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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2017 file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receives the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Utah leaders expressed their admiration and respect for Arizona Sen. John McCain — the "maverick of the Senate." — who died Saturday of brain cancer at age 81.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah leaders expressed their admiration and respect for Arizona Sen. John McCain — the "maverick of the Senate" — who died Saturday of brain cancer at age 81.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who served for years in the Senate with McCain said in a statement that "no one is more worthy of the word 'hero' than John McCain."

"Over a lifetime of selfless service, John came to embody the very pinnacle of American virtue," Hatch, said shortly after the news of McCain's death became public Saturday afternoon.

McCain, a six-term senator and two-time Republican presidential contender was diagnosed with a brain tumor last July. His family announced Friday that he was discontinuing medical treatment.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2017 file photo, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., pauses before speaking to reporters during a meeting of the National Defense Authorization Act conferees, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

"My heart aches for Cindy, Meghan, and the rest of the McCain family," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in a statement released via tweet. "With John's passing, they've lost a loving husband, father, and family member, and the country has lost a true American hero."

"I am so grateful for Sen. John McCain’s undaunting leadership and service to our country," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted Saturday. "Jeanette and I send our heartfelt condolences to his family."

McCain, a naval aviator who endured torture and imprisonment at the hands of the North Vietnamese for more than five years was known for his code of honor and dedication to his conservative ideals.

"No person this century better exemplifies the great qualities of patriotism than John McCain," said Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Republican candidate for Hatch's seat. Romney released a nearly 500-word essay on McCain and their friendship on his campaign website.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
FILE - In this Dec. 1, 2017 file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., leaves a closed-door session on Capitol Hill in Washington.

"Ones like him don’t come along very often. Ann and I will miss him a great deal," Romney wrote. "He is a hero. He is a friend."

"As a solider, war hero, and public servant, Sen. John McCain spent his life serving our country with honor," said Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, in a tweet Saturday. "His bravery and sacrifice made the world a better place and his legacy will live on."

"His brave fight as a prisoner of war, as a principled senator and during his illness speak to his outstanding character," Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said in a statement Saturday.

McCain stumped for Love in her 2012 bid for the 4th Congressional District, a seat she has held since 2015.

"My family and I are sad to hear of his death and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight," Love said.

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"A patriot, war hero, true American and incredible senator," Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, tweeted Saturday. "John McCain lived a life full of courage with continued dedication to his country."

Saturday evening, Utah's chief legal officer, state Attorney General Sean Reyes also voiced his thoughts and memories of the Arizona senator.

"A war hero and a patriot to the end, Sen. McCain put America first, before party or personal interest," Reyes wrote in a statement. "He was always kind and encouraging to me in our personal interactions, particularly on the issue of fighting human trafficking, something near to his heart and that of his wife, Cindy."