Many Utahns this week are remembering state Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, who died of cancer Monday.

Eddie, as Mayne was known to all who knew him, was a character.

But also a man of character.

Elected as the then-youngest state president of the AFL-CIO in his early 30s, Eddie was a fixture on Capitol Hill long before he won a Senate seat in 1994 from his much-beloved Salt Lake County west side.

A fighter for the "working man and woman," Eddie, a big man with a big heart, would drive up to the Capitol in a huge, American/union-made car and walk the halls in a swinging motion, talking to everyone.

There are a lot of lovely Eddie Mayne stories. I have but a few.

There are perks that come within the Utah Democratic Party for union leaders, and while Eddie took them, they were seen as being earned, not given.

Eddie and his wife, Karen, were often delegates to the National Democratic Conventions, held every four years to nominate a presidential candidate.

When the convention was in San Francisco one year, the Utah delegation was packed into an old, cramped hotel. The shower was so small in Eddie's room that the big man got stuck in it, barely able to wash. He'd laugh as he told the story.

Several years later I was covering the convention in Atlanta, in the same hotel as the delegation. One afternoon I went down to the indoor pool, not a very big one, and after I was soaking for a bit, in walked Eddie in some very large swim trunks.

"You think all the water will splash out if I jump in?" he asked. I said go for it. And he did jump in, laughing.

In the late 1980s the Utah Democratic Party had a bitter fight over who would be the next party chairman. Eddie backed the then-leader of a nonteacher public school employee union. Govs. Scott M. Matheson and Cal Rampton backed a local attorney, with Rampton openly criticizing labor's influence within the state party.

Eddie dubbed his opponents the "white wine and Mercedes wing" of the Democratic Party — a catchy phrase that stung in part because many of the professional Democrats siding with the governors probably did drink wine and drive nice foreign cars.

Eddie and labor lost that election, and while feelings were raw for a bit afterward, Eddie took the long view and still backed Democratic candidates for local office. Today, Wayne Holland, now in his second term as party chairman, comes from labor's ranks.

Eddie never lost his sense of humor, nor his dedication to working people, even in the rough and tumble business of national labor battles.

I called him on his cell phone for a comment a year ago on some local topic and caught him during a break in the very-tense national meeting of the AFL-CIO where the Teamsters were dropping out of the large union.

"Hey, Bob, there are guys walking around here carrying guns. You wouldn't believe it. I look forward to coming home," he laughed, even though there really were guys walking around the convention with guns.

Back in the day, Eddie was a heavy smoker. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he knew the cause, even though he had not smoked in years. He told those around him that he would work hard in whatever time he had left, warning of the dangers of smoking, and he did.

At 62, he was taken from us too soon.

No one is going to replace Eddie. All we can ask is that they work hard, as Eddie did, to represent working people and those in need through his union and his Senate district.

There are lots of pictures of Eddie that people carry with them. I'll keep in my mind his jumping into that Atlanta hotel pool, laughing.

Deseret Morning News political editor Bob Bernick Jr. may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]