Former Utah first lady Margaret Lee, the wife of former two-term Gov. J. Bracken Lee, died early Thursday at Holy Cross Hospital. She was 79.

"I don't think there was ever a finer person that ever lived," Lee said. "She was the perfect mate for me. I was looking at her the other day and thought, `Gee, I sure love that girl.' Not a day in my life I haven't loved and admired her. She was truly a remarkable person."Mrs. Lee was born in Wellington, Carbon County, and was raised in a log cabin. She was orphaned at age 17 and then raised three younger sisters and a brother. She refused a scholarship to Brigham Young University so that she could raise her younger siblings.

She married J. Bracken Lee 61 years ago last month. They are the parents of two sons and two daughters and are survived by 20 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Lee stood by her husband through 32 years of public service, 12 years as first lady of Price, eight years as Utah's first lady and 12 years as Salt Lake City's first lady.

Mrs. Lee herself loved politics but was not outspoken about it. She told one newspaper reporter, "I never speak on politics" and "I have no political ambitions myself." She had, however, done extensive research for a book on women on the political scene in the West.

Mrs. Lee was an active campaigner for her husband and was credited with one of the most valuable assets someone in public life can possess: "She was able to charm the opposition." In fact, she was dearly loved by both Republicans and Democrats.

Political campaigns were something she didn't particularly like. "Wives in politics need to develop a thick skin. If they don't, they'll suffer," she said.

Among the many dignitaries to whom she served as hostess were presidents of the LDS Church, kings and presidents Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mrs. Lee was particularly interested in history and often presented programs of American poetry. She wrote several papers on Western history, which were presented to the Ladies Literary Club in which she was longtime member.

She was noted for her talks on "Wonderful Women of the Old West," "The Gold Rush of Western American Art" and "Highlights of Our Heritage," a behind-the-scenes look at Utah's years of statehood. She also gave hundreds of book reviews.

Mrs. Lee was a member of the LDS Church, the Daughters of Nile and was particularly active in civic and art functions. She was a member of the Utah Garden Club, president of Utah Municipal League Auxiliary, a Girl Scout Leader for 15 years and president of the Carbon College Alumni Association.

She suffered a mild stroke several years ago. Friday she suffered a massive stroke and never regained consciousness. She died shortly after midnight Thursday.

Funeral arrangements are pending.