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Utah State Sen. Dennis Stowell died Sunday at his home in Parowan. Stowell, a Republican, had waged a battle with cancer, yet pushed a dozen bills in the last legislative session, and earned the admiration of his lawmaking colleagues in the process.
"He was absolutely dedicated to water rights, the rural economy and lifestyle and preserving the agricultural roots of our state," said Senate President Michael Waddoups in a statement on Sunday.
Stowell, 66, represented District 28, which includes Garfield, Kane, Iron, Beaver, Millard and part of Washington counties. He was also vice chairman of the Legislature's appropriations committee.
During the last session, Stowell was still getting up by 5:30 or 6 in the morning and said he had attended all of the budget and leadership meetings. Several of his bills made it to the governor's desk.
Utah State Representative Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said Sunday he had recently heard from Stowell's son Kelly that he wasn't doing too well.
"He was a tough, old cowboy," Noel said. "He fought this right to the end."
Noel said Stowell was dedicated to his constituents. He listened to them and worked hard for them.
"What he told you, you could take to the bank," Noel said. "He was a good guy."
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, who formed a friendship with Stowell more than 20 years ago when he was mayor of Monroe and Stowell was mayor of Parowan, described his friend as a plain-spoken, honest, unpretentious man who "didn't play games."
Okerlund said Stowell was not only a successful public servant but also a successful family man. He had seven children and 17 grandchildren.
"It takes a special man to do that," Okerlund said.
Kelly Stowell said his father died about 8:30 Sunday morning.
"The chemo didn't work and it just got the best of him," he said.
After the legislative session, Stowell went through one more chemotherapy treatment, then spent about three weeks at a cancer treatment center in Santa Barbara, which yielded some positive results, but the senator's health continued to decline.
"I think everyone in his position is always looking for a miracle and he was doing a few different things," Kelly Stowell said. "He was weak and he couldn't walk very good, but some days were better than others."
Kelly Stowell said his father tried to remain active, making phone calls on legislative business and managing the family's ranch.
The family said it is looking at setting up a scholarship fund in the senator's name for a rural Utah student; donations can also be made in his name to cancer research.
Funeral services are planned for Friday in Parowan, with a viewing Thursday night. Details will be released in a few days.
"We're really going to miss Senator Stowell not only as a senator but as a great friend," Okerlund said Sunday night.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this story.