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Philanthropist, civic leader and the wife of Utah businessman Spencer F. Eccles, Cleone Peterson Eccles has died after a battle with cancer. She was 78.

Eccles died Friday morning at home surrounded by her family, her daughter Lisa Eccles said.

She was known for her loving nature, kind and generous character and her keen sense of judgement, her children told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday. She deeply loved the community and believed in providing service to others, they said.

As a mother, Cleone Eccles exemplified high standards and valued education and accomplishment.

"We always knew to excel and do our best," Lisa Eccles said. "She also had a gentle hand. She guided us with her example. She was patient and very thoughtful."

Cleone Eccles was born March 9, 1935, in Fairview. She studied education at the University of Utah, graduated in 1957 and worked as a teacher at Newman Elementary School in Salt Lake City for several years.

While at the U. she met Spencer F. Eccles and married him in 1958. The couple was devoted to each other, Hope, Katie, Lisa and Spencer P. Eccles said.

"She provided a steady hand for my dad for nearly 58 years that really made him who he is," Spencer P. Eccles said. "It was a true partnership in every sense of the word, in the community and as parents and just as people who really adored each other."

Together the Eccles became generous supporters of the University of Utah and other community causes. They gave tens of millions of dollars to the university for projects including the Rice-Eccles Stadium, Eccles School of Business, Eccles Institute of Human Genetics and more recently contributed to a new student life center. The couples' name also graces the U. Health Sciences Education Building.

Cleone Eccles served for 10 years on the university's Board of Trustees and was vice president of the alumni association board.

"Her innumerable contributions and generosity of spirit have made the University of Utah and the state of Utah a better place,"U. President David Pershing said.

Cleone Eccles worked as a volunteer for many organizations and served on the boards of Ballet West and Neighborhood House, a west Salt Lake City nonprofit that provides day care for children between the ages of 2 and 12 and adult day care for the elderly.

"Cleone's heart and energy helped us build a foundation to provide quality services,"Neighborhood House Executive Director Jacob Brace said. "She provided foresight to our board and helped us fulfill our mission without compromise."

Modest and a bit shy, Cleone Eccles never sought any limelight or recognition, her children said.

"She would be embarrassed by us talking about her," Spencer P. Eccles said. "I think her legacy is her sense of spirit, her kindness, her charity to others and her family. I can't state it strongly enough how important she was to this family."

Funeral arrangement were still pending on Friday.