They know it will last an eternity.