By Cecily Markland
Helen Spencer Schlie, of the Udall Ward, Mesa Stake, closed her Old and Rare Bookstore in March, just a few months before her 91st birthday.
Yet, Helen is not “retiring.”
She continues to welcome guests to her home west of the Mesa Temple, where you may find her engaged in an in-depth gospel discussion, quoting from memory one of the many inspirational and meaningful poems she’s written, or sharing details of a new tidbit she’s learned.
One of the last living World War I widows, Sister Schlie became the topic of a national media storm when her copy of an original, 1830 Book of Mormon was stolen and again when it was recovered nine months later.
Sister Schlie had first made headlines many years earlier when, in Pontiac, Michigan, she was the model who introduced the new “wide track Pontiac.” During World War II, she worked at the General Motors plant, inspecting Army trucks as they came off the assembly line.
She had married at 17, just three months after graduating from high school, and they had a daughter, Alnita, born in 1941. Their marriage ended in divorce shortly after. After the War, Helen supported herself and her daughter by opening, first, a cotton sheen clothing store, then, a bakery, and, later, a millenary shop.
In 1955, she married Walt Schlie, a WWI veteran.
“Walt was a wonderful man. He loved to dance, and he was a wonderful stepfather to Alnita,” she says.
In 1961, she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a move she said has directed her life ever since; and, in 1962, Walt retired and the couple traveled across the country before ending up in Mesa.
Though it would be five years before Walt joined the Church, the couple opened an LDS bookstore near the Temple in Mesa and ran it together until 1990.
Helen plans to continue to pursue her dreams, including an ice cream business that would provide funds for prospective missionaries, a line of jewelry she has designed and another book of poetry. She particularly wants to continue making available pages from the 1830 Book of Mormon, now framed with cherry wood from the farm where the prophet Joseph Smith was raised.
While her accomplishments are noteworthy and her dreams are quite lofty, Helen finds great joy in the “little things” as well—for example, recently, after breaking a mirror she had for many years, she was pleased to quickly find a replacement, “and for only $1.49,” she laughs.
“Life is so wonderful. I just love every minute of it.”
The Book of Mormon pages and several items from her bookstore are available at www.LDSBooksandArt.com. Or, to contact Helen, call 480-671-0676 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.