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Beth W Gurrister

December 22, 1926 - January 11, 2019

Burial Date: January 19, 2019

Church Community First Presbyterian Church

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at Community Presbyterian Church, 311 South 100 East, Brigham City.

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Beth Gurrister, civic adventurer and political trailblazer, advocate for those in need and generous educator, kindly feminist, loving matriarch, homemaker extraordinaire, and civility zealot, passed away on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. She was 92.

Our beloved Beth was surrounded, literally fully encircled, by family when she peacefully departed, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren rushing in from four states to be at her side.

Beth was the first woman to earn election to the Brigham City Council, plowing new ground in 1977 for other history making “firsters” to soon follow. She would serve three 4-years terms.

She is likely best known for a passionate attachment to the American symbol of democracy and its legacy milestone — the Fourth of July. Which she expressed through her writing, from 1963 to 2016, of some 50-plus readers theater scripts in pioneering Brigham City’s annual Fourth of July patriotic commemoration, still celebrated today. Also likely to continue with the city’s archive of Beth Gurrister Fourth of July scripts.

Beth hoped for a July 4 wedding day. But scheduling snags left her to settle for a pair of twos instead of a fourth — a July 22, 1950, date to tie the knot with college sweetheart Joe Gurrister.

Born Dec. 22, 1926, to James Honus Wagner and Martha Elizabeth Winslow, she was the eldest of four children. After the early years in Knoxville, Tennessee, she grew up in Muncie, Indiana.

At Muncie’s Burris High School she was active in school plays, labored on the “Oracle” yearbook staff where she also provided artwork, and served as president of the “Burris Girl Reserves” war support effort. She was part of the 14th Graduating Class at Burris in 1945.

On to Oxford, Ohio, and the Western College for Women, (today simply Western College, going co-ed in 1971) where she was listed in “Who’s Who In American Colleges and Universities” in 1947 and 1948. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature and political science and would work as a school teacher upon graduation.

College is additionally where Beth first crossed paths with Joe, an ex-Marine from Chicago attending the nearby Miami of Ohio University, also in Oxford. As well as scheduling Joe’s courtship, Beth amid her studies served as president of the campus Literary Club and a dormitory chairwoman and was a member of the American Association of University Women and the Women’s League of Voters.

One of her immediate accomplishments in 1959 upon first landing with Joe in Brigham City, he hitching his star to the young aerospace industry, was to establish one of the state’s first League of Women Voters chapters. Voting for Beth was sacred. She was also raising the couple’s four young children at the time.

But the 5-foot-2 bundle of energy’s resume was only just beginning to grow into the lengthy description now public record of the many facets of this community leader.

Early initiatives for her relentless altruism included co-founding the “Blue Goose” free bus service for Brigham’s elderly and disabled, establishing a local community emergency food pantry through Church Women United, and teaching English to patrons of the Box Elder County Migrant Council.

Involvements came with the YWCA Women’s Shelter and its Domestic Violence Task Force, Northern Utah Habitat for Humanity, the Brigham City Head Start program, Box Elder High School religion classes, and St. Mark’s Senior Citizen housing program.

The list goes on and on. Brigham City Arts Council and Planning and Zoning Commission. Chair, Utah Housing Coalition. Chair, Box Elder Tourism Council. President, Box Elder County’s UNICEF program and head of Brigham City’s UN Day celebration. Vice-president, Golden Spike Empire Board of Directors. Chair, Box Elder County Economic Development Council. Chair, Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.

And on. Recipient in 2003 of the Brigham City Council’s 2nd Annual Jim Davis Extraordinary Service Award. Brigham City Area Chamber of Commerce 1988 Total Citizen Award. Woman of the Year in Politics 1984 Ogden YWCA. Utah Issues 1981 Elected Advocate Award. Susan Young Gates Award 1978 Utah Women’s Political Caucus. Outstanding Elected Municipal Official 1986 Utah League of Cities and Towns.

All this, still only a partial list, left her four children years later to wonder — since she was always home for breakfast and dinner — if there were two of her.

She was known for an infectious laugh and a stubborn cheerfulness that would not allow her to ignore strangers, much less friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Beth also nurtured and controlled a passion for Shakespeare and anything British, American history, as well as religious history and bible study while singing in her church choir.

Her huge collection of artistic dolls in Victorian and Elizabethan attire was a spectacle in her home.

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Joe, and sister Jean.

She is survived by her brothers John and Jim Wagner, Eaton and Muncie, Indiana, respectively; children Linda, Salt Lake City; Tim, Ogden; Tom, Salt lake City; Terry, Cedar City; six grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, at Community Presbyterian Church, 311 South 100 East, Brigham City.

In lieu of lowers, family suggests donations to Community Presbyterian, her congregation which sustained her for nearly 60 years.

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