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Former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch died over the weekend at age 88

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Utah is remembering the life of longtime U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch. The longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history died on Saturday at 88. Lexi Peery of member station KUER spoke with Utah residents who recalled the former Senate president pro tem and a political legacy that was forged over 42 years.

LEXI PEERY, BYLINE: Northern Utah resident James Dean has been camping the past few days and missed the news of former Senator Hatch's passing. Sitting on a bench in St. George Town Square, Dean says he's devastated by the news.

JAMES DEAN: He was a strong figure when he spoke. I think he was really concerned on making his point across more than he was concerned about hurting people's feelings or what the other people thought. And it was probably for the best.

PEERY: Hatch is remembered for his strong conservative views. He wanted to limit abortion. And he championed President Trump's 2017 tax reform. Though numerous state and national leaders remember Hatch for his bipartisanship, like when he worked with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy to pass religious liberty legislation. But for some residents, like 67-year-old Marvin Allred of central Utah, Hatch was actually too progressive.

MARVIN ALLRED: He was a conservative, but not as conservative as I would like him to have been. He was more along the Bush-type presidency, was not as bad as Romney, but kind of a little bit leaning that way.

PEERY: Mitt Romney filled the seat Hatch left open in 2019. Tyler Galt is 29 and lives in Spanish Fork. He says, growing up, he saw Hatch as well-liked and respected.

TYLER GALT: I think it's a big loss for our state's leadership. And it's sad. I mean, I think he lived a great life. And I think we should be sad as a state. But we should celebrate everything he did at the same time.

PEERY: Hatch helped author more than 750 bills that became the law - the most of any living senator - when he retired.

For NPR News, I'm Lexi Peery in St. George, Utah.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.