Our gentle, kind, and loving prophet, President Howard William Hunter, died March 3, 1995, at home. His wife, Inis, his nurse, and his personal secretary were at his side.
President Hunter was born November 14, 1907, in Boise, Idaho. He was not baptized at age eight. His father was not a member and felt that Howard should wait until he was older to decide about getting baptized.
President Hunter said, “I did have a testimony though. My mother had taught me to pray and to thank Heavenly Father for the beauty of the earth and for the wonderful times that I had at the ranch and by the river and with the Scouts. I also learned to ask Him for the things that I wanted or needed.” When he was twelve years old, he pleaded with his father to let him be baptized and was overjoyed when his father gave him permission.
Howard and his sister, Dorothy, who was two years younger, were good friends. Each evening they walked to a nearby dairy and carried home bottled milk, delivering some to their neighbors too. They enjoyed swimming together in the Boise River in the summer, and ice-skating on frozen canals in the winter. Sometimes they and their friends went “hookybobbing”—tieing their sleds onto a wagon or buggy that pulled them along snowpacked roads.
During his boyhood, Howard had a number of jobs, including feeding their chickens morning and night, cutting lawns, delivering telegrams, selling newspapers, picking fruit, and working in a department store.
Young Howard collected things: stamps, coins, and, especially, the eggs of birds—pheasants, meadowlarks, bluebirds, robins, and wrens—which he found while exploring the swamps and woods near his home. He loved animals. His dog, Daisy, a fox terrier, followed him wherever he went. His two favorite pet rabbits were Bunny Boo and Mary Jane. One of his very favorite things to do was spend the summer at his aunt and uncle’s ranch, where he rode horses, herded cows, and even slept in a haystack at night with his cousins.
He and a friend challenged each other to get their Eagle Scout awards. He worked hard and was the first boy in his troop—and the second boy in Boise, Idaho—to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Blessed with perfect pitch, Howard learned to play the piano, violin, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, drums, and marimba. In high school, he formed a band, Hunter’s Croonaders, which played at many dances in Boise. One winter his band played on a cruise ship, the SS President Jackson, and traveled to Japan, China, and the Philippines. He was thrilled to learn that his father was baptized while he was on this trip.
When he returned from Asia, he moved to southern California, where he began working and attending college. At a Church dance, he met Clara (Claire) May Jeffs. After dating for three years, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 10, 1931. Howard decided to give up his band, for he felt that working as a professional musician would interfere with what was more important—his family and the Church.
He and Claire had three sons: Howard William, Jr., John Jacob, and Richard Allen. Sadly, little Billy died when he was less than a year old. While John and Richard were growing up, the Hunters enjoyed family activities such as building model trains, camping, going to the beach, and eating popcorn while listening to their favorite radio programs.
On his forty-sixth birthday, Howard received one of the biggest surprises—and joys—of his life: His parents joined him at the Arizona Temple, and together they were sealed as an eternal family. Six weeks later, Dorothy was sealed to them in the just-completed Los Angeles Temple.
When Claire became very ill, Howard lovingly took care of her until she died in 1983. Later—in 1990—he married Inis Stanton, a friend he had known previously in California.
In October 1959, while he was serving as president of the Pasadena Stake, he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He served as president of the Polynesian Cultural Center and of the Genealogical (family history) Society of Utah, and as Church historian. One of his “prized assignments,” he said, was as “adviser to the Primary, where I served for about ten years. I visited Primaries all over the world and never missed an opportunity to visit a Primary group.”
On June 5, 1994, at the age of eighty-six, he became the fourteenth President of the Church. He invited the members of the Church to be more Christlike, to “treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness.” He also asked, “Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people.” President Hunter dedicated the Orlando Florida Temple in October 1994, and the Bountiful Utah Temple in January 1995. The Church’s 2,000th stake was organized under his direction in Mexico City.
President Howard W. Hunter’s life serves as a great example for everyone of Christlike humility, kindness, and love.