Former Utah House Speaker Bob Garff Dies From New Virus From China

March 30, 2020 Updated: March 30, 2020

Former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives Bob Garff died from the COVID-19 virus, Garff’s daughter said.

State Rep. Melissa Ballard announced her father’s death late Sunday: “My loving dad passed away peacefully today from COVID-19. He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for our state and our families.”

COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, which broke out in China late last year.

Garff, 77, was speaker of the Utah House from 1985 to 1987 and owned the Ken Garff Automotive Group, which was started by his father and has dealerships in multiple states.

Garff also helped organize the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and owned a professional basketball team, the Utah Blaze.

“My dad lived an amazing life,” Ballard told the Salt Lake Tribune. “He is a giant in our city. And he didn’t care who got the credit for anything that he did.”

Garff and his wife tested positive for the CCP virus after returning from a trip to Palm Springs, California. The state had one of the highest case counts in the early days of the pandemic.

Garff and his wife both self-quarantined, but Garff’s symptoms worsened to the point that he was rushed to a hospital, where he later died.

Epoch Times Photo
Members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) officially open the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Village on Jan. 29, 2002, in Salt Lake City, Utah. From left to right in the front row are Fraser Bullock, CEO of SLOC; Spence Eccles, Mayor of the Olympic Village; Lisa Eccles, Mayor of the Day of the Olympic Village and Robert Garff, Chairman of SLOC. (George Frey/AFP via Getty Images)

“It was really unexpected,” Ballard said. “And my mother is still battling this at home.”

Garff’s memorial page says he died on March 29. He was born on Sept. 15, 1942.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called Garff “a really great man” who “touched countless lives and gave so much service to our state, and its people.” The current Utah House Speaker, Brad Wilson, wrote in a statement that Garff “lived a life of selfless service to others, which included leadership roles in the business, government, and faith communities.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he was heartbroken over the news.

“Bob’s contributions to our state, to our economy, and to our church will be heralded by many. But for me, it was his sound and principled leadership as the Chairman of the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 that is most compelling. The scandal that surrounded the Games could have overwhelmed our collective commitment, but Bob’s genuine goodness, clear-eyed optimism, and can-do management experience helped to re-ignite our confidence and community spirit,” Romney said.

Utah has 719 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the state Department of Health, out of nearly 14,000 people who have been tested. Two people died, the agency said, though several deaths appear to have happened since the last update, including Garff’s.

Herbert on Friday ordered residents to stay at home except for essential trips, saying directives he’s issued “are necessary to keep Utah residents safe during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.”

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