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Courtesy of the Maxwell family
Colleen Hinckley Maxwell

Colleen Hinckley Maxwell, wife of the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died at age 87 on Jan. 17, 2016.

Sister Maxwell was born on April 8, 1928 — Easter Sunday — in Salt Lake City, Utah, to George Erwin and Fern Anna Johnson Hinckley. She had two brothers, George and Ed, and was a first cousin to President Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th president of the LDS Church.

Sister Maxwell attended the University of Utah and was a member of the Lambda Delta Sigma and Chi Omega sororities during her time there. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in home economics education in 1950 and soon found a teaching job in a high school in Thatcher, Arizona, that same year. During a summer home from teaching, she was pleasantly surprised when Neal Maxwell, who she had met while attending the Latter-day Saint Institute in 1949, called her to ask her on a date.

Colleen remembered him as "a very impressive young man" and that "everyone seemed to have great admiration for him." After that first date, they soon hit it off — they began their courtship in July, were engaged by September, were planning to be married in December and moved up the date to marry in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov. 22, 1950.

The young couple soon moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a staffer in the United States Senate from 1952 to 1956. They moved back to Salt Lake City when he was hired at the University of Utah as an assistant director of public affairs in 1956.

Despite medical problems before and during the pregnancy of her first child, Becky, Sister Maxwell handled the pain and pressures with grace. They became the parents of four children — Becky, Cory, Nancy and Jane — and have 24 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

During Elder Maxwell's many callings in the LDS Church, ranging from bishop to Seventy to apostle, Sister Maxwell offered invaluable support. She was known for her calming influence on her often fast-paced and sometimes impatient husband. Elder Maxwell described his wife as "a more complete Christian" than he was, with a great desire to serve others.

When Elder Maxwell was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, she supported him through dark moments with what her family described as her "unrelenting love and brightness of hope." Sister Maxwell's cheerfulness earned her the family nickname of "Bluebird of Happiness." After her husband died in 2004, she continued to seek out ways to serve others.

With deep, lifelong devotion to the LDS Church. Sister Maxwell served in many local callings, including Primary, Young Women and Relief Society president, and as a member of the church's Young Women general board. She even served as a stake Relief Society president while Elder Maxwell served in the Quorum of the Seventy.

In addition to her church callings, Sister Maxwell also contributed community service tutoring reading at the Guadalupe Center, volunteering at the Spina Bifida Clinic and serving on boards for Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah.

Funeral services will be Saturday at noon at the Monument Park II Ward, 1005 S. 2000 East, Salt Lake City. Interment will follow at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Missionary Department of the LDS church or to Primary Children's Hospital.

vjohnson@deseretnews.com