Alta Tanner was born on August 30, 1918 in Grouse Creek, Box Elder County, Utah. She was the first child of Allen Raymond Tanner and Sarah Grace Wakefield Tanner. The birth took place in the home of her father’s sister, Aunt Mandy Paskett. This house is still standing on the corner by the Dry Hollow Wash between the County shed and the BLM shed in Grouse Creek.
Alta was the first granddaughter born to Grandfather M.E. Wakefield’s family of eleven children. Her grandfather was the postmaster and operator of the country store and gas station for thirty-five years. He lived to be ninety-five years old. Alta cared for her Grandmother Wakefield every summer, and helped her with the garden and housework.
There were three boys and two girls in Alta’s family, her sister Flora (who was Alta’s lifelong best friend), her brothers Wayne, Lewis, and Harvey. As Alta was growing up they attended school in the three-room schoolhouse in Grouse Creek. This school has been added to and modernized and still houses grades one through ten. Alta always felt alone because she was the only handicapped child in the school, but she was blessed with a more than average keenness in her senses of observation and intuition, which was to make up for her hearing impairment as she matured.
Alta had a talent for drawing and used her artistic skills to draw the monthly calendars and other pictures to decorate the classroom to help out the teacher. In later life, she was always involved in needlework and other crafts to use this talent. She also wrote stories and poems, especially while she was attending the Utah School for the Deaf in Ogden.
Alta was never afraid of hard work and never complained about helping with chores. She took pride in everything she did and was known to be dependable. Even when she was still only a child, Alta did washing and tended children for the people in Grouse Creek for fifty cents a day.
From 1938 to 1941, Alta attended the Utah School for the Deaf in Ogden. There, she learned to read lips and to communicate in the sign language used by the deaf. Being around other hearing impaired young people, and being able to communicate with them, gave Alta a chance to interact with other young people and to feel that she was no longer shut off from others. Unfortunately, her grandmother became ill and needed her, so Alta had to return to Grouse Creek to care for her until she died.
After that she came back to Ogden and lived with a deaf lady and took care of her for about one year. Then she got a job at Hill Field. She and Flora then lived together in an apartment in Ogden. Flora had her own job, and Alta worked for several years for American Linen, the Troy Laundry, and the Sanitary Laundry. When her brother, Lewis, moved to Ogden to attend Ogden High Schoolhe also lived in the apartment with them.
Alta met and fell in love with William R. Clucas and married him on July 2, 1949 in Evanston,Wyoming. They spent a glorious honeymoon week in Yellowstone National Park before returning to Ogden.
William was employed by the American Can Company, where he worked until they closed down, and then he retired. After living in apartments for six years, the couple purchased the home at 2221 Polk Street where they lived for thirty-four years.
Alta attended the 30th Ward and operated the nursery for fifteen years. The little children
loved her and the things she would prepare for them, and the Relief Society presidency and members were happy to have someone so caring working with their children. When she and Bill sold their home and moved into the Harrison Regent Retirement Complex she was greatly missed.
Alta and Bill enjoyed many trips in their years together. Bill had relatives in Idaho and Oregon, whom they often visited, and over the years they traveled and had fun on their vacations. Their favorite places were Concord and Oakland in California where they also had relatives. They also enjoyed touring in the state of Washington, and often talked about the trip they took to Hawaii. When Flora and her husband, Don Chambers were serving a mission in Washington, D.C., Alta and Bill enjoyed a visit to them there.
Alta’s father died in 1963 and her mother in 1973. After their deaths Alta wrote the story of her mother’s life and has kept up on the genealogy for both sides of her family. After Alta’s death, her husband and other family members were surprised at the volume of information about her own and Bill’s family that Alta had managed to gather and organize and pass on to the rest of the family.
Alta and Bill never had children of their own, but Alta was the “favorite aunt” of nieces and nephews on both her side and Bill’s side of the family as well as a favorite friend to many children who were in no way related. She had an open heart for people, and for children especially. She kept scrapbooks with pictures, announcements, news clipping of accomplishments, and any other memorabilia that related to any family member.
In her last days in the hospital, Alta asked only to see “the kids,” brothers and sisters and their children. Not one of the kids nor their kids who lived within visiting distance hesitated to go at least once to her side. Her last visitor, other than Bill, was a young lady, a friend who could sign to Alta. Alta brightened and signed back, “I love you. I love Bill.” With those last words, this gentle lady bid this world goodbye.
Without an advanced education, Alta learned many of the important things of life that
some people never do seem to master. One of her essays that she wrote in 1933 while a student at the Utah School for the Deaf was titled “Happiness.” Alta wrote, “Real happiness comes from helping others. It makes me happy to help them and make them happy too.” She said that if you have troubles to “just cheer up and forget them.” She managed to live nearly seventy-eight years with that philosophy. People enjoyed being around her because she did make them feel happy.
Alta appreciated her family and the support they gave her. She dearly loved her mother and praised her for being “a good and sweet mom.” She said she couldn’t always make her mom happy because she knew she felt hurt about her being left out of things because of her inadequate hearing.
As for being handicapped, Alta wrote in another piece, “When I tell people what I learn now that in the past I didn’t know, they get thrilled. I know they are thinking I am not handicapped anymore. I never have been. I am proud of the way I am through my life. The good Lord has been so good to me, in my family, and especially in my parents.”
Though Alta lived a major part of her life away from Grouse Creek, she still felt a bond to family and friends who still lived or had lived there. She never forgot her experiences growing up there and never failed, as long as she was able, to attend viewings and funerals of Grouse Creek people to pay her final respects.
Alta died on April 26, 1996 at Mackay Dee Medical Center. Interment was at Lindquist’s Washington Heights Memorial Park, Ogden,Utah.