SALT LAKE CITY — Some people are really good at smiling with their eyes. Have you noticed? They seem to breezily set aside life's cares and offer a refuge to tired souls. Margaret Price Carlston's bright blue eyes were always smiling. Even as she quietly left this world at the ripe age of 96, with family by her side, she was smiling.
Carlston was a teacher by trade, but this didn't happen until after she raised her family of five. It happened after she was named the University of Utah's first homecoming queen and after her husband served in the Pacific during World War II, leaving her to raise a young child. At 50, Carlston went back to the classroom to earn her teaching degree.
She worked as a substitute teacher in Southern California well into her 80's. One day a smart aleck sophomore entered the classroom whispering to a friend, "Oh look, we've got grandma for a teacher today." Carlston turned on her heel and, drawing herself up to a regal 5'10" height, looked him in the eye saying, "Excuse me, that will be MRS. Grandma to you." The kid clammed up and offered no more grief in Carlston's class.
Never one to take herself or others too seriously, Carlston learned early on to turn a phrase and laugh through life. Standing taller than other girls, many often posted the question, "Do you play basketball?" Rather than take offense, Carlston smiled and said, "No, do you play miniature golf?"
As a dimple-faced coed at the University of Utah, Carlston served as the vice president of her Delta Gamma sorority. She was selected by Utah Supreme Court justices David Moffat and William Folland to greet alumni during Homecoming Week in 1936. News of her appointment as the U's first homecoming queen hit papers across the country, from the Philadelphia Inquirer to the Los Angeles Times. She received a telegram from her soon-to-be husband that read, "Congratulations, darling. Love, Ken."
In later years, to honor graduates and newlyweds, Carlston wrote her local congressman to request flags from Washington, D.C. She planned well ahead so that the flag that was flown over the Capitol on the day of their special occasion would be given to commemorate the receipient's special day.
Carlston never met a stranger. She was confident in herself and shared her love of life with all who knew her. She always managed to maintain her dignity, but never at the expense of her fabulous sense of humor. She'd offer pearls of life wisdom like, "Head up, shoulders back and don't forget to smile," and, "Just get up every morning and be happy."
In an increasingly cynical world, it is entirely refreshing to connect with and be loved by someone like Margaret Carlston. A contagious optimism and quick wit were her trademarks. Her example is one of emulation. She knew how to love people well and was well-loved in return.
Family and friends will be celebrating Carlston's life Saturday, May 12, at 2 p.m. at the Cottonwood Heights Stake Center, 6890 S. Whitmore Way. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Primary Children's Medical Center Foundation or to the LDS Perpetual Education Fund.
Liz Carlston is the author of two books "Surviving Columbine," "The Christmas Stone." Her website is www.lizcarlston.com.