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Olene Walker, the state's 15th governor and first female chief executive, was fondly remembered by friends and family Friday before being interred in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
More than 500 people including Gov. Gary Herbert and both surviving former governors, Mike Leavitt and Jon Huntsman, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, and LDS apostle Russell M. Nelson attended services at the Canyon Rim Stake Center, where all seven of Walker's children shared memories of her long and eventful life.
Walker died Nov. 28. She was 85.
Her children described her as "fierce" and "a respecter of all" who treated someone she met on the street the same as a world leader, a devoted Mormon, a loyal family member and an optimist with a "zest for life" who focused her efforts on serving others.
"While my mother's resume and accomplishments are more than impressive, I will remember her for such things as being at a dinner in a roomful of successful and influential people by worldly standards, and her asking family or others to please make sure that her security [detail] had dinner. Or, if she needed to stay a little longer, were they sure they were able to stay? OK being away from their families? Because if [needed], she could find a ride home," said her daughter Lori Waltman.
Thomas Walker said that his mom faced adversity as a female politician, but despite showing emotions, she was tough, didn't back down from her convictions and taught her children, 25 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren to do the same.
Colleagues are fond of recounting Walker's practice of drying her hair by sticking her head out the car window on the way to her first meeting of the day. But on Friday, Lynne Ward, former state budget director and deputy chief of staff, revealed one of Walker's more complicated time-saving tricks.
"Multitasking she could put on pantyhose while driving her little red Miata sports car," Ward said as the audience laughed.
Ward also recalled that Walker always treated people with respect and good humor.
"When visitors exited her office, you never knew if they got what they wanted or not because either way, they were smiling," Ward said. "She made them feel heard even when she said no."
Ward also noted several of Walker's political achievements, including creation of the state's so-called Rainy Day Fund an emergency reserve account and the early-reading initiative she championed, along with her constant coaxing of parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes a day.
"During her farewell speech as governor," son Bryan Walker recalled, "she stated that one of her fondest memories was being described by a young boy as 'the governor who made us read.' "
Daughter Nena Slighting said her mother often used humor to diffuse tension, even during her long and difficult struggle with a respiratory disease and her recuperation from two major strokes in 2014.
"In the end, taking medication was very difficult for my mom," Slighting said, "and when the med tech would get down on one knee to give my mother her medicine, she would say, 'Tyler, stop proposing. You know I can't marry you. I'm already taken.' "
Many speakers acknowledged the loving relationship Walker had with her husband, Myron, and were grateful for their example of what a couple should be. They were married for 61 years.
Her children also spoke of her devotion to family and religion.
Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve and the final speaker, noted that "eulogies reside in the hearts of everyone who knew Olene and Myron Walker."
He shared an experience he had in 2003 with then-Lt. Gov. Olene Walker in Kyrgyzstan when they were both in meetings with the president of the country, she representing the state of Utah and he representing the LDS Church.
"She was brilliant in her response in all three meetings. She was statesman-like, appropriate in every way, and then she said, 'Now if you men really want to know what's good for your country, you listen to Elder Nelson because the gospel of Jesus Christ is what you people need,' " he said. "The girls were right when they talked about the courage of their mother."