In their words: Utah political leaders remember Norma Matheson, former first lady

(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Norma Matheson, former first lady and wife of former Gov. Scott Matheson, in 2004. She died Sunday at age 89.

Norma Matheson, a former first lady, the matriarch of Utah’s most prominent Democratic family, and “the godmother of the party,” died late Sunday after battling leukemia.

Friends remembered Matheson as an astute political strategist and a trailblazer for women in politics at a time when there were few role models. Here is how some Utah political leaders remember Matheson, whose husband, Scott, was a former governor.

Gov. Gary Herbert

“She was the perfect teammate for her husband, former Gov. Scott Matheson. Energetic and intelligent, she led causes that changed Utah’s future for the better. She raised a family that is dedicated to public service. I’m so grateful to have known Norma. She was a tremendous mother, advocate, and person. The entire Matheson family is in our prayers at this time.”

Jeff Merchant, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party

“Norma was one of the classiest women I have met. I first got to know her in 1999 as she supported Jim Matheson in his first race for Congress. What impressed me most was Norma’s love for all her family … and her willingness to sacrifice so much for the State of Utah. She had a remarkable quality to make everyone around her feel important and heard. These very attributes translated into her many efforts to improve the quality of life for all Utahns.”

State Rep. Patrice Arent

“It was like walking the streets with a rock star.”

Meghan Holbrook, former chairwoman of Utah Democratic Party

"She could play three-dimensional chess. I know she advised her sons, and their father was a terrific man, but I think Norma had the political instinct in the family. And all in a velvet glove.”

“She was the godmother of the party. I think it’s true of so many women in politics; their impact is much greater than you think. ... I truly was in awe of the woman.”

U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams

“Utahns have lost an extraordinary public servant with the passing of Norma Matheson. … Norma was beloved by everyone she met for her warmth, humor, and commitment to giving back to the community. The world is a better place because of her.”

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney

“Ann and I offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Norma Matheson. As the first lady of Utah, she led causes that improved the lives of many in our state. In addition to living a life of public service, she was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Our prayers are with her family, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Former Gov. Mike Leavitt

“Jackie and I acknowledge the passing of one of Utah’s greatest first ladies. She was a stalwart Utahn making a positive difference in the lives of people all over the state. … We celebrate her life and contributions while offering our condolences to the Matheson family. Norma Matheson was a great Utahn.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson

“Norma Matheson was a gracious first lady, a community leader and friend to all. She served as first lady with a heartfelt commitment to the community, her husband and her family. In recent years, she continued to impact the community through her dedication to land preservation, women’s advancement and many other notable causes. Norma was an inspiration to me and will be missed.”

House Minority Leader Brian King

“Whenever I wanted to hear a commonsense, down-to-earth perspective on an issue that I knew was shared by regular Utahns, I knew Norma was the person to talk to. She reflected the values of Utahns.”

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams

“I was saddened to learn Norma Matheson passed away. She committed her life to improving our community and raising public servants. Norma will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the Matheson family during this time.”

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson

“I was saddened to receive the news that Norma Matheson passed away. Both Jeni and I thought of her as a compassionate community leader that changed Utah for the better. She will be missed by many, but her influence and example will live on through those whose lives she touched. Her family and loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers at this time.”