Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
President Gordon B. Hinckley waves to crowd as he rides in the 2002 Days of '47 Parade with his wife, Marjorie. Sister Hinckley's death was a somber time for him.
He knew it would be hard to say goodbye to the love of his life.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley reflected on his wife's 90th birthday in late 2001, both were still in relatively good health. Even so, he shared a wish not surprising for longtime spouses: "That we might live together for as long as the Lord wills and that when the time comes for us to move on, that we might go together or very close together, without one lingering a long time after the other. We've lived together for a long time. I hope we'll continue to move on together."
Years later, on their way home from a trip to Ghana in January 2004, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley collapsed. The next LDS conference, that April, was the first time in her husband's 46 years as a general authority of the church that she had not accompanied him to the meetings.
President Hinckley spoke of his wife's failing health, and his own sadness, during the final session of that weekend's conference.
"I guess the clock is winding down, and we do not know how to rewind it," President Hinckley said. "It is a somber time for me."
Sister Hinckley died two days later, on the 174th anniversary of the church's founding.
Sister Hinckley was born Nov. 23, 1911, in Nephi, the first child of Phillip LeRoy and Georgetta Paxman Pay. She had four sisters and two brothers, but one brother died in infancy. The family moved to Salt Lake City in 1914, and she attended East High School, graduating in 1929.
Gordon B. Hinckley first noticed Marjorie Pay while both were growing up in the Liberty Stake's 1st Ward in Salt Lake City. Then in 1930, he asked her to a Gold and Green Ball.
This first "date" was the start of an association, interrupted by Elder Hinckley's mission, that continued in the years that followed and was shared in many parts of the world.
Following his mission and during his employment at LDS Church headquarters, they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on April 29, 1937. For nearly 67 years, she was a constant companion with her husband, especially after he was sustained as a general authority in 1958. They had five children, 25 grandchildren and, at the time of her death, 41 great-grandchildren.
"I first saw her in Primary," President Hinckley said with a laugh in reflecting on his marriage. "She gave a reading. I don't know what it did to me, but I never forgot it. Then she grew older into a beautiful young woman, and I had the good sense to marry her.
"She was beautiful, she was light-hearted and happy, she was bright, and at the same time she was serious about the important things."
"Marjorie was 'the girl next door' when we were growing up," recalled Ramona H. Sullivan, President Hinckley's younger sister, in a church magazine interview. "Only in this case it was the girl across the street. And she was very pretty. The thing I remember most about Marge in those early years is how polished and impressive she was, even as a young girl, in giving readings and performances in the meetings and activities of our old 1st Ward. All the other kids would just sort of stand up and mumble through something. Marjorie was downright professional. She had all of the elocution and all of the movements. I still remember those readings she gave."
She started teaching Sunday School at age 17 and worked at church assignments throughout her life. She held every job in the Young Women organization and presided over the Primary and served in the presidency of the Relief Society.
While their five children were growing up, Sister Hinckley described her house as "Grand Central Station, with each member of the family busy with a full slate of activities and Mother trying to tie the schedules down to fairly regular family associations."
In between church assignments she shared with her husband, she found time not only for gardening but also for good books, taking a class or two at the University of Utah and teaching literary or social science lessons on a ward or stake basis for the Relief Society.
comments on this story
In February 1996, she received the Exemplary Womanhood Award from Brigham Young University. She received the Pioneer Heritage Award in July 1997 and the Distinguished Service to Humanity Award in April 1998. She also received the Utah Heritage Award from the Utah-California Women later that year.
In April 2001, she and her family were honored by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and a week later she and her husband received honorary doctorates from Utah Valley State College.
In April 2003, BYU established the Marjorie Pay Hinckley Chair in Social Work and Social Sciences. The chair was established to help the school focus on the family through research and education, to expand learning by lectures, to increase community involvement in family issues and to provide service.