WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. At a quick sunrise press conference at a gas station Monday morning, presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley.
"We will miss him as a family, respect him as a man of great character and courage but particularly his humility and ability to touch the lives of each individual is something that for which he will long be noted," Romney said. "His ability also to talk to people throughout the world and to make close relationships with people in the public sector and in the media distinguish him as one of the great leaders in our faith and his effort to reach out across the world into far away lands and to build temples for our church is something which will also give him a legacy that will last many, many years indeed and we will miss his leadership."
Romney said he did not know Hinckley on a personal level until the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, where he met with the president and his counselors a handful of times to ask for contributions as well as access to church property next to the ski jump and for the medals plaza.
"I was impressed by his knowledge of the detail," Romney said. "We asked for the ability to use a city block, which the church owned, which had four parking lots on it ... for us to level the parking lot and turn it into a plaza for the medals ceremonies.
"It would seat, as I recall, approximately 10,000 people and another 10,000 would be standing and he turned to the
other counselors that were there of his and said, Aren't the sewer pipes too close to the surface on that lot for them to be able to level it? He
literally was aware of ... the sewer system for the lot well enough to recognize that was an issue," Romney said.
"But like millions of other members of my faith I didn't get to know president Hinckley on a very personal one to one basis, instead I knew him as a member of my church and saw him as a leader of great capacity, of great ability to reach out and touch a large number of people with a very personal and human connection. His humility and gentleness I think will always be a part of the memory that we have of President Gordon B. Hinckley."
Romney did meet with the president in Salt Lake City before officially deciding to enter into the race for the White House.60 comments on this story
"I told him that our family was going to be thinking about running for President and he smiled and said that it would be a great experience if you won and a great experience if you lost," Romney said.
Romney did not learn of Hinckley's death until Monday morning and said he would hope to attend the funeral once he knows when it is scheduled.
Romney spoke to reporters before hitting the West Palm Beach airport for a send off rally. Romney will fly around the state visiting different cities today, a day before voters go to the polls for Tuesday's Republican primary.