Ogden Rep. LaWanna ‘Lou’ Shurtliff dies

The Democratic lawmaker had been hospitalized since Dec. 7.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Newly elected Democrat, Lawanna "Lou" Shurtliff, 83, is a retired teacher who served previously in the Utah Legislature from 1999 - 2008. Shurtliff said she will focus on education during her time in the Utah House of Representatives.

Longtime Rep. LaWanna “Lou” Shurtliff, D-Ogden, died Wednesday at 85.

Shurtliff, a retired teacher, has been hospitalized in Ogden since Dec. 7 for pneumonia and was on a ventilator. She tested negative for COVID-19.

Her granddaughter, Michelle Catts, said in a statement Thursday morning that after a three-week battle with infection, “it was ultimately determined that Lou recovering and coming off of ventilatory support was not possible. In accordance with her wishes, the decision was made to let her pass peacefully. She was surrounded by her children, brothers, and son-in-law.”

Catts thanked the intensive care unit team at McKay Dee Hospital that cared for Shurtliff and described her grandmother as “first and foremost a loving mother, committed grandmother, and generous great-grandmother.”

“Her absence is already deeply felt by our family and her presence will be sorely missed throughout the community,” she said.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, knew Shurtliff for more than 20 years and was devastated by the news of her passing.

“She’s been such a dear friend for so long, I’m going to miss her wisdom and kindness and compassion,” Arent said. “She was beloved by people on both sides in the Legislature. She didn’t speak about every bill, but when people got up to speak, everyone listened to her.”

Arent said Shurtliff’s constituents adored her, especially those who were her students.

“She was so popular. When I would knock on doors for her campaign, it was clear that everybody loved her,” she added.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Layton, said he was deeply saddened by the news.

“She was a beloved member of the House of Representatives but more importantly she was adored by her family and friends,” he said. “We will miss her strong voice for children and passion for serving the community.”

He added, “I only served with Rep. Shurtliff for a short time but it was clear to me that she was a devoted public servant. Lou served for the right reasons. She cared deeply about children, education, and the Ogden area. She was always kind and thoughtful in her approach to difficult issues and was an example to me of a life well-lived. Every member of the House will miss her.”

Democratic Party Chair Jeff Merchant mourned Shurtliff’s passing, saying “She was a great friend, dedicated teacher & legislator.”

Gov. Gary Herbert said Shurtliff was “a wonderful teacher and public servant.”

According to a Facebook post, Shurtliff’s family said she began feeling ill on Dec. 6 and was admitted to the hospital the next day. In follow up posts, the family said she was improving, but the cause of her illness was unknown.

Shurtliff was the only Democrat in the Utah Legislature from outside of Salt Lake County. She served in the House from 1999 to 2008. She returned to the Utah House in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win a Utah House race in Weber County since Neil Hansen in 2008. She was also a teacher at Ogden High School for a number of years.

In 2001, Shurtliff successfully passed a bill to close a loophole in Utah law that had made it impossible for stalking victims to get a restraining order unless that person had lived with their stalker.

Shurtliff’s replacement will be chosen by Democratic delegates in House District 10 in the coming days. Her family said funeral plans and an obituary were forthcoming.

Reporter Taylor Stevens contributed to this article.