'A genuine pioneer' in the Philippines

When Maxine Grimm entered the Philippines in 1945 as a worker with the American Red Cross, she began a great work - not only for the Red Cross, but also for the Church.

In her early 20s, she was the only female member of the Church in the country at the time. Rather than neglect her Church membership, she endeavored to help plant gospel seeds, to water them and help the roots grow deep in the Philippines."I cannot praise her efforts too highly," said President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, a longtime friend of Sister Grimm. "She was a genuine pioneer in the work in that island nation where we have now a very substantial Church membership."

Currently there are more than 266,000 members, 44 stakes, 12 missions and a temple in the Philippines, statistics in the Deseret News 1993-1994 Church Almanac show. The Philippines is one of the fastest growing areas of the Church, the Almanac states. Missionaries have baptized Filipinos at the rate of a stake a month during peak periods in recent years.

When Sister Grimm, then Sister Tate, was sent to the Philippines, there were no Filipino members and there had been no missionary work in the country since the Spanish-American War in 1898 when LDS military personnel carried out limited activities. She helped organize Church meetings and area conferences, giving hundreds of LDS soldiers a chance to gather for Sunday meetings while they were overseas serving in the military.

"I don't feel I can take credit for what has happened in the Philippines," Sister Grimm said unassumingly. "I was just placed there at the right time and blessed with the opportunity to help the Church grow."

With a belief in the comfort that music can bring, she was known for carrying her portable pump organ throughout the country, eager to provide music for Church meetings. (Sister Grimm continues to serve at the organ. Her present Church calling in the Tooele 12th Ward, Tooele Utah Stake, is ward organist.)

"When I first went to the Philippine islands, I tried to do various things for the Filipinos, but realized the only good that could really be done was through the Church," she related. "They had to have that basic spiritual change in their lives, and when they made that spiritual change, they made the change in their looks and in their houses. The Church has made a tremendous difference in the individuals themselves. You can point them out in a crowd."

She noted that the Filipino people have been receptive to the gospel because of the Christian influence that came when the navigator Ferdinand Magellan introduced Catholicism in the country in 1521.

"But because of their different culture and customs, it is very surprising that so many have been able to make this transition to Church membership," she added. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that the work would be this successful."

In 1947, she married Edward Miller "Pete" Grimm, a colonel in the Army. After their two children were born, two American families moved to the area and became a part of the Church in Manila. Church meetings were held in the Grimm home and Sister Grimm started Primary and Sunday School in the area in the late 1950s.

"When we considered opening missionary work in the Philippines," President Hinckley related, "she was living there with her husband and two children. She had requested that the missionaries be sent to the Philippines. At that time I had responsibility for the work in Asia. I, together with President Robert S. Taylor, president of the Southern Far East Mission, went to Manila.

"Maxine was most helpful as was her husband, who at that time was a non-member. He offered his car and driver to assist in getting us around. At the meeting held in May 1961 to formally begin missionary work, she was present and played the portable organ that she had carried while serving as a Red Cross worker in World War II.

"She was an enthusiastic supporter of the work," President Hinckley continued. "The early baptisms which took place in the mission were performed in the swimming pool of the Grimm home. No effort was too great to undertake in assisting the missionaries and encouraging the converts."

Sister Grimm had joined the Red Cross in 1942 just after World War II broke out, feeling like she could do more good in the Red Cross than in any other way. Her main focus as a Red Cross worker was to boost the morale of soldiers stationed overseas. She was assigned to various hospitals as a recreational director and in vocational therapy.

She first traveled to New Guinea to work in a hospital and then to the Philippines where she worked with Filipino prisoners of war until hospitals were set up. She also organized a refugee camp for Filipinos who escaped from the Walled City in Manila. Her work included finding a building and opening it up for the refugees to provide them with food and shelter.

It was during this time that Sister Grimm met a young Filipino woman, Aniceta Pabilona Fajardo, who was working as a seamstress at the camp. The woman became the first Filipino convert to join the Church in the Philippines. She was baptized in 1945.

Sister Grimm later became director of recreation of all hospitals in Manila. From there she went to Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan, where she worked in the same capacity. After serving in the hospitals in Japan, she began doing public relations for the Red Cross in its Tokyo office.

"Everywhere I went, we held Church meetings," Sister Grimm noted. "We found some of the old members in Japan who had been baptized before the war and they started coming to meetings."

After meeting LDS Chaplain Roy Darley, who later became a Tabernacle Choir organist, she helped organize one of the largest area conferences in Tokyo in 1945. She gained permission from military officials for LDS soldiers to get weekend passes. While doing so, the general over the area, Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, provided Sister Grimm with a train to transport soldiers to and from the conference. It was on the train that she organized a choir for the weekend meetings. More than 500 attended from throughout Japan.

After her marriage in 1947, she returned with her husband to live in Manila and continued in her Church service. Their home served as the center of Church activity for many years. She estimated that at least 2,000 people were baptized in their children's swimming pool before meetinghouses and baptismal fonts were built.

Her husband, although always a part of Church activity, didn't join the Church until 1967. Following his death in 1977, Sister Grimm continued to maintain homes in Manila and in Tooele, Utah, until 1988. Her home is now in Tooele.

"I just don't think the Church would have been off to a good start in the Philippines without the Grimms," said Mary Ellen Edmunds, a Relief Society general board member who served two missions in the Philippines, in 1963-64 and again in 1972-73. She worked with the Grimms during both missions.

"I honor Sister Grimm. She is a good, good person. She made a whole lot of things possible in the Philippines and did a lot of it quietly. Whatever we did, the Grimms were there with their time and resources. They were always trying to help people help themselves."

Since returning to Tooele to live year-round, Sister Grimm has continued to devote her life to her family, the Church, the community of Tooele, where she was born and reared, as well as to the state of Utah.

She serves on the American Red Cross board in Salt Lake City, and her daughter, Linda, teaches first aid and CPR for the Red Cross. Sister Grimm is also past chairwoman of the Utah State Centennial Commission, and currently serves on the commission, representing Tooele County.

She serves on the restoration committee of the Ezra T. Benson Gristmill in Tooele, has worked on the Tooele County Tourism Committee and is past chairwoman of the Tooele County Museum.

"I like to serve without a lot of attention," Sister Grimm said. "My great-grandparents settled Tooele and I feel a great responsibility to carry on for them. They made tremendous sacrifices. I feel any sacrifice I can make is not as great as the sacrifices they made.

"I know the Church is true and I have always wanted to show that. My driving force in my work has been that great belief that I have. I hope that I can serve to the very end of my life, in any capacity."

In her spare time, Sister Grimm enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren. One of her favorite winter activities is sledding near her home with her grandchildren down long hillsides, one that stretches as far as 2 1/2 miles, which illustrates her personality.

"You've got to keep young," she commented. "It's totally a state of mind."

Service to others is another way to be rejuvenated, she said. "If you don't feel good, then take care of someone else because the healing process comes through service to others."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed