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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
President Gordon B. Hinckley, flanked by daughter Jane Dudley and son Clark B. Hinckley, grieves during Saturday's graveside service for his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley.

After a dedicatory grave site prayer at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley rose from a chair, kissed his fingers, laid them on mounds of flowers adorning his wife's casket and softly said, "Goodbye."

The words, followed by an inaudible endearment, were the first and last President Hinckley spoke at Saturday's funeral for Marjorie Pay Hinckley, his wife of nearly 67 years.

But, as family and friends professed in faith, the words won't be the last the couple share.

"When in some future day the hand of death gently touches one or the other of us, there will be tears, yes," said son Clark B. Hinckley, reading a letter his father wrote his mother after nearly 60 years of marriage. "But there will also be a quiet and certain assurance of reunion and eternal companionship."

Sister Hinckley died of causes incident to age Tuesday, April 6, 2004, at home, surrounded by family. She was 92.

President Hinckley last week announced his wife's failing health at the 174th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said Sister Hinckley had experienced difficulties since collapsing "with weariness" after a temple dedication trip to Ghana last January.

"I guess the clock is winding down," President Hinckley told conference listeners, "and we do not know how to rewind it."

Saturday, some 2,500 people gathered at the Tabernacle on Temple Square to honor Sister Hinckley's time on Earth. President Hinckley sat in the audience, flanked by daughters Kathleen Hinckley Barnes Walker and Virginia Hinckley Pearce.

Richard G. Hinckley recalled his mother's sense of humor in telling her children to, rather than speak at her funeral, "Just sit in the front row and weep."

The services, which included hymns sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, came the day before Easter Sunday — a time fitting of a woman who strove to follow the example of Jesus Christ, speakers said.

"Today, there's a place vacant in our hearts. We mourn her passing, yet . . . all we loved and knew about Marjorie continues. Her spirit has simply gone home to God," said President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the church's First Presidency, who quoted a favorite scripture of Sister Hinckley's:

"The Savior said to us, 'I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.' "

Sister Hinckley was genuine and treated everyone with kindness, President Monson said. She spoke as comfortably with kings and queens as she did with ordinary people and children.

She loved meeting people in global travels with her husband, recalled friend Sheri L. Dew, president of Deseret Book who wrote a biography on President Hinckley. She believed in people and always saw the best in every situation.

"I always left her presence feeling better about myself," Dew said. "Marjorie Hinckley was faith, hope and charity personified. . . . (She had) the pure love of Christ in her."

Sister Hinckley is remembered by her children as a devoted wife, mother and grandmother of five children, 25 grandchildren and 41 great-grandchildren, whom she often nudged along with love, patience and a generous dose of humor.

"I think if our mother were standing here, she'd say, 'What is all the fuss about?'" Richard Hinckley told a chuckling audience filled with dignitaries including Utah Gov. Olene Walker; Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who oversaw Salt Lake City's 2002 Winter Games; and Episcopal Bishop of Utah Carolyn Tanner Irish.

Sister Hinckley often wrote notes to her grandchildren, thanking them for a visit or offering words of encouragement and a little bit of money: "You may need it for a bottle of glue to keep yourself together, or your smile glued on."

She loved missionaries. She packed chocolates for them and proclaimed how theirs is the work that separates the men from the boys.

She liked to read — in fact, a young Marjorie Pay was giving a reading in Primary when President Hinckley said he first saw her.

She enjoyed researching her ancestors and retelling their stories of faith.

Sister Hinckley will be greatly missed, noted speakers, who at times offered sympathy to President Hinckley, praying he would have the strength to continue his work.

"We need your (expertise) and guidance. We need you to continue to lead us," said President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. "We love you. We sustain you. We pray for you. We ask the Lord to give you and your family peace and comfort."

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com