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Auto executive Bob Garff is third Utahn to die of COVID-19

Auto executive and former House speaker Bob Garff died of COVID-19 March 29. He is the third Utahn to die of the virus. (Photo: Ken Garff Automotive Group)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Robert H. Garff, chairman of Garff enterprises and former House speaker, is the third Utahn to die of COVID-19, the Ken Garff Automotive Group confirmed Sunday.

After returning from a visit to Palm Springs, Robert and his wife Katherine tested positive for virus and immediately self-quarantined. Robert’s conditions began to worsen early last week, when he was admitted to the hospital.

My loving dad passed away peacefully today from COVID-19. He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for…

Posted by Representative Melissa Garff Ballard on Sunday, March 29, 2020

“Robert was a giant in the community, a pioneer in the auto industry, and the biggest cheerleader to every employee at Ken Garff Automotive,” the automotive company said in a statement. “Robert loved his family immensely and will be missed by them as well as his employees and many friends. We ask the media and public to please respect the privacy of the Garff family as they grieve the loss of their husband, father, and grandfather.”

Garff was extensively involved in the community throughout his career, upholding several community positions. He was the former Chairman of the Board for the Deseret Book Company as well as a board member for organizations such as Intermountain Health Care, the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Utah Commission on Volunteers.

He also served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Robert held various leadership positions, including serving as the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the State of Utah. He was also a former board member of First Security Bank and the former chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Former Senate Minority Leader Scott Howell says Garff always led with the upmost integrity.

“Bob leaves behind a legacy of honor,” says Howell. “Willingness to do the right things for the right reasons, regardless of political party. He was someone that taught me that you always look at the outcomes of legislation and how it will help people, regardless of political affiliation.”

Governor Gary Herbert was quick to express his condolences on social media, as well.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) quickly reacted to the news, releasing a statement “with profound sadness” at the news of Garff’s death.

“It breaks my heart,” Romney said in a statement. “Bob’s contributions to our state, to our economy, and to our church will be heralded by many.”

Romney said the most compelling evidence of Garff’s leadership was in his position as the chairman of the Olympic Winter Games of 2002.

“The scandal that surrounded the Games could have overwhelmed our collective commitment, but Bob’s genuine goodness, clear-eyed optimism, and can-do management experience helped to re-ignite our confidence and community spirit,” Romney said. “The Games were arguably the best ever, in large measure thanks to the character and care of Bob Garff.”

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States