In February 2010, I had an assignment from the Mormon Historical Sites Foundation to produce a visual presentation about Florence Jacobsen, who passed away on March 5 at 103. Entering her residence to interview her was like entering a wing of the LDS Church History Museum.
I could remember her name from my young adult years but recalled few specifics about her service to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Florence was in her 90s at the time, but she was lucid and animated with an energy that I see more in young adults than older persons.
Her stories were classic — she could remember the fragrance with which her grandfather, President Joseph F. Smith, perfumed his beard. She would visit him in the Beehive House, his place of residence. That heritage brought church history, its buildings and artifacts into her everyday life.
Her other grandfather, President Heber J. Grant, had lived next door. Their lives overlapped for some three decades.
She told me of being courted by her beloved Ted. President Grant officiated at their wedding. While Ted was serving as a mission president, they hosted a convalescing Spencer W. Kimball following a difficult surgery.
Just days after being called as general president of the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association, Florence learned that construction of the new Church Office Building would require the demolition of the Lion House. Florence recoiled at the news. She had a determination and fervor reminiscent of her great-grandmother, Mary Fielding Smith. Florence almost instinctively declared, “Over my dead body!”
She would soon make the proposal to church leaders that literally saved the Lion House from the wrecking ball. In just a few years, she made it safe, vibrant and self-sustaining.
A later assignment had Florence overseeing all of the interior furnishings in the renovated Manti Utah Temple. She rented a motor home at her own expense to be on site. Florence made a proposal that the LDS Church build a museum to display LDS artifacts and art. Leaders wondered if there was enough to fill a museum. She informed them that there was enough to fill five museums. It was being stored in warehouses paid for by the Jacobsens.
Similarly, she produced the musical "Promised Valley," its performers and even the stage with no budget available. The list goes on and on.
This dear sister and servant of the Lord not only preserved history, she was history. Her passing is like reading a favorite chapter of history and then losing the book. At least one can always cherish the memories.