Since Becky Lockhart’s passing at age 46 a week ago, well-deserved tributes have since flowed in the forms of memorials and services, texts and tweets and media coverage and commentary, including in the pages of this newspaper.
Much of the public praise has come from public figures, primarily the political leaders best acquainted with the two-time speaker of Utah’s House of Representatives, Utah’s first female to serve in that esteemed leadership position.
But to a person, the tributes didn’t linger long on highlights of Lockhart’s 16-year political career, which started when the then-29-year-old stepped in to fill a sudden vacancy in the House’s District 64. Rather, individuals were quick to talk about impressionable personal interactions and memorable one-on-one conversations with Lockhart outside of the limelight as well as to remember her attention to and joy in her family, with husband Stan and their three children.
Wednesday, Utah Sen. Mike Lee paid respects to Lockhart in comments made from the floor of the U.S. Senate. Thursday, more than a thousand people — friends, family, leaders and politicians — gathered at the State Capitol for a memorial service in Lockhart’s honor. Thursday and Friday, flags throughout Utah were ordered by the governor to be flown at half-staff. Friday, her funeral was conducted in a Provo LDS Church meetinghouse.
Lockhart died after a brief battle with Crentzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a rare and fatal neurodegenerative brain disease, which afflicts just one in a million people worldwide, with 300 cases reported annually in the United States. There’s no known treatment for the disease, which usually comes later in life, typically after age 60.
CJD’s traumatic symptoms normally last about seven months — sometimes as long as a year or two; in Lockhart’s case, her passing mercifully came only weeks after initial diagnosis. Family and friends have said they hope to use Lockhart’s legacy to help draw more attention and funding for CJD research.
Stan Lockhart recalled his wife’s multiple acknowledgements of “promptings” to prepare to retire as House speaker as her second term concluded at the end of last year. Those promptings were confirmed — even after she was turned down for consideration of state school superintendent. As she retired as speaker at the end of 2014, symptoms came on, followed by diagnosis, hospitalization, hospice care and then the passing — all within just a few short weeks.
In her shortened lifetime, Becky Lockhart took what might be seen as conflicting qualities, attributes and titles and turned them into an exemplary blend. Toughness and tenderness. Political and personal. Confidence and compassion. Lawmaker and homemaker. Leader and listener.
Exemplary not just for a noteworthy female political leader. Exemplary for either gender, for any role or responsibility and for any person.