MacCene Grimmett can still remember the name of her first grade teacher, the address of her first home in Utah and the invention of automobiles, television, computers and indoor plumbing.

Ask her about work at Brigham Young University and she’ll talk about arguments she had with President Ernest L. Wilkinson. Mention her service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and she’ll tell a story about traveling with Russell M. Nelson before he became the church prophet.

“I have absolutely no idea why I’m doing so well,” Grimmett said with a smile. “I can’t decide whether the Lord don’t want me back because I was so bad on the other side that he said keep her down there as long as you can.”

Last Thursday, she celebrated her 106th birthday at her quaint brick home in Provo surrounded by family members and friends, including four of her five daughters who still live in Utah County.

“She’s still mentally very sharp. She carries out a very good conversation,” said her daughter, Dixie Grimmett. “She’s still doing really well.”

Born in 1913, Maude Maxine Maynard moved with her family from Idaho to Provo when she was 8 or 9 years old. She lived on a farm and memorized the multiplication table before she started first grade.

She remembers six different girls with the name Maxine in her elementary school class because “all the mothers thought their daughters were going to be great opera stars” like Maxine Elliott.

In order to keep track of each girl, the teacher decided to spell each Maxine a little differently and graced Grimmett with the spelling “MacCene.”

“I just kept mine. I just didn’t change it,” Grimmett said. “I didn’t like the name Maude very well.”

She and her brother skipped a couple of grades in elementary school and Grimmett graduated from Provo High School when she was 16 years old.

She hoped to receive a scholarship to college but the principal gave her a gift instead. “I got a brand, brand-new Underwood Typewriter. They had just come on the market. I still have it in my basement,” Grimmett said.

During World War II and the Great Depression, she said she remembers rationing food and people walking the streets looking for jobs.

“I just remember Grandma making sandwiches. If anybody ever knocked at the door she would let them in and feed them,” she said.

She met Richard George Grimmett at a Mutual Improvement Association dance. He was attending BYU on a basketball scholarship. They were married when she was 18 years old and raised five daughters before he died at age 90.

“We just loved each other. We just adored our kids and we respected each other,” Grimmett said.

While raising her family, she worked a handful of jobs before landing a position at BYU the week after Wilkinson started.

“He was a brilliant man and I learned a lot from him,” Grimmett said. “But he was rude and demanding and yet, in the drawer of his desk one day several years later, he showed me all the students that he had paid their tuition to go to school.”

She recalled one Saturday morning when Wilkinson called Grimmett’s secretary four times in a row demanding to speak to her boss and slamming the phone receiver to hang up. On the fifth time, Grimmett answered the phone instead.

“I said, ‘No, President Wilkinson, I have not found him and I won’t find him if you won’t stay off the telephone,” she said. “And I said, ‘Do not slam that receiver up in my ear because it hurts.’ And I quietly set my receiver down.”

She worked as the payroll director for 30 years and learned to use the first computer installed at the university.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she also served as a stake leader over the young women for 13 years and on the Young Women General Board.

Even though she didn’t speak Spanish, she and Nelson traveled to South America to speak to the leaders there. But on arriving, she learned her translator was unavailable.

“I patted Brother Nelson on the arm and I said, ‘Should I faint now or later?’” Grimmet said with a laugh. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and he said, ‘It’ll be alright, I promise you, it’ll be alright.’”

She and her husband later served two missions to London and New Zealand, where Grimmett used her skills as a payroll director to help the church members in financial crisis.

In 2010, her daughter moved in to take care of her. Grimmett still attends church every Sunday and enjoys reading before bed every night despite recently losing the sight in her left eye.

She also makes plenty of time to connect with her 18 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren through Facebook.

“I never thought I’d ever be on an iPad,” Grimmett said. “But I am.”

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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