Every once in awhile, you meet someone who really was and is a pioneer, and it puts shame to the “we are all pioneers” platitude we like to tell ourselves.
Edna Anderson’s funeral was this week, and I am not the best person to write a eulogy for her. But I felt someone ought to let the wider world know. Edna really was a pioneer, and though she will likely never have her story told over the pulpit at General Conference, it should be. I also made a short poem to be displayed at her visit site, where you can pay your respects.
Her online obituary is here, though it doesn’t tell you much. Edna moved to Homer, Alaska when Alaska was still somewhat of a wild and untamed frontier area. There was no Mormon presence here. Yet the current ward of 300+ members is directly traceable to her holding a weekly sunday school in her home.
She was a frontier woman – never happy unless she was working. She lived for years with no running water or indoor plumbing. She milked cows and fed horses and sent the kids to the creek. When company came, she added a little more water and flour to the gravy. When she came to Homer, the roads were not paved or well maintained, even when there were roads.
When she found that some local ranchers were inactive members, she called them up and thanked them for being in Homer, so that there could be a priesthood presence. Bit by bit, through sheer force of personality, Edna basically willed the first Homer branch into existence.
I didn’t know her well, but she was always there as I grew up; I wish I had known her better. In 2008, when she gave a talk on the history of the church in Homer, I felt inspired to ask her for a copy of the talk. I am glad I did, because otherwise I would not have that account.
Despite having a PhD in English, one reason I find so much of academic theory (especially literary theory) somewhat silly is because I grew up around people like Edna. They didn’t have time or patience for theories that bore no resemblance to their lives.
I am not eloquent or knowledgeable enough to give Edna a proper tribute. The account she gave me is packed away in storage or else I would quote from it instead of these poor words. Still, a true pioneer has passed away. She will be welcomed into the arms of the Lord.
She may not have held any progressive political opinions or understood the latest postmodern theories being advocated at the latest trendy symposiums, but if anyone will be told “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” she will.
Well done, Edna. The world is a better place because of her.