Athelia Sears Tanner, age 99, passed away on January 16, 2020. She was born on September 12, 1920 in Bountiful, Utah, the seventh of ten children. She grew up in Salt Lake City, where she met William Coats (Bill) Tanner, Jr. in high school. They were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on February 14, 1942. She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in nutritional science while expecting her first child. She and Bill moved several times while he went to war and pursued graduate degrees. By the time he graduated in 1952, the couple had six children. They moved their growing family to South Pasadena, California, where they lived for the next thirty-four years and reared 13 children (seven sons and six daughters).
After sending most of their children on church missions, Bill and Athelia themselves spent the next decade and a half serving five missions together, including one as President of the Illinois Chicago Mission. Their love and service have touched the lives of thousands of people and have had an immeasurable impact on their posterity. Following Bill’s passing in 2002, Athelia served yet another mission for the church at the Nauvoo Illinois Temple with her sister Lue.
For the last few years, Athelia lived in the Inn at Barton Creek, where she enjoyed almost daily visits from her children and grandchildren. Her loving influence was felt not only by her family but also by the other residents and employees of Barton Creek. She was known for her warm smile and her contagious optimism. She loved life, learning, and the Lord. She was known for always saying, “Make it a great day!” Athelia Sears Tanner made it a great life!
Athelia was preceded in death by her husband, her eight siblings, and her parents (Athelia Viola Call and William Gailey Sears). She is survived by her sister, Lucille Sears Hofmann. Her direct descendants include 13 children—Roberta (Ray) Graham, Athelia (Ken) Woolley, Terri (Jim-deceased) Mitchell, William C. Tanner, III (Susan), John (Susan) Tanner, Richard (Shawn) Tanner, Mark (Ann) Tanner, Claralyn (Ross) Palfreyman, Kaye (Guy) Whitworth, Daken (Carolee) Tanner, Scott (Julie) Tanner, Janet (Ken) Perry, and Bryan (Renae) Tanner--as well as 78 grandchildren, 191 great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren.
A funeral visitation will be held on Friday January 24, 6-8 pm at the downtown Radisson Hotel (215 W South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101). Family and friends are invited.
There will be an additional funeral visitation Saturday morning, from 8:30-10:00 at the Bountiful East Stake Center (650 E. 2150 South Bountiful, UT 84010). The funeral services will be held at the same location from 10:30-noon. Following the funeral, the family will hold a private interment at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests making a contribution to BYU–Hawaii’s IWORK program to support students from Samoa, where Athelia’s father served three missions: https://ldsp-pay.ldschurch.org/donations/byu-hawaii?funds=30208039
I'm the twelfth of 13 children. I was born into a poor family living in a big house on top of a hill in South Pasadena, California. We called it Tanner Manor, and these are my stories of growing up there.