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The fearless 86-year-old Young Women leader

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 6:47 p.m. MDT

LaDene Jeppesen, 86, starts each morning with a brisk two-mile walk. Jeppesen was recently called to serve as secretary of the Garland 2nd ward Young Women's organization.

Family Photo, Trent Toone

GARLAND, Box Elder County — After turning 86 years old in June, LaDene Jeppesen was perfectly content with her life.

She had most of her eight children living close by, with 40 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren (at last count) to watch over. She was going on 17 years of serving in the Logan LDS Temple and had held the position of Garland Stake librarian for more than a decade. She had quilts and scrapbooks to sew and create. She had widows in her ward — her very dear friends — to visit and care for. There was plenty to keep her busy.

So imagine her surprise when she was summoned to the bishop's office and extended a call to serve as secretary of the Young Women organization.

"Jay Munns, have you forgotten my age?" LaDene said with consternation.

"No," said Brother Munns, ready to bolt for the door.

"That doesn't make any difference?" she asked.

"Nope. You're the one," Brother Munns replied.

LaDene said she imagined Grandpa Jeppesen's old horse in a beautiful green pasture in nearby Mantua.

"My plate was absolutely full. At this stage in life, you think you are out to pasture," said the energetic woman with strawberry blond hair. "I thought that was what comes in this stage of life, but it was a calling from the Lord and I wouldn't dare say no."

What could an 86-year-old offer today's young women? How about experience and perspective, for starters.

LaDene was raised by hard-working farmers during the Great Depression in Park Valley, Utah, a small agricultural community isolated in western Box Elder County. In August 1945, LaDene married Daryl Jeppesen. They lived in California for almost 20 years before moving to the Bear River Valley in 1964. Working side-by-side, Daryl and LaDene carved out a life for their growing family by starting various businesses and serving in the community.

"We wanted to keep the kids busy," she said. "We wanted to teach them how to work, and not complain about it."

Her beloved husband died in 1990.

For years, she had started each day with an early morning two-mile walk, carrying a small weight in each hand. Oats, granola, yogurt and fruit are among her favorite foods. Although she misses her eternal companion, she keeps busy by seeing to the needs of family and friends, serving two days a week in the temple and running errands in her 1995 El Dorado.

"She hasn't changed since I was 10 years old," said Bruce Jeppesen, her fourth-oldest son. "She worries about everyone else but herself. She doesn't do it for show; she just does it."

And like the pioneer woman she is, LaDene continues to tackle such duties as chopping and stacking firewood, gardening and other strenuous jobs — with zero intimidation.

"I had a granddaughter say once, 'Grandma, what do you do all day — watch TV and crochet?'" LaDene laughed. "I almost feel guilty when I sit down."

In addition to her daily routines, LaDene has served in a variety of ward and stake church callings, including Young Women more than 30 years ago.

Why wouldn't the Lord want someone so qualified to put an arm around his impressionable young women?

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