In June 1928, 12 weeks after he arrived in Los Angeles, President Howard W. Hunter attended an M-Men and Gleaner dance in the Wil-shire Ward.
Afterward, President Hunter and some of his friends decided to go to the beach. Among the group were Ned Redding, a close friend, and his date, Clara May "Claire" Jeffs. All went wading in the surf near Santa Monica, with the young women holding up their long evening gowns.That night, President Hunter got better acquainted with Claire, and, he remembers, "the next time we went out, I took Claire and Ned went with someone else."
A three-year courtship began to unfold, and in the spring of 1931, President Hunter, a meticulous journal-keeper, wrote in his history:
"I had not given up the hope of going on a mission, and I had saved some money with that in mind. Claire offered to help support me and wait for me until I returned. Even though I appreciated the offer, I could not accept the proposal of having her work and support me. We finally decided that it would be better for us to get married and at a later time, as soon as conditions might permit, we would go on a mission together."
Their marriage meant they had to begin the early years of their life together during the Depression. A small furnished apartment was made a more lovely home through Sister Hunter's homemaking skills.
Following the counsel given them at their marriage to stay out of debt meant the couple had to learn to "stretch the dollar." Sister Hunter's astute business mind found many ways to help her husband's salary provide for the necessities and comforts of life.
As the Hunter sons, John and Richard, were growing up, they knew their friends were welcome at their home. "It was always made clear to us that our parents would just as soon have our friends over at our house as to have us go somewhere else," Richard said in a Church News interview. "I can remember that Mother always had a meticulously clean house that was well-organized, but our friends always felt they were welcome."
Both sons were Eagle Scouts. Richard says it was their mother who earned the merit badges. "I was just there to receive mine," he said. "She worked right along with us. She'd arrange the family schedule so we could go hiking together to work on our hiking merit badge. She supported us in everything, not just by seeing that we had transportation, but she also gave us the incentive to get the job done."
President Hunter, speaking of Claire, said in a Church News interview: "I think that one of the kindest things I can say about Clara is that throughout our whole marriage she has been a bishop's wife, or a stake president's wife or the wife of a general authority. She has always been standing by with love, consideration and encouragement; she's been where she was needed most by her family. She's been a great support."
Like her husband, Sister Hunter was interested in family history research. She compiled information on her German ancestors, though many records that would have been helpful were destroyed during both world wars. She traced records of the Jeffs family and wrote family histories.
After President Hunter was called as an apostle in 1959, she maintained the family home in California and spent much of the same time house-hunting. In April 1961 they moved into a Salt Lake home they designed and had built.
She returned to college after both sons were grown and studied literature.
She was born Feb. 18, 1902, in Salt Lake City, to Jacob Ellsworth Jeffs and Martha Reckzeh Jeffs. She attended Riverside Elementary and West High in Salt Lake City and was a switchboard operator for Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. for 21/2 years until the family's move to California in 1921.
She was reared in an environment where she learned to work hard and to be successful in whatever she attempted.
By the time she was 16, she was teaching a Sunday School class and had a long record of other LDS Church service, including a stake junior Sunday School coordinator, ward Young Women president, Relief Society stake board member and Gleaner instructor. She was also a member of the Los Angeles Thrift Chorus, which sang at the Arizona Temple dedication in 1927.
Moving with her family to California, she qualified as a schoolteacher, but she became interested in the business world. For a while, she was a fashion model at the N.B. Blackstone Co. in Los Angeles, an apparel store patronized by some of Hollywood's leading stars. In her eight years there, she also was a secretary, assistant personnel director, assistant to the superintendent and was a vice president when the company was sold in 1930.
On occasions, she had been a fashion model and worked in motion pictures.
In the early 1970s, Sister Hunter's health began to decline, and a series of debilitating strokes finally left her bedridden and greatly diminished.
"And in her long illness, what an angel he was in tenderly caring for her all during the days of her illness," President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Council of the Twelve, said in a video on President Hunter's life. "That was an example to all of the church."Comment on this story
Kathy Rodda, a niece, explained in the video: "Howard would many times cut short his trips. He would travel all night. He would work harder than he had to so he could get home that extra day to be with her, and when he would walk in that front door she would light up. She wouldn't do that for any other person. But when she would see him she would just beam."
On Oct. 9, 1983, after more than a dozen years of tender care from her beloved companion, Sister Hunter died. "I have never seen such an example of devotion of a husband to his wife," said Elder James E. Faust, a member of the Council of the Twelve. "It has been a many-splendored love affair."