SALT LAKE CITY — The word Cleone Peterson Eccles' four children said best describes their mother is "gracious."
Eccles, a proud Utah native, University of Utah alumna, teacher and grandmother, died Friday morning at age 78 after a battle with cancer. Along with her husband, prominent Utah financier Spencer F. Eccles, she was a committed philanthropist and community supporter.
Cleone Eccles was first diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago but initially overcame the disease. The cancer returned two years ago, and she confronted it "beautifully and gracefully," daughter Katie Eccles-Burnett said.
Cleone Eccles was born in Fairview on March 9, 1935, and grew up loving rural Sanpete County. She and her family visited the area often throughout her life.
While studying elementary education at the University of Utah, she met and married Spencer F. Eccles in 1958. The family remained fervent supporters of the university, attending countless campus activities and sporting events, said Lisa Eccles, another daughter.
Cleone Eccles served on the university's board of trustees and as vice president of the alumni association. Through various charitable organizations, the Eccles family has contributed several million dollars to the U. and other Utah universities.
After graduation, the young couple moved to Boise, Idaho, where they lived for 10 years and started their family before returning to Salt Lake City. Cleone Eccles was a dedicated member and volunteer through Junior Leagues in both cities.
Hope Eccles, the couple's oldest daughter, called her mother a tireless partner and supporter for their father. The children called their parents "soul mates" who loved each other through 55 years of marriage.
Even amidst her extensive dedication to service in the community and education, Cleone Eccles' highest priority was family, Hope Eccles said
Spencer P. Eccles, the couple's youngest child, called his mother "the glue that held our family together." More than anything, she loved her 10 grandchildren, he said.
"Her legacy, her example, will be felt for generations in our family as we go forward and we think of the kind person she was, how she carried herself and put others first," he said.
Cleone Eccles was also an active and faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lisa Eccles said. She served in both the Primary and Relief Society.
"She was a calm, quiet influence for good, and I think that's what people will miss about her," Lisa Eccles said.