Friends, family, government and church leaders honor Sen. Orrin Hatch during funeral service

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By Ashley Pun Eveson and Abby Gunderson

Sen. Orrin Hatch was remembered and honored as a great government leader, friend and family member during his funeral service on May 6. (Abby Gunderson)

Hundreds of friends and family honored the life of Sen. Orrin G. Hatch at a funeral service this afternoon in Salt Lake City.

Hatch died at 88 years old on April 23, 2022 as the longest-serving Republican senator in the history of the U.S. Senate.

The funeral service took place at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion. Church leaders who attended were President Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Other notable attendees were Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Gordon H. Smith and Richard Marriott, the chairman of the board of Host Hotels & Resorts.

Earlier this week, the Senate honored Hatch by approving a resolution, and Hatch lied in state at the Utah State Capitol rotunda on Wednesday. 

Hatch was born in Homestead Park, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1934 and grew up in poverty. He lived with his two parents and was the sixth of nine children. Despite his family’s financial challenges, he grew to love music as a young child and learned to play the violin, organ and piano. 

As part of the service, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren sang one of the songs he had composed alongside Janice Kapp Perry, “No Empty Chairs.” The University of Utah Institute singers performed another one of his songs, “Jesus’ Love is Like A River.” 

“It was a privilege to sing for him and his family,” said Gabe Frei, a member of the University of Utah Institute singers. “To hear those lyrics and let them live through us, it was an honor.” 

Family and friends attend Sen. Hatch’s funeral on May 6. After the funeral ceremony, Hatch was buried at the Newton Cemetery in Cache Valley, where his wife is from. (Ashley Pun Eveson)

Hatch was remembered as a loving father, husband, friend and colleague by those who spoke during the service which included A. Scott Anderson, his daughter Marcia Hatch Whetton, son Brent Hatch, Sen. McConnell, Sen. Smith and President Oaks. 

“Because of Sen. Hatch’s heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, and because of his deep seated faith and belief in the goodness of humankind, he always reached out to those in need,” Anderson said. 

Other memories and stories were shared by the speakers, highlighting Hatch’s love for God, for his neighbors and for serving the country.

His older brother, Jesse Hatch, died in World War II as a nose gunner for the Army Air Force, and the incident caused Hatch to have a white streak in his hair. According to Brent Hatch, the oldest son in the Hatch family and one of the service’s speakers, this event urged Hatch to commit to living two lives, one for himself and one for his brother.

Hatch went on to attend Brigham Young University, where he met his wife Elaine and studied history, then attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

According to Brent Hatch, with his double efforts, his father was able to become one of the top trial lawyers in Utah because he “outworked everyone.” 

Hatch was also remembered for sharing his testimony of Jesus Christ with everyone he met, even offering to send the missionaries to visit them. “Like the apostle Paul, he was ‘not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,’” Sen. Smith said. 

Serving for 42 years in the U.S. Senate representing Utah, Hatch began his tenure in 1977 and retired in 2019 after serving for seven terms. 

Sen. McConnell, U.S. Senate minority leader, shared that he had worked with Hatch for three decades and that “by the time Orrin retired, he had participated in the confirmations of one third of all federal judges in American history to that point.” 

Hatch passed his first law in 1979, The National Ski Patrol System Recognition Act of 1979 (P.L. 96-489) which helped to promote safety in skiing. 

Later on, he was the only co-sponsor from the Republican party for the Health Omnibus Extension of 1988, which gave funding to combat AIDS. 

One of his well-known achievements was passing the ​​Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97) in 2017 to help businesses during a large economic expansion. 

“He was kind, inclusive and able to gather people together for a common cause,” said Chris Ereckson, who is married to one of Hatch’s nieces, when remembering Hatch’s legacy.

He was also able to use bipartisan efforts to help children, the fight against AIDS and to create the Suicide Hotline, according to McConnell. 

“The rising generation is kind and generous and looking for people who are marginalized, and I think he (Orrin Hatch) was ahead of his time in that way, connecting with people on a personal level,” said Abby Cox, the First Lady of Utah. 

The Utah Army National Guard performed “Final Honors” as a conclusion to the memorial service. After the funeral ceremony, Hatch was buried at the Newton Cemetery in Cache Valley, where his wife is from.

“I would hope that our students would look at his life and service, and realize that you ought to spend time thinking about going into public service,” University of Utah President Taylor Randall said. “His impact will be felt for generations. If you want to leave a legacy, look at the legacy of Orrin Hatch.”

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