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Robert Garff

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Robert Garff, a former Utah state lawmaker, and philanthropist, died March 29 after he and his wife Katharine tested positive for COVID-19. He was 77. Friends said Garff became ill after returning from a trip to Palm Springs, California. Garff, a Utah native, served as speaker of the Utah House of Representatives from 1985 to 1987. He became CEO of the family business, Ken Garff Automotive Group, four decades ago and also served on the board of Intermountain Healthcare — the largest health care provider in the Intermountain West of the country. “Even when he was alive, I described Bob as the nicest man you’d ever meet,” friend and current CEO of Ken Graff Automotive Group, Brett Hopkins, told BuzzFeed News. “He was very kind, very sincere, very, very interested in people.” Hopkins said Garff enjoyed doing cattle roundups and did so even up until a couple of years ago with his family and friends on his ranch in Summit County. Garff is survived by his wife, five children, and 21 grandchildren. Politicians mourned the Utah legend on social media, including his daughter, state Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, who announced his death. “He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for our state and our families,” she wrote. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who had himself been self-quarantining but tested negative for the coronavirus, released a statement calling Garff “a dear friend.” "Bob’s contributions to our state, to our economy, and to our church will be heralded by many,” Romney tweeted. “But for me, it was his sound and principled leadership as the Chairman of the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 that is most compelling.”