Utah’s first female House Speaker Becky Lockhart died in her Provo home early Saturday afternoon at the age of 46 family confirmed.
Lockhart suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jakob, an extremely rare and unrecoverable neurodegenerative brain disease, since the beginning of January which eventually led to her death. She died only nine days after news of her critical illness was released.
Lockhart passed in her home surrounded by her family and friends.
“The outpouring of prayers and positive thoughts continue to help sustain the family, and they thank everyone for their support,” said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo in a press release, acting as a family spokesperson.
The disease is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease of mental function and movement, it affects only one in a million people. Utah only sees one case of this disease per year, said Lockhart’s neurologist Dr. Jennifer Majersik.
About 15 percent of cases are genetic and 80 percent are sporadic, said Dr. Majersik in a press conference Saturday afternoon. Lockhart had no family history of CJD, so doctors believe it was a sporadic case not connected to mad cow disease.
She is survived by her husband Stan, and her three children, Hannah, Emily, and Stephen, who is currently serving an LDS mission.
State representatives send their love and respect to Becky to her family and friends.
Becky Lockhart helped many of us find our voice to preserve life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We love you Becky. We already miss you.
— Mia Love (@MiaBLove) January 17, 2015
R.I.P. Becky Lockhart. Heartfelt condolences to her family. Prayers are with you, Stan … #utpol
— Todd Weiler (@gopTODD) January 17, 2015
She has led 75 state representatives for four straight legislative sessions, ending her 16-year legislative run on Dec. 31, 2014.
Lockhart was nicknamed “Utah’s Iron Lady,” shown by a gift in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session: a Wonder Woman doll with Speaker Lockhart’s face glued on it.
She led the House with a no-nonsense attitude, and even said she won “most stubborn” in her Pocatello High School yearbook. It was rumored that Lockhart would run for Governor in 2015, challenging current Gov. Gary Herbert, but had told Utah Valley Magazine she wouldn’t make any announcements until the new year.
Lockhart’s eldest son, who is currently serving an LDS mission, turned three the year Lockhart took office in 1999, when Lockhart was still in her 20s.
Becky and Stan Lockhart were both delegated in the 1990’s when their legislature chose to step-down mid-term. Becky was the legislative district chair, but Stan was asked to run for open office. His boss at the time wouldn’t allow him to miss 45 crucial days of work during the season, so Becky ran for the open spot. She garnered 84 percent of the delegate votes, but the ultimate decision was made by the governor, who chose another candidate who had votes in the single digits.
The next year, Becky ran and was elected and then sworn into office as state representative in January 1999.
Lockhart’s first symptoms paralleled symptoms of an inner ear infection. She received treatment, but her symptoms later progressed to confusion, vertigo, trouble eating and speaking, said Dr. Majersik.
“Utah lost one of it’s finest today,” said House Speaker Greg Hughes, Draper-R. “Few in this state will ever fully appreciate Becky Lockhart’s efforts on behalf of the citizens of Utah.”
Read Utah Valley Magazine’s cover story on Becky Lockhart here.