SALT LAKE CITY – She was a beloved wife, grandmother, great-grandmother and statesman known for her humble and gracious manner. Utah’s first and only female governor, Olene Walker, was laid to rest Friday. Family and friends gathered in Salt Lake City to pay their respects.
Those who knew Gov. Olene Walker say she was a trailblazer in politics. But she was also focused on family, church and community.
“She was a great citizen who made enormous contributions and set a great example for all of us,” said former Gov. Mike Leavitt, R-Utah.
Utah’s only female governor died of natural causes on November 28. She was 85 years old.
Family, friends and colleagues gathered at her funeral Friday to pay their respects.
“It’s so nice to come and see everyone just paying tribute to her,” said Walker’s granddaughter Brooke Bressler. "It’s bitter sweet – her passing – but it’s really nice to have everyone so kind.”
Born on November 15, 1930 in Ogden, Olene Smith Walker was the second of five children. She graduated from Weber High School and earned degrees at BYU, Stanford and the University of Utah. She married Myron Walker in the Salt Lake LDS temple and they had seven children.
“She was so special but to us, she was grandma,” said her granddaughter, Amanda Condrat. “And so, today, I just hope that we can remember her as that loving grandma and just, we love her so much.”
Family and friends say Walker will be remembered for her passion in politics, her kindness toward others, her humble service in the LDS church, and her commitment to family.
“I have to say, I know very few people that was as easy to work with as Olene,” said former Utah congressman James Hansen. “She wasn’t a pushover in any way. But she was strong and she was determined, but on top of that, she’s no nice. She was one of the nicest individuals you could ever meet.”
Walker was focused on improving housing, education, healthcare and community in Utah. The Republican governor helped create the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Rainy Day Fund. As part of her legacy, in 2012, she founded the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics at Weber State University.
“Utah will miss her,” said Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah. “But Utah has benefited and will continue to benefit from her leadership and things she’s put in place, as a legislator, as lieutenant governor and as governor.”
Walker is survived by her husband, Myron Walker, seven children, 25 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.