Meet Ada. She’s my husband’s great-grandmother. Her life is one worth knowing about. At the family reunion we attended back in February I attended a class about her where I learned a bit more about her talents and interests.
Ada Bitner was born on June 30, 1880, the daughter of Breneman Barr Bitner and Sarah Ann Osguthorpe. She was raised on a farm on the Big Cottonwood Creek near Salt Lake City and had a happy childhood. Breaking the mold for that time she and her sisters were all well-educated women. Ada even went to Chicago where she learned Gregg shorthand which she then taught at the LDS Business College along with English and typing. She taught for ten years from 1899-1909 and was the first woman to teach there.
Ada had other talents as well. She enjoyed dancing, had a lovely alto voice, was an avid reader, and a wonderful cook. Ada was also a gifted painter. The pitcher above was painted by her.
Ada married Bryant Stringham Hinckley on August 4, 1909. Bryant’s first wife, Christene, died from appendicitis leaving eight children ages 14 down to two months. Two of the children, the baby Christine and Carol, went to live with their maternal grandparents in Provo. Describing this time of their marriage Ruth, Ada and Bryant’s daughter, would later write, “Mother was sensitive, artistic, used to a very neat, clean house, and having her own money to spend. To be suddenly thrust from an academic environment into a large home filled with a husband and six normal, active children and little money for anything but necessities, must have been a real cultural shock.
“Mother and Father complimented each other in many ways. They were both very intelligent and highly interested in intellectual pursuits. They loved people and had many friends. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was an integral part of their lives. they were both refined, loved books and all of the cultural things of life. Mother loved beautiful, artistic things, painted and played the piano, set a lovely table and insisted on good manners and proper language.”
Ada and Bryant had five children: Gordon, Sherman, Ruth, Ramona, and Sylvia (Joseph’s grandmother). All of the children adored her! Ada made sure that everyone felt loved and included. Ada was busy as a mother, bottling jars upon jars of fruit in the summer, baking eight loaves of bread at least every other day, helping children with their homework, as well as editing and helping Bryant with his many books and speeches. Memories her children have written of her include Ada singing as she worked, going all out for Christmas rolling pounds and pounds of fondant and making simple gifts for many people. She taught her daughters to make baskets our of burrs and dolls out of hollyhocks. When she would call them in for dinner she would yodel – yes, yodel – “Yoo-hoo!”
At the age of 47 Ada found a lump in her left breast. Sherm later recorded this incident, “One of the more touching experiences of my youth occurred one afternoon when Father and I were working in the orchard. He broke down and started to sob uncontrollably. This really shook me because I had not ever seen Father this way before. When he gained some of his composure he excused himself saying he was sorry but he had learned that Mother had a lump in her breast and they both feared it might be malignant. Soon after she was operated on.”
Ada seemed to do well for about two and a half years. After a trip to Chicago her left arm appeared swollen. The dreaded cancer had returned. She did everything that was available to her at the time to fight the cancer – radium treatments that made her ill, health foods, mineral water, mineral baths, etc. In October of 1930 Ada heard of a treatment in California and Bryant sent her there to try it. Ada’s sister, Mary, went with her. In early November Mary sent word to Bryant to come. The end was near. Ada died on Sunday, November 9, 1930.
Ada’s half sister Della wrote this of her, “I saw her die. She never flinched nor complained nor cried out. She said she would be glad to live if it were her Heavenly Father’s will, but she did not fear death nor what was beyond. She said she was thankful that so far her children were food and true; they would be better able with this start to live right when she was gone. She died as she had lived, calmly and bravely. I did not think such courage possible. She looked out on eternity with trust and perfect faith. He who had taught her how to live surely taught her how to die.”
The following saying was found in Ada’s purse after she died.
It has been passed on to each of her descendants to remember no matter what trials they are going through or what weaknesses they face they can each rely on Divine help to carry them through.
At the end of the class on Ada Bitner Hinckley we were given a small business card with her picture and name on one side and the quote on the other for us to keep in our own purses or wallets. I love the saying so much I created the print above to keep on display in my home. It is a wonderful reminder not only of a great woman, one of my children’s ancestors, but also of her daughter, Sylvia, who was only 10 when Ada died. Sylvia, too, would die of cancer at about the same age leaving 11 children without a mother.
Ruth, Sylvia’s older sister left this tribute of her, “Because Sylvia passed away as a result of the same disease and at about the same age we have grieved for her children and the grandchildren who have never known her. She was an outstanding, superior, brilliant woman and faced the prospect of death with a courage, patience and valor that I didn’t ever think could exist again.”
I believe this saying, “The God Power within me is stronger than my weakness,” also typified Sylvia’s life as it did Ada’s. May it be said of all of us.
Download the 12×12 inch print (without the watermark) by clicking below.
Here is an 8×10 print (without the watermark) for easier printing.