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Teaching Endurance

A profile to reflect and connect

Story by Jenny Gilman | Photos by Heather Claramunt

The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” Andy Rooney

The world becomes a much more beautiful place when we look to those characters in life that hide wisdom in the wink of an eye and life lessons in a loving smile.

On the first of May this year, Edith May Grimston turned one hundred and one years old. Her life has tested her strength and endurance, yet she has proven herself worthy of the challenges that faced her time and time again. In her early life, she was described as fiercely independent, active, tough, but curious.

Edith grew a long-lasting love of nature through watching her mother. Atypical for women of the day, her mother was a studied nutritionist and an avid gardener. “You’ll dig your grave with your teeth!” was Edith’s way of teaching nutrition too.

When Edith was thirteen years old, nature became her home. The parents and five children found themselves evicted and homeless on the Central Coast of California. Having nowhere to go, they moved all of the furniture to a grove of eucalyptus trees, placed it around the grounds to live on, and stayed there for six months.  When it rained, they pulled out umbrellas and sheltered underneath them.  She learned about addiction because of her father’s gambling. It was deeply out of his control, and he ended up leaving the family penniless.

The family found that living outdoors was a nightmarish experience, except for Edith. Even today, Edith recalls the smell of eucalyptus when it rains, and it is one of her most pleasant memories of that time.  She would eventually learn countless species of trees, bushes, and flowers and would teach her children and grandchildren details of them as they visited her garden, or even passed by them on meandering neighborhood walks.

Edith’s mother passed away after living those six months outdoors, which left the children in the care of their oldest sister, who was working on her own in Northern California. She moved back to the area to take responsibility for the family. Edith took on the duty of meal making. At fourteen, she was shopping and cooking all of the meals for the young family.

Edith eventually married, and soon after, WWII took her new husband overseas. She worked canning peaches and created a Victory Garden, to feed people in need, as her way of supporting the war effort. Though they wrote letters to each other every day, Edith kept busy and enjoyed the independence she had while he was away. She was delighted to participate in dances for the soldiers at various military bases around the area. It could have been a lonely time, but her morale was boosted while helping to do the same for soldiers. For Edith, it was a glorious time.

After the war, her husband returned a different person than the one she once knew. The war changed him. Along with her new independence, there was an adjustment to be made, and they did their best. He went to college, and they worked together to build their family, having three children. Edith witnessed addiction for the second time after he turned to alcohol to soothe his war memories. Eventually, they parted, and Edith followed her family to Eagle, Idaho.

She loves her church and, over time, served four different missions: two teaching missions, another at a family history center in Santa Monica, California, and one as a tour guide in Chesterfield, Idaho.

Edith has experienced hardship but much more love in her long life. Even now, during Covid, she teaches her family about strength, courage, and what it means to appreciate each other through all of the joys, and the sorrows, of a full and meaningful life.