Olene (Smith) Walker
1930 - 2015
{ "" }
Share Olene's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Olene S. Walker
Olene Smith Walker our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, passed away from natural causes on November 28, 2015. Born in Ogden, Utah on November 15, 1930 to Thomas Ole Smith and Nina Hadley, she was the second of five children. Olene graduated from Weber High School and earned her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Brigham Young University, Stanford University and the University of Utah, respectively. She married her sweetheart, Myron Walker, in the Salt Lake Temple on March 25, 1954 and together they raised seven children.
Olene loved life and all that it had to offer. She was humble, gracious and kind in every endeavor. Olene dedicated her time to serving her family, church and community. She served in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in many capacities, including Primary President; Young Women's President; Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society teacher; Scout leader and as a Public Relations missionary with her husband in New York City.
A trailblazer in Utah politics, Olene was a statesman who led with compassion, grace and humor. She served in the Utah House of Representatives from 1981-1989, including one term as majority whip. Olene shepherded dozens of bills to passage, but few would have more lasting impact than the creation of Utah's Rainy Day Fund.
She served as Utah's first woman lieutenant governor (1993-2003) with Governor Michael O. Leavitt, and spearheaded many important initiatives including education programs, budget security measures, healthcare reform and workforce development. Olene played a critical role in establishing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ensuring affordable healthcare for Utah's children. She also served as Chair of the Workforce Task Force, resulting in the development of the Utah Department of Workforce Services. She chaired the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors and was the first lieutenant governor ever to serve as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
As Utah's 15th and first woman governor, Olene was focused on improving housing, education, health care and community development. She was passionate about education, continually fighting for the funding of a nurturing environment for all Utah's students. Utah's housing fund bears her name, the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund. She also led efforts to propose comprehensive reform of Utah's tax code.
Continuing her legacy, she created the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University in 2012 to help foster community and public service.
Olene earned numerous honors during her lifetime, including Utah's YWCA Mary Schubach McCarthey Lifetime Achievement Award, the WSU Emeriti Lifetime Achievement for Setting New Standards and an honorary degree, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce ATHENA International Award, and the Salt Lake Tribune's 2003 Utahn of the Year.
Preceded in death by her parents, grandson Anthony McKay Fairclough, and siblings/in-laws Paul Marston Smith (Verna), Vern Hadley Smith (Darlene Kay), and Carl Thomas Smith (Mary Alana). Survived by her husband, Myron, children Stephen Brett Walker (Caroline), David Walden Walker, Bryan Jesse Walker (Christine), Lori Waltman (Scott), Mylene Fairclough (Thomas), Nena Slighting (Alan) and Thomas Myron Walker (Chrissie), sister (Karen Soelberg (LeGrand), 25 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held Friday, December 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm at the Canyon Rim Stake Center, 3051 South 2900 East, Salt Lake City, Utah. Friends and family may visit Thursday, December 3 from 4 pm-7 pm in the Gold Room, Utah State Capitol and also at the Stake Center Friday morning 10:30 am - 11:30 am, prior to the service. Interment will be at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Online guestbook to post messages and tributes for the family is available at: www.HolbrookMortuary.com.
The family wishes to express their thanks to the great citizens of Utah for their support and love throughout Olene's years of public service. In lieu of flowers, please read with a child or send a contribution to the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Salt Lake Tribune from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2, 2015.
04:00 - 07:00 PM
10:30 - 11:30 AM
Funeral service
12:00 PM
Funeral services provided by
Order by phone: (866) 764-7853
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Holbrook Mortuary
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
21 entries
November 26, 2019
As a citizen of Utah and a journalist for the Deseret News, I remember Olene Walker as one of the most capable, outstanding and caring individuals and state leaders that I knew. I admired her for many reasons. It was an honor to know her and to observe her in action. I always felt that it was as shame that she didn't have the opportunity to do even more than she did for the state of Utah. I will never forget my association with her. May the Lord bless her memory and comfort and bless her family and others who had close contact with her.
Douglas Palmer
December 15, 2015
One of the nicest persons I have ever met.
jay beacham
December 7, 2015
Olene was an extraordinary Governor, statesman and friend. Laura and I count ourselves fortunate to have enjoyed the association of Olene and her family. She left a great legacy of public service for her family. We extend our condolences and best wishes as you mourn her passing.
Royal Hansen
December 7, 2015
What I remember most about the lovely Olene Walker as Governor was her slogan,
"Do no harm." What a thoughtful legacy for others to follow.
BK Sonneman
December 7, 2015
Dear Walker family,
We were blessed to have known Olene as an incredible neighbor for about 30 years on the avenues. We were touched by her funeral and heartfelt words and music by her family and those who worked with her. She certainly was kind, humble, brilliant, compassionate and loving to all with whom she associated. We have many happy memories of her including falling out of a rubber raft while floating down the Green River, dinner at the governor's mansion, reading "How the Grinch Stole Christmas " to our church congregation when she was asked to give the Christmas address the Sunday before Christmas. She was an extraordinary person, treating all people with respect and kindness. Our lives have been enriched from knowing her and her outstanding family.
Brent and Diane McMaster
Diane McMaster
December 6, 2015
Dear Family of Olene Walker:

I first met Olene in 1981 when we served together on the Utah legislature's Public Education Joint Appropriation Committee, she from the House and myself from the Senate. Incidentally, that is when we were first brought together with our present congressman Rob Bishop.

Olene demonstrated leadership and friendship from the start and it is clear to see how she eventually became Lt. Governor and then governor.

She was a fine lady with many great qualities. We will all surely miss her.

My heartfelt condolences to her family at this deep loss.
Bill Barton
December 4, 2015
I was impressed with the funeral earlier today. It was great to see Nina and Tommy (high school classmates) speaking along with all the others who conveyed the message of the "remarkable" life of Olene.

It might have been when I was at the Walker's home(as a high school aged kid) after tennis with Tommy, or perhaps something associated with Nena that I noticed a red E-type Jaguar in the carport. Olene said she had taken it away from her niece who was stopped for speeding at over 100 miles an hour. I offered to buy a battery and get it running which I did. To my surprise and pleasure, she let me take the car for two days. I will never forget it!
James Nebeker
December 4, 2015
December 3, 2015
A great lady! I loved and respected her work ethics.
Celia Cutler
December 3, 2015
My Aunt Olene was not only a great women, but an AWESOME Aunt. I have such great memories of her and the family, their potato chip business, their home in Salt Lake, and all the wonderful events me and my family have been invited to, due to her status.

Sadly, I am in Thailand and will not be back in time for the funeral. I feel so blessed to have known her. I was able to have a nice visit with her and Nena the day before I left for my trip.

Love to all the children and Uncle Myron.

-Karen Smith Ouimette
December 2, 2015
I had the privilege of knowing and working with Olene when she worked with Corrine Hill, the Volunteer Coordinator in the Salt Lake City Schools. Plus her dear father hired two home economica teachers to teach sixth grade in the Ogden City School District.
We did earn our elementary certificate and I will always treasure that experience. I was able to send her father a thank you note for giving us such a remarkable privilege.
I also was hoping to see her reelected governor because I respected her so highly.
I can testify that she is still very much alive and will stay close to her family back here still in mortality.
Our Savior gives us so much hope and truth as to what she will be doing until resurection. I wish you the choicest blessings.
My computer will not let me preview what I had written, so I hope there were not too many mistakes)
Barbara Amott
December 2, 2015
Tom, so sad to hear of your loss. I remember you telling me the best stories about your mom and how proud you were of her. I hope you can find peace in those memories.
Jennifer (Dougherty) Branca
December 2, 2015
I and my family will long be indebted to beautiful Gov. Walker, her exemplary leadership, seemingly unlimited compassion, and love of others, particularly the disadvantaged. She allowed me opportunities and challenges that continue to shape my life and benefit those within my care. I will always love this remarkable lady, leader, and friend. My prayers extend to her enduring widower Myron and entire family. In honor of her, I will sit down with MY seventh child tonight, Charles Redd, and read with him . . . whether he likes it or not--and tell him of a giant that recently left us.
Ed McConkie
December 2, 2015
Tom you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. May God wrap his loving arms around you and comfort you during this time of sorrow. Heaven gained a beautiful angel and you have gained a beautiful guardian angel. Keep your wonderful memories close to your heart. God bless you my friend.
Stacy Beck-Shemenski
December 1, 2015
In my opinion, Olene Walker was one of the finest public servants to serve the State of Utah. I became acquainted with her while she was serving in the Utah Legislature, and I later had quite regular contact with her as a reporter during her other public service. In all my contacts with Olene, she was always friendly, fair, courteous and respectful. I never remember an instance when she didn't show these and other very fine qualities. I only wish that I had had even more opportunities to become better acquainted with her. May God be with and comfort her husband and other family members.
Douglas Palmer
December 1, 2015
Dear Myron,
How sad I am to hear about Olene's passing. You and Olene were the best home teachers a person could ever have! It was always a pleasure to have the two of you in our home. It's hard for me to think of Olene without you. Your souls were connected. You are blessed to have such a love story with this incredible lady.
Peggy Childs
December 1, 2015

Jackie and I were saddened to learn of Olene's passing. We loved you both (and your kids) as neighbors and friends. We are sorry that we will not be able to attend her Thursday evening viewing as we serve as ordnance workers in the SL Temple on the Thursday PM shift. We are leaving early Friday morning for a trip to Bellevue, WA, to visit our youngest son, Matthew, so we will unfortunately also miss her funeral. Our warmest thoughts and prayers will be for you and your family during this difficult time.
Alan & Jackie Jacobsen
Alan Jacobsen
December 1, 2015
Vira Beth Bartholomew
December 1, 2015
As a retired State employee I had a chance to personally meet Olene Walker. What a wonderful lady!
December 1, 2015
Thank you, Olene, for your thorough dedication to serving to make Utah and the rest of the world a better place. Thanks, especially, for taking a stance to support public education here in Utah. Thank you for your integrity and diligence in trying to make a difference for something better.

I wish to express my sympathies and condolences to the family in their time of loss of a truly great person.
George K. Brown (Ret. Educator)
November 30, 2015
A Woman With Class

never runs scared. She is sure-footed and confident in the knowledge that she can meet life head on and handle whatever comes along.
never makes excuses. She takes her lumps and learns from past mistakes.
is considerate of others. She knows that good manners are kind sacrifices, which create good relationships.
bespeaks an aristocracy that has nothing to do with ancestors or money. The most affluent blueblood can be totally without class while the descendant of financially poor parents may ooze class from every pore.
never tries to build herself up by tearing others down. Class is not needy of others' approval and does not strive to look better by making others look worse.

can talk with crowds and keep her virtue, or walk with kings and keep the common touch.

Others are comfortable with the woman who has class because she is comfortable with herself.

Olene Walker was a woman with class.
Lauree Olsen, Hospice Chaplain
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences