She was the kind of mother who laughed hard when the dog ate the pot roast she had cooked for company and performed cartwheels and hand-stands into her late 50s just because she could.
That's how Elayne Allebest remembered her mother, Inis Egan Hunter, during funeral services in Salt Lake City today for the 93-year-old wife of former LDS Church President Howard W. Hunter.
"She was a magnificent human being," full of Christianity, charity, resourcefulness and faith, Allebest said, a woman who had the talent for making "a silk purse out of a sow's ear" and "making a near-riot out of a family reunion."
Allebest shared the private side of her mother's life — known to Latter-day Saints as a close companion and second wife of President Hunter — with scores of family members and friends gathered at the Ensign LDS Stake Center. LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley presided and spoke briefly during the service, and was accompanied by both counselors in the church's First Presidency — Presidents Thomas S. Monson and Henry B. Eyring.
Several members of the Quorum of the Twelve were also seated on the stand, and selected members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided music, led by the choir's conductor Craig Jessop and Tabernacle organist Linda Margetts.
Allebest remembered her mother could "do it all," from creating heirloom porcelain dolls, to refinishing thrift store furniture to serving as stand-in for an LDS film when the actor failed to appear one day at the LDS Motion Picture Studio. Allebest, who was working at the studio at the time, offered to find a stand in, dashed home and convinced her mother to memorize the lines. "I can see her cameo performance to this day," she remembered.
As for her marriage to President Hunter late in life, "I think he married her because she was happy. That happiness was a magnet to all those around her," she said, remembering her mother's love for her husband and the Book of Mormon.
Sister Hunter served as an escort in the Church Office Building for several years before their marriage, and when asked about her job, she would say, "I just tell people where to go and where to get off." Her humor was contagious, Allebest said, remembering that when some of her own former boyfriends had long lost interest in her, they would keep in contact with her mother.
President Hinckley affirmed the eternal nature of the marriage between Sister Hunter and the former church president, whose first wife, Claire Jeffs, died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease and is now buried beside him in the Salt Lake Cemetery.
Inis Hunter "will now be laid to rest on the other side," he said. "They were sealed under the authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood for time and for all eternity," he said, recalling the marriage ceremony he performed for them in the Salt Lake Temple in April 1990.
"She was an excellent companion to him as he was to her," he said.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve echoed that sentiment. "I know Inis and Howard Hunter are supremely happy," he said, admonishing their children to refer to her in the present tense.
"She is an exceptionally choice daughter of our Father in Heaven, not was," he said, quoting an address by former church President Joseph F. Smith, who said family members who die "do not cease to love us. ... We live in their presence. They see us and are solicitous of our welfare. They love us now more than ever, for they see the dangers that beset us."
He urged the family to gather and talk of Sister Hunter, using a tape recorder to help preserve precious memories that can be passed through the generations.
Elder Jon M. Huntsman, a member of the Quorums of the Seventy, called the couple's marriage "the perfect match at the perfect time in history," as Sister Hunter accompanied her husband in his travels worldwide as president of the Quorum of the Twelve, and later, as president of the church.
"She always brought a twinkle to the eye of the president," he remembered, as he observed their interaction. "They insisted time after time that they be by each other's side. Inis made everyone feel comfortable."
He wondered "how many thousands of people were motivated and uplifted throughout the world," by observing her care and love for President Hunter in their travels.
"Sometimes in life, people are raised up to provide quiet and unheralded service to build the kingdom of God. Inis was one of those," Elder Huntsman said. "Collectively, as church members throughout the world, we say 'Thank you.'"