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A fearless Utah journalist and lover of music has died.
Louise Degn died Friday at age 68, six years after receiving a bone cancer diagnosis. The longtime journalism professor was once the only woman on camera in Salt Lake City broadcast news, and she won acclaim for her investigative work.
Degn grew up in Ogden, then went on to earn a political science degree at Utah State University with a minor in music. She also served an LDS mission in Brisbane, Australia, and earned a master's degree in communication from Northwestern University, according to her obituary.
She landed her first job at KSL-TV in 1969 and was the only woman on camera in Salt Lake City broadcast news at the time. She approached her media work like a classically trained musician with discipline, devotion and delight.
Though she covered such big stories as Vietnam War protests, the Coalville Tabernacle demolition and the Teton Dam break, Degn may be most remembered for her groundbreaking 1979 special "Mormon Women and Depression."
Degn wrote, produced and narrated the one-hour documentary, in which she interviewed LDS women who had struggled with depression and felt guilty or ashamed of it. She also discussed the problem with mental health professionals and church leaders. The show was replayed and discussed endlessly, earning awards and respect for the journalist across the nation.
In 1990, she became a journalism professor at the University of Utah. She pushed her students to read critically, analyze deeply and critique thoroughly the issues and assumptions in their worlds.
In 2009, Degn was diagnosed with bone cancer, which her doctors told her is 100 percent fatal. But whether Degn had six months or six years left was irrelevant to her.
"I don't have any great wisdom to offer my friends," she said in a 2011 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. "You just march forward."
Instead, the diagnosis sparked a new determination within Degn to live more richly and deepen relationships with those around her. At her LDS ward, for example, Degn made it her goal to talk to a new young couple every week.
In the meantime, Degn led her local choir. The Foothill 7th LDS Ward has a strong musical tradition and steep talent pool, including members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, soloists in university music programs and neighbors of other faiths. Her quiet, no-nonsense approach to conducting was a gift to those who worked with her.
"She has persisted in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges a bunch of amateurs and a deadly disease," Jack Ashton, a violist with the Utah Symphony who assembled the orchestra, said in 2011. "She has never complained or lost heart. It's good for us to see."
Now, the ward will serve as a place to remember the former journalist, professor and choir director. Degn's viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Foothill 7th Ward (2215 E. Roosevelt Ave.), and again from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Her funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the same location, according to her obituary.
She is survived by her brother and sister, as well as nieces, nephews and their children.