Utah remembers former House Speaker Becky Lockhart at memorial service

Posted at 9:15 AM, Jan 22, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY -- It was here in "the people's house," that hundreds of lawmakers, colleagues and everyday folks whose lives were impacted by her actions remembered House Speaker Becky Lockhart.

They packed the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on Thursday to remember Lockhart, who died last week at age 46 from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, an extremely rare degenerative brain disorder.

"It's been really hard to share my mom's illness and sudden death with the state," said Emily Britton, Lockhart's daughter. "However, through this experience, we've been reminded that our mother was a daughter of the state of Utah."

In music and spoken word, Lockhart was praised as a role model for women and girls across the state and nation. Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, called her a "modern-day pioneer in every sense of the word."

"My dear friend, you will be sorely missed by so many," said former House Minority Leader David Litvack. "Thank you on behalf of my daughter and all the daughters out there for leading the way."

Lockhart, who served Provo as a state lawmaker for 16 years and the last four years as House Speaker, was the first woman to do so. Together with her Democratic counterpart, Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, they led a male-dominated state legislature.

Seelig told FOX 13 Lockhart inspired her "to be a better person and public servant" and shattered glass ceilings.

"I think it's a remarkable symbol for women and girls across the state," the former House Minority Leader said. "Actually, other voices as well that are typically held outside the power structure to say, 'Yes! This is our place, too!'"

Those who worked with Lockhart remembered her for her grit and determination. Legislative general counsel Catherine Dupont said "her political woodshed was tough." Lockhart was given the nickname "Utah's Iron Lady."

"It wasn't because she ruled with an iron fist. She did not," Former state lawmaker and friend Holly Richardson told FOX 13. "She was very open and very collaborative. But she was iron clad in her convictions."

In eulogies, Lockhart was praised for her willingness to include all in the discussion of issues facing the state -- not just those who agreed with her politically.

"She was an example to all of us," Governor Gary Herbert said at the service. "The men, too!"

He ordered flags across the state to be lowered to half-staff on Thursday and Friday in tribute to Lockhart.

She was widely rumored to be considering a run for governor, but stunned many when she stepped down from the Utah State Legislature last year.

"She was at the top of her game," said family friend Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo. "Yet she had promptings that it was time for her to move on to seek other challenges."

Speaking at the memorial service, Bramble wondered aloud if Lockhart was taken for a higher calling.

"We are gathered today to remember a great woman, a great legislator and a great friend," he cried. "Becky, we love... we'll miss you 'til we meet again."

Private funeral services for Lockhart are scheduled for Friday in Provo. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to a scholarship in her name at Utah Valley University.