There's a clock ticking in the downtown Salt lake City apartment as Nellie Leighton recounts the details of her life.
She is 96 years old, has some vision but is legally blind, and has become a mainstay at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Library, where she mans the information and exit desks. It’s been nearly two decades since she first clipped on a missionary badge.
“It’s just wonderful to be able to be there and serve, and they respect me,” she said. “I guess I’m just a legend over there.”
Leighton's story is extraordinary not only in its breadth, but because it could so easily have ended in 1999, when a gunman entered the library and began shooting. She was 16 months into her mission, having come to Utah from California at age 78 to serve, ultimately in the Family History Library.
“I loved it from the start,” Leighton said. “I just loved being a missionary and we had so much fun. There were four of us that worked together all the time the first year I was missionary, and we had all kinds of fun. We had dinner at each others' houses and went shopping at Goodwill, just a lot of laughter. Sitting at home, you don’t have the opportunity to laugh very much, (but) you laugh and smile and it’s just a wonderful way to be serving.”