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Linda King Newell (82) died February 12, 2023. She was a beloved wife, mother, and grandmother, a prized aunt and treasured friend. Linda and her husband L. Jackson Newell enjoyed a truly remarkable 60-year personal and professional partnership. Linda forged a self-made career as a writer and historian while raising four children in a time and place where there were few role models. A champion of justice and truth, she created beauty in abundance—drawing from nature and her own gracious heart.
Born January 16, 1941, to Pearl Davies and Foisy Earl King, Linda was the second of five children. After graduating from Millard High School, she attended the College of Southern Utah (now Southern Utah University) on scholarship. There she participated in student government, Pi Rho Omega Sorority, and the Drama Club. Linda completed her BA degree in Art and Education at Utah State University.
A Spring break Drama Club trip in 1962 opened a world of possibilities to this small-town girl who had rarely ventured further than 150 miles from home. The club traveled by bus to New York City, where they saw five Broadway plays and an opera, and then to Washington DC where Utah Senator Frank Moss arranged for them to tour the White House. There she had the honor of meeting President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The trip ignited a desire in Linda to make an impact on the world—and she did.
Linda spent her college summers working for the Utah Parks Company at Bryce Canyon National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Between her junior and senior year, her future husband Jack’s attention was captured by her spunk when they both worked at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Linda was a noted historian, writer, editor, and independent scholar. She wrote or co-authored four books including Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, co-authored with Valeen Tippetts Avery, and published by Doubleday in 1984. This meticulously-researched biography of the first wife of Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, provided groundbreaking insight into the beginnings of the church and the practice of polygamy from a woman’s perspective. She was heartbroken that upon publication of the book she and Val were ostracized and banned from speaking in the institution she cared deeply for and that had nurtured her during her childhood. Mormon Enigma won the Evans Award for the Best Biography in Western History, the Mormon History Association’s Best Book Award, and the John Whitmer Historical Association Best Biography Award. A revised edition was published in 1994 by the University of Illinois Press and remains in print. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal listed it as second among the five best books on Mormon history and culture.
For Utah’s Statehood Centennial, Linda authored or co-authored the histories of Millard, Garfield, and Piute Counties. She contributed a number of essays in other books and published over two dozen articles. With her husband Jack, she co-edited Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought from 1982-1987. She was a series editor for the University of Utah Press, Development Director for the Utah Humanities Council, and Director of Special Projects at Deep Springs College.
Linda was past president of the Mormon History Association and John Whitmer Historical Association. She served on a number of boards including the Utah Humanities Council, the Evans Biography Award, the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center at the University of Utah and was a founding member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. She was a proud member and President of the Utah PEO Chapter A.
For forty years, Linda worked passionately to realize her vision of establishing an artist’s and writer’s retreat near Zion National Park. As board chair of the Zion Canyon Mesa she oversaw the design and construction of the first buildings. In honor of her decades of work to make the retreat center come to life, one of the residency cabins is named the “Linda King Newell House of Grand Dreams.”
Linda was also a prize-winning artist who worked in watercolors and oils. Her work has been shown in galleries in Utah, California, Ontario, Canada and is in many private collections across the country. She lovingly painted portraits of the people and places she cherished the most—her grandchildren and the landscapes of Georgian Bay, Deep Springs Valley, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. She could turn any space or canvas into a beautiful work of art.
Nowhere did her kindness, generosity of spirit, gifts for creating beauty and for teaching others express themselves more fully than the decade she and Jack spent at Deep Springs College where she literally made the desert bloom. She sowed flowers in her garden and in her childrens’ gardens. She always had a spray of flowers on the table and a single bloom on her desk and one for Jack, too. Linda was tenacious and overcame adversity with dignity and grace. She always rooted for the underdog.
Linda is survived by her husband, Jack, their four children, Chris (Bob Hoffa), Jennifer (Steve Anjewierden), Eric (Emma Mecham), and Heather, and twelve grandchildren: Ben, Drake, Elise, Ezra, Lila, Lydia, Micah, Nate, Nicholas, Sage, Sydney, and Will. She is also survived by her sister Charlene King Kotoku (Ken) and her beloved sisters-in-law Joyce Chesnut, Lenette Wilde, and Faith King. Her son-in-law Keith McKeown, brothers Gerald King, Terral F. King (Faith) and George Stephen King, and her parents proceeded her in death.
Donations in honor of Linda Newell may be made to the Zion Canyon Mesa; PO Box 145, Springdale, Utah 84767 http://zioncanyonmesa.org/donate
A Celebration of Life will be held will be held Thursday, February 16 from 6-8pm at the Garden Park Ward (1150 E. Yale Ave. Salt Lake City, UT.) Funeral services will be Friday, February 17 at 10am at the Garden Park Ward.
For those unable to attend in person, Zoom will be available. A free Zoom account is required. You can attend the service by clicking the "Watch Services" button above.
Dear Jack--this was such a shock to me . I am so sorry for your loss. Linda was a remarkable woman, author, and friend. I remember with crystal clarity her visit when I was first diagnosed with MS. She came in my home, gave me words of encouragement , and then took all of the papers I was typing and told me I had some time off to acclimate. It was a great relief, but also a tremendous act of kindness and love.
It was such a pleasure to be her employee and friend. She mentored me in so many truly meaningful ways. It was one of the highlights of my life to have worked for Linda and Jack Newell. You both set such a high bar for integrity and principled living. In my work at student affairs, Dialogue, and working on Mormon Enigma, I gained such great insights on what it meant to work for loving geniuses. I was especially grateful for her introducing me to pilgrimage and embracing me in that community. My daughter, Aimee, carries that torch for me now!
I'm in hospice care at a facility in Bountiful right now. My days are numbered, fortunately. I hope to reunite with Linda soon!
Thank you so much for the privilege of experiencing those delicious slices of life with you and Linda.
Heather, I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. I read about it today in the New York Times. Had I known sooner I would have been there to give you my love, hugs and support. Know I am thinking about you and your family and sending my love. Also, my appreciation to your mom for being for being Misty’s other family.
With love, Laurie
I knew Linda as a neighbor for ten years as well as a co-lover of Mormon history. One of her most endearing qualities was what used to be called chutzpah. She once talked our way into VIP-only underground parking at the Church Office Building (Lowell Bennion, in the back seat, could only giggle). She succeeded with the Emma Smith book by simply refusing to be offended-- brushing away a century of hostility between LDS and RLDS male leaders. A prophetess may be without honor in her own country, but I'm sure her largeness of heart, intellect, and spirit were and are recognized by hundreds of thousands of readers, scholars, Mormon women, and throughout American letters.
Sending my condolences, and wishing the family comfort and understanding.
Linda was one of the most self-effacing, gracious and talented women I've known. She and her husband, Jack have made such wonderful contributions to our community and to the world. We shall miss Linda enormously, but we still have her writings, her art, and our cherished memories to remind us of her contributions on this earth. May "Flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest, dear Linda."
Sorry to hear about Linda's passing, she was a great gal. I addended school with her - from Millard High and beyond. She has left a great legacy.
Linda was such a wonderful combination of warmth and talent. We always felt close to her even though we would go for periods without seeing her much. Her book on Emma was very insightful, perhaps because it was so thoroughly and deeply researched. Her interest in art and helping to provide healthy retreat and educational institutions where visual artists and writers could do their best work was exemplary. We recently saw Linda and Jack and they were working hard to help others succeed. Linda's passing is a great loss to us all.
I was so sorry to hear of Linda's passing. She meant so much to you, your family, and to the entire Deep Springs community over so many decades.
Having just spoken with Linda recently, I was stunned and heartbroken to learn of her passing. She was a great lady and friend whom I looked up to as an example of a fellow traveler in the world of Mormon and Utah history. I, like so many others, will miss her dearly, but her words and her legacy will always live on with us.
Coincidentally, as I was annotating D. Michael Quinn's memoir recently, he frequently wrote admiringly and appreciatively of her, including in this May 1987 passage in which he mentioned how her advice helped relieve him of his debilitating back pain:
"Linda King Newell introduced me to a different orthopedist. Saying that my injury had been misdiagnosed as disk related, when it was actually soft-tissue damage, Dr. Spencer showed me how to do back-strengthening exercises that quickly ended the agony I’d experienced for more than two months. I thanked him, Linda, and God profusely."
I know that if MIke were alive today, he, too, would have shared his appreciation for Linda here.
I am so sorry to learn of Linda's passing, especially as I have had her in my thoughts the past few days. Time spent with her was always rich and enjoyable, and I treasure my interactions with her over the years. She was truly an inspiration to all of us who were experiencing those exciting days of the growth of historical flourishing in Utah many decades ago and just delightful to be around. I will miss her.
My condolences on the loss of your life partner. I know that there is nothing I can write to relieve the pain. So, just know that you have my best wishes as you learn to live with your new reality.
Deepest condolences to Uncle Jack and family. She was a wonderful, talented and loving person.
Newell Family--Our deepest condolences upon Linda's passing. Thank you for sharing her with so many people over the years. Her contributions have been wonderful. We hope her talents embedded within your family will be able to produce another historian or painter to carry on her legacy.
We are so sad to hear about Linda's passing. What a kind, wonderful, and brilliant soul. We will miss her very much.
Jack please accept our deepest condolences. I knew Linda only peripherally but what I knew was that she was not only an incredible talent but also a very decent and wonderful person. That latter quality is perhaps the most important aspect of not only her life but also of any of our lives. I am sure you are now in deep mourning but also celebrating her extraordinary existence on this earth. Know that we are thinking of and mourning with you. We will do our very best to see you at the celebration of her life. Gene
So sorry and shocked to hear! Love and kisses from Oregon. Thinking of you all
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Thankful that we had the love of Georgian Bay that brought our families together 🇨🇦🇺🇸
I love this photo of beautiful Linda. It captures her intelligence, empathy, beauty, and everything good about this amazing woman. She leaves a void that simply cannot be filled. As the beautiful words in her obituary point out, Linda had the uncanny ability to "turn any space or canvas into a beautiful work of art."
I have such fond memories of spending many enjoyable times with the Newell clan. My deepest condolences to her family and her many friends who will miss her deeply.
I'm so sorry to hear of the loss of your beautiful mother. She was such an inspiration and was kind to everyone. I always felt the love she had when staying over at your house. I would love to be there in person, but I recently tore my quad muscle and can't move my leg, drive, etc. So, please accept my heartfelt love and prayers for you and your sweet family. I love you all and will cherish all the childhood memories I have.
Thank you for taking me into your home and making me feel like a part of your family during my exchange year. Even in a very busy time of your life, …It meant the world to me, all the love and the memories I will cherish forever. Linda will always be special to me❤️ and I think of you all…
Jack, Chris, Jennifer, Eric and Heather- love you❤️
My love goes out to all the Newell family . Linda was always so welcoming to this graduate student from New England; her intellect, and loving graciousness and that of all the family, made all the difference in my life in Salt Lake. I will be forever grateful to her and to all of you. Sending peace and love and in honor of a life well lived. Love you all
We are so very sorry for the loss of your beloved Linda, she was wife, mom, grandmom and so much more. She was an amazing individual, tremendously talented in so many ways. All of us who knew her were fortunate. As time goes by, we have all benefitted from her insights and wisdom. She will be missed.
What a great lady Linda is. I feel honored to have been even on the periphery of her world.