Clara Jeffs Hunter

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Clara May “Claire” Jeffs Hunter was the wife of Howard W. Hunter, fourteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

She was born on February 18, 1902, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was a switchboard operator for Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company for over two years until her family moved to California in 1921. There she qualified to teach school but was became interested in business. With the N. B. Blackstone Company in Los Angeles, she worked as a fashion model, secretary, assistant personnel director, assistant to the superintendent and vice president until the company was sold in 1930.

Claire met Hunter in June 1928 at a church dance. They got to know each other better after the dance when a group of friends decided to go to the beach. They dated for three years. Hunter wrote in his journal:

I had not given up the hope of going on a mission, and I had saved some money with that in mind. Claire offered to help support me and wait for me until I returned. Even though I appreciated the offer, I could not accept the proposal of having her work and support me. We finally decided that it would be better for us to get married and at a later time, as soon as conditions might permit, we would go on a mission together.

They married on June 10, 1931 and were the parents of three sons, one of whom died after surgery just as Howard started law school. After he was called as an apostle in 1959, she maintained their California home and at the same time house hunted in Utah. In April 1961, their family moved into a Salt Lake City home they designed.

After her sons were grown, she returned to college and studied literature. In the early 1970s, her health began to diminish and she had a series of strokes that left her bedridden. President Hunter managed his many Church responsibilities and took care of her.

Dorothy Nielsen, Howard and Claire’s dear friend and neighbor across the street, remembers being present when Howard returned home from the office or a trip. He would help Claire to her feet from her wheelchair and, supporting her tightly, whirl her around the room just as he had done when they went dancing so many years before. He took her regularly to her favorite hair dresser for permanents and shampoos, and even though she couldn’t communicate, he would talk to her and tell her about his day and share news with her about family and friends (Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010], 267).

At one point, he hired live-in help for her care during the day, but cared for her himself when he returned home in the evening, typically losing sleep to care for her. He suffered a heart attack and his doctor insisted that he get full-time help for her. She was in a coma for the last eighteen months of her life and needed to spend that time in a nursing facility. Elder James E. Faust said of this period of time, “I have never seen such an example of devotion of a husband to his wife. It has been a many-splendored love affair."[1] She died on October 9, 1983.