“Keep up the good work,” the gray-haired woman said, as she patted the teenager’s arm. “You keep working on yours, and I’ll keep working on mine.”
Just minutes after she was awarded her Young Women Medallion, 102-year-old Ella Hoskins was talking to Abbie Linford, one of her young women in the Dixie Ward in Layton, Utah. Although decades span between their ages, the two smile and chat and share their plans of what to do next.
“I’ve already received my award, so I am going to get started on earning an Honor Bee,” said Abbie. Recipients of this award read the Book of Mormon again and perform 40 hours of service.
“I’m going to start working on mine, too,” the older woman said. “I’ve got to start reading the Book of Mormon another time.”
What started as a calling to serve in the Young Women program in her ward became another life accomplishment for Sister Hoskins. Just under a year after being called to serve as the Personal Progress coordinator, Sister Hoskins completed — alongside many of the young women she was serving — the requirements of Personal Progress, earning her own Young Women Medallion.
To celebrate her accomplishment, ward members, friends and family of Sister Hoskins gathered in the gymnasium of a stake center in Layton on Aug. 25.
“How many times do you hear of this kind of achievement?” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president. “Ella, you are an amazement. And I think the thing that touches me the most about what you have accomplished is the example you have set for the young women.”
Sister Oscarson, along with her counselors in the Young Women general presidency, Sister Carol F. McConkie and Sister Neill F. Marriott, attended the event.
“You have taught us all a lesson,” Sister Oscarson said. “You have taught us what it means to endure to the end. You have taught us what it means to never give up. You have taught us what it means to keep working to progress — and that you are never too old to progress and to always be better.”
Recognizing the medallion is not easy to earn, Sister Oscarson spoke of the many hours of service, reading the scriptures, keeping a journal and working on projects that it takes to complete the requirements.
But for Sister Hoskins, it was another opportunity to serve. At the end of 2014, when Sister Hoskins was called to serve as the Personal Progress coordinator, she didn’t know much about the program.
“When she was called to be in the Young Women she felt like she didn’t know how she could contribute or help,” Bishop Aaron Smith said. “Any minute someone spends with her is a blessing, and I think the young women quickly realized that. She makes everybody she contacts feel better about themselves.”
Her wisdom, gained through life experiences, gives Sister Hoskins a great understanding and perspective, said Bishop Smith. Despite the age differences, Bishop Smith said Sister Hoskins has a special ability to relate with the teenage girls and is always good at communicating ways in which they understand and respond.
Kate Swain, the Young Women president in the Dixie Ward, recognized Sister Hoskins as someone who has a lot to offer the young women in their ward.
“Ella is so good,” she said. “Even in our first meeting together she said, ‘I need to know these girls.’ She had questions she wanted to ask, so we typed up a questionnaire. She would come to activities every Tuesday and on Sunday she would come to Young Women.”
Although in the past few months Sister Hoskins has moved to a care facility, she still loves her interaction with the young women.
“They all wanted to sit with her and talk to her. She has a quiet voice, but she’ll start talking and [the young women] start quieting down. They just sit and listen.”
For Sister Hoskins, hard work and adventure have always been a part of life. She and her husband had five children and she spent her career as a schoolteacher. She would work hard during the school year and then once summertime came along she would often pack the kids in the car and take off to visit her sister in California.
“As I think back over the years of my life, I can see the hand of the Lord in every activity I have been involved in,” said Sister Hoskins.
After becoming a widow in her early fifties, she continued to work hard — whether it was raising her family, teaching in a classroom, traveling the world or serving as a missionary at least a dozen times.
“She just doesn’t quit,” said Patti Preston, a daughter. “She is knowledgable in the gospel. She served two full-time proselyting missions — one to Texas and one to Southern California where she worked with an Armenian missionary. When she got home they wouldn’t let her go [again] because of her age, so she served downtown at the archives.”
There she spent her days looking at handwritten journals that she would then transcribe on a computer. She served there for more than a decade.
“Staying grounded in the gospel is what has kept Ella afloat,” said Sister Preston. “She lives it, she doesn’t just talk it, and I think that is a great example to everybody.”
When asked about her favorite part of earning her medallion, Sister Hoskins replied, “I have always enjoyed handiwork. I’ve quilted and crocheted all my life and I enjoy painting.”
Reading the Book of Mormon was another highlight.
“Everytime you read it you find something different,” she said.
At 102, Sister Hoskins can now add one more accomplishment to her list: earning her Young Woman Medallion.
“I’m almost 103,” she proudly said. “I’ll be 103 in October. I am so thankful for my life. I hope each one of us vows to keep the values of the gospel and continues to grow and develop to be the person God wants us to be.”
The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.