Utah businessman Bob Garff dies after battle with coronavirus, daughter says

Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard and her father Bob Garff. Photo Courtesy: Facebook

UTAH, March 29, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah businessman Bob Garff has died after battling coronavirus, his daughter said Sunday.

A Facebook post from Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard at 3 p.m. said: “My loving dad passed away peacefully today from COVID-19. He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for our state and our families. I count myself blessed to be serving in the Utah House of Representatives just as my Dad did.”

His death is thought to be the third from coronavirus, though that has yet to be officially confirmed.

Robert Heiner “Bob” Garff, 78, served as chairman of the Ken Garff Automotive Group, according to his Wikipedia page. His father, Ken Garff, was the company’s founder.

Garff attended the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He graduated with a B.S. in 1966 and an MBA in 1967.

In addition to his family’s automobile dealerships, Garff served in other business and civic roles. He was chairman of the Intermountain Healthcare Foundation and chairman of the board of directors of Deseret Book. He was also the owner of the Utah Blaze.

Garff served as speaker of the Utah State House of Representatives from 1985 to 1987. He was chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, and chairman of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. For his service and leadership, Garff was given the Distinguished Utahn Award by the Salt Lake Chapter of the BYU Management Society in 2008.

Garff also served in various callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including bishop and stake president. From 1987 to 1990, Garff served as president of the church’s England Coventry Mission. He later served as a member of the church’s Sunday School General Board in 1991 and as a regional representative, beginning in 1992. In 2003, he became an area seventy, serving in the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy. From 2012 to 2015, he served as president of the Bountiful Utah Temple.

Garff was married to Katharine Bagley and they have five children.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney posted condolences on his Facebook page: “With profound sadness, I have learned that my friend Bob Garff has passed away from COVID-19. It breaks my heart. Bob’s contributions to our state, to our economy, and to our church will be heralded by many. But for me, it was his sound and principled leadership as the Chairman of the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 that is most compelling.

“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. The Games were arguably the best ever, in large measure thanks to the character and care of Bob Garff. Ann and I will miss our friend very, very much. We send our sympathy and love to dear Kathi.”

Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives Brad Wilson posted on his Facebook page: “It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to former House Speaker Bob Garff, who passed away today after a battle with COVID-19. Bob led a life of selfless service to others, which included leadership roles in the business, government, and faith communities. I also share my deepest condolences to his daughter, Melissa Garff Ballard, who serves as a member of the Utah House of Representatives. Bob’s influence is far reaching and will be deeply missed.”

Garff Ballard also posted: “The Garff family has created a place online for friends and family to celebrate the life of Robert Heiner Garff. We invite you to share your memories and stories of this great man.”

Bob Garff Photo Courtesy Facebook


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