Former Utah Gov. Olene Walker remembered as a trailblazer, problem solver

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Former Utah Governor Olene Walker was much more than Utah’s first female governor: She was a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and community leader, according to Amanda Covington, who was Walker’s deputy of communications as well as a close friend.

“She loved this state and she loved the people in this state,” Covington said. “The most comforting, and nurturing, and kind woman that you could imagine.”

Walker was born in Ogden, Utah on November 15, 1930. She served in the Utah House of Representatives from 1981 to 1989. She went on to become the state’s first female lieutenant governor, holding that position from 1993 to 2003.

On November 5th, 2003 she was sworn in as Utah’s 15th governor, after Governor Leavitt resigned from the office to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Covington, Walker was proud to be Utah’s first female governor, but she didn’t want that to define her.

“What she wanted to do is solve problems, bring solutions to those in need, and to really better this state and leave a legacy and example to everyone that followed,” Covington said.

During her 14 months as governor, Walker focused on improving housing, education, healthcare and community development.

“Governor Walker was a statesman, politics weren’t personal to her, she did the right thing because that’s what she believed in doing,” Covington said.

Walker was also considered a trailblazer for women’s and children’s rights. In September, the YWCA honored her with the lifetime achievement award. FOX 13 News spoke with her regarding that award.

“Women need to become stronger and empower themselves by being well-educated and caring,” Walker said in September.

“Her message to everyone was get involved," Covington said. "Whether you are a man, whether you are a woman, whether you are young or old, you always have an opportunity to serve those around you."

Despite all she did for the state, those who knew her best said she never lost track of her number one priority: family and friends.

“She always put them first, she taught a lot of us that there were seasons in life and you could do everything as long as you prioritized them correctly,” Covington said.

Walker leaves behind a husband, seven children, 25 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren.

Governor Herbert has ordered the flags at the Utah State Capitol to be lowered to half-staff from now until December 3rd to honor Walker.

Click here for statements from various Utah officials regarding Walker's legacy.