Gary T. Dance, president of the Pocatello Idaho Stake, has no way of proving it, but he thinks Grant Stowell "may well be the oldest stake clerk in the Church. And he's certainly one of the best."
The stake clerk celebrated his 87th birthday recently at a surprise party organized by members of the stake presidency, high council and their wives.Grant Stowell's life is a long legacy of service and devotion. Born March 12, 1903, in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, he has many memories of his early years in the LDS colonies of Northern Mexico. The seventh of nine children born to Brigham and Rhonda Bybee Stowell, he remembers prosperous years on a cattle ranch before the 1912 Mexican Revolution.
"When I was about 6, a group of rebels rode up to our ranch house and helped themselves to a bunch of our horses, including my little pony," Brother Stowell recalled. "My father had said not to resist them, but when they left, I followed them into town. They had tied the horses to a hitching rack while they were taking supplies from the store out to a wagon. My pony was tied at the end of the line and I figured I could untie him and ride away without them seeing me. Just then the rebels all came out of the store, jumped on our horses and rode out of town. I never saw my pony again."
In 1912, as hostilities mounted between the Mexican government and the rebel forces led by Pancho Villa, the Mormon settlers were asked by General Authorities of the Church to leave Mexico and return to the United States. "My mother received a phone call from Church leaders in Juarez telling us to leave immediately," he said. "We drove through the mountains and met a train that was waiting to take us and other settlers to El Paso, Texas."
In El Paso, they were placed in an abandoned lumber yard, which was fenced with barbed wire, while they waited several days before being assigned passage on another train to Provo, Utah.
Young Grant moved to Rigby, Idaho, and, in 1923, to Pocatello, where he went to business school and trained as a stenographer. He was hired by Union Pacific Railroad as a stenographer, and remained in that position until 1932, when reductions caused by the Great Depression left him without a job.
Shortly after moving to Pocatello, he became acquainted with Wanda Jensen, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple on June 14, 1929. They are parents of seven children and have numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sister Stowell, 86, has been a member of the Pocatello 1st Ward her entire life. Brother Stowell's membership has been in that ward since they married and he served as bishop there from 1941-44.
After he lost his job with the railroad, he entered the insurance and real estate business, and was responsible for developing much of the area on Pocatello's south side. He was involved in real estate development and insurance work for many years.
Grant Stowell's life has been one of service to his community as well as to the Church. He was elected to the Pocatello School Board in the 1940s and served a four-year term as president of the Idaho School Trustees Association. In 1947, he became the first school trustee from Idaho elected a director of the National School Trustees Association. He is still an honorary director of that organization. He served two four-year terms as a member of the Pocatello City Commission, beginning in 1951.
In the Church, Brother Stowell has served as stake clerk to four stake presidents – serving with Pres. Dance since 1984 – and as a ward clerk to five bishops, in addition to serving as a bishop and high councilor. "I have held some position in the Church for 64 years," he said. In 1988, he and his wife compiled and published a written history of the Pocatello 1st Ward to mark the centennial year of the establishment of a unit of the Church in Pocatello. The book contains many historical photographs and personal histories of past and present ward members.
He remains active in the community. He is a director of the Pocatello Golden "K" Kiwanis Club and is responsible for arranging weekly programs for the group of mostly-retired Kiwanians.
He has made an effort to keep pace with the advancement of technology through the years. "I learned to take shorthand in 1923 with a note pad and a fountain pen. Today, I am trying to master word processing on a computer. There's quite a difference," he said.
Only recently did Brother Stowell turn over to an assistant clerk some of the responsibilities for keeping minutes of stake meetings. "I'm beginning to slow down a bit, but I will continue to serve where I'm able."