Sister Colleen Hinckley Maxwell dies at age 87

Credit: Photo courtesy Maxwell family
Credit: Photo courtesy Maxwell family

Colleen Hinckley Maxwell, wife of the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and first cousin of President Gordon B. Hinckley, died on Jan. 17 at the age of 87.

Sister Maxwell was born on April 8, 1928, — Easter Sunday — to George Erwin and Fern Anna Johnson Hinckley. She grew up in Salt Lake City with her two brothers, George and Ed.

Sister Maxwell attended the University of Utah and was a member of the Lambda Delta Sigma and Chi Omega sororities during her time there. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in home economics education in 1950 and found a teaching job that same year.

During a summer home from teaching, she was pleasantly surprised when Neal Maxwell, who she had met while attending the Latter-day Saint Institute in 1949, called her to ask her on a date. She “was impressed that he seemed to have so much charisma. People were looking to him for answers and just had a great regard for him.”

He said to his parents after their first date, “I’ve got to see more of that girl. She has some thinking under her hood.” They began their courtship in July, were engaged by September, planned to be married in December and were married in the Salt Lake Temple on Nov. 22, 1950.

Despite medical problems before and during the pregnancy of their first child, Becky, Sister Maxwell handled the pain and pressures with grace. Elder Maxwell said that during this time, she “didn’t think of herself at all. There was no self-pity, no sense of martyrdom.” Her illness helped them learn how to draw closer to God during times of trial. They became the parents four children — Becky, Cory, Nancy and Jane — and eventually had 24 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

During Elder Maxwell’s many callings in the Church, ranging from bishop to Seventy to Apostle, Sister Maxwell offered invaluable support. She was known for her calming influence on her often fast-paced and impatient husband.

Her husband described her as “a more complete Christian” than he was, with a great desire to serve others. She was known as an excellent cook and would often share the food she made with others whom she felt needed her love.

Elder Maxwell came to rely on her inspiration, regarding her as “an additional prompter, along with the Holy Ghost. … She’s not always convenient. I don’t want to hear what she tells me sometimes, but I’ve learned long since to pay attention.”

When Elder Maxwell was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, she supported him through dark moments with her “unrelenting love and brightness of hope,” according to her family. Due to her cheerfulness, they gave her the nickname Bluebird of Happiness. After Elder Maxwell died in 2004, she continued to seek out ways to serve others.

Sister Maxwell had a lifelong and deep devotion to the gospel. Her callings included Primary, Young Women and Relief Society president and serving as a member of the Young Women general board. She even served as stake Relief Society president while Elder Maxwell served in the Seventy.

In addition to her Church callings, Sister Maxwell also tutored reading at the Guadalupe Center, volunteered at the Spina Bifida Clinic and served on boards for Primary Children’s Hospital and the University of Utah.

As the funeral is to be held Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Monument Park 2nd Ward, 1005 S. 2000 E. Salt Lake City, Utah, the family has suggested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Missionary Department of the Church or to Primary Children’s Hospital.

— Information taken from “A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell” by Bruce C. Hafen and an obituary prepared by the family.

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