Edna Helena Coray Dyer was born on August 27, 1875 on a farm in Mona, Utah as an only child to Howard Knowlton and Mary Elizabeth Lusk Coray. In the year 1880 at two and a half years of age, her family was called, along with other Utah families, to move to San Luis Valley, Colorado. At age nine, Edna was given a parlor organ on which she took twenty lessons and was able to play church hymns. She was then called as organist to the choir at age ten and played for the stake conference in Manassa. She continued her musical career with great diligence to both piano and organ study. At age thirteen, Edna was appointed stake organist for the San Luis stake. Soon thereafter she met a young man from Tennessee who became 'her standard of appraisal for all boys and men she afterward met.' They attended school together at Sanford for three years during which time Edna became a music teacher. At age sixteen and a half, Edna moved to Salt Lake City where she began pipe-organ lessons with Professor Joseph J. Daynes, first on the Assembly Hall organ and then on the Tabernacle organ. A few months later, she was able to play the hymns and anthems that the Tabernacle Choir sang, so Professor Evan Stephens asked her to be the 'unofficial assistant' organist in case Professor Daynes was not present. Edna's father soon decided that Edna should attend formal schooling, so she spent one year at LDS College and then attended the University of Utah where in 1902 she earned a B.A. as the only woman in a graduating class of eight. During this time, Edna had become organist for the 16th ward, the new Salt Lake Stake, and the General Relief Society choir. After graduating, Edna continued her organ study with Professor Daynes and traveled with the Tabernacle Choir. When Daynes was released, Edna studied with Professor Thomas Radcliffe, organist of the First Congregational Church, where she attended teaching lessons for hours and made rapid progress. In June of 1903, Edna played the Processionals at the University of Utah Baccalaureate exercise held in the Congregational Church, and in 1905 Edna performed in a formal recital at the Congregational Church. In the spring of 1909, Edna's mother passed away, which Edna recalls as 'the first great sorrow of her life.' For the next 19 years, Edna became a helper to her crippled father until he died in 1928. On August 27, 1929, Edna's 54th birthday, she married James W. Dyer, who was the idolized boy of her childhood, in the Salt Lake City temple. James W. Dyer had previously been married, had children, and was widowed. Edna and Dyer were married for almost 27 years until James W. Dyer died on May 15, 1956 in Midvale and was buried in Sanford, Colorado. Only four years later on May 1, 1960, Edna passed away.
This is a large and vast collection, containing numerous items from the Dyer family. Included in the collection is Edna Coray Dyer's typewritten two and a half page autobiography entitled 'Autobiography of Coray by Mrs. James W. Dyer (Helena),' which was edited from her original handwritten autobiography entitled 'A Sketch of the Life of Edna Helena Coray.' The collection also includes a talk entitled 'On the Wings of Suffering and Song' by JoAnn Jolley given at a BYU Women's History Archives Symposium on February 7, 1979, which honors Edna by retelling some of her major life events. Other items included in this collection that provide insight into the life of Edna Coray include the following: 'Personal Notes Relating to Edna Coray as published in the 16th Ward Book of Remembrance,' Edna's obituary, and 'Minutes of Sunday Sacrament Service in Honor of Edna Coray Dyer, December 19, 1944.' This collection also contains two of Edna Coray Dyer's journals, which are handwritten and moderately difficult to read. These journals include financial ledgers as well as Dyer's daily activities in school, music, and church. This collection also contains correspondence to Edna Coray Dyer from Howard K. Coray, Mary Elizabeth Lusk Coray, other relatives, church leaders, and friends dating from September 7, 1879 to April 14, 1960. Besides journals, other books contained in this collection include an autograph book, hymnbooks, and personal notebooks. Newspaper clippings, musical programs from Edna's performances, Edna's writings, and other memorabilia are also contained in this collection. All of these items taken together provide a comprehensive biography of Edna Coray Dyer. At some point, Edna had become an accomplished writer, having a number of her stories and poems printed in the U. Chronicle and Young Woman's Journal. In total, Edna was ward organist for nearly 30 years, stake organist for about 15 years, and General Relief Society organist for about 20 years. Edna claims that in all of her doings, she followed her father's counsel to 'always do your best' because 'If we always give to the world the best we have,' there should be no occasion for either misgivings or apology' (from the writings of Edna Coray Dyer).