SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers often take time during a session to recognize the lives and service of often-prominent Utahns like Jazz basketball coach Jerry Sloan, who had passed away in 2020 and was honored the last night of the 2021 Legislature.
This year, the issue hit closer to home when a longtime fixture of the state Capitol died a month before the legislative session opened. On Friday night, the Senate gave final approval to HB272, which renames the state's organ donation fund to the Allyson Gamble Organ Donation Contribution Fund.
Allyson Gamble served on the Capitol Preservation Board for 19 years and was its executive director for 11. She led the foundation of the docent program that gives tours and teaches the history of the Utah Capitol as well as oversaw restoration efforts on Capitol Hill from 2004 to 2008. She had suffered a stroke on Dec. 2 and died in the hospital two days later.
"Allyson Gamble, while short in stature, was mighty in spirit," House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in February while quoting from Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 to honor Gamble. "And I don't think more accurate words have been spoken that I've ever heard up here."
Jim Gamble and their son, Benjamin, were in the House gallery in mid-February when lawmakers read SCR5 and two bills to honor the many accomplishments of his wife. In addition to the organ fund renaming, legislators also agreed to name Room 210 in the Senate Building the Allyson W. Gamble Committee Room with the passage of SB185.
"She'd love to give tours to anyone. She would drop anything that she was doing if she had the opportunity to give somebody a personal tour," Jim Gamble said.
"Sometimes that would include just down in the bowels of the building or even perhaps up in the interior dome, which was kind of behind locked doors and hard to get to. She loved the whole place," he said.
According to the resolution honoring her — which Gov. Spencer Cox signed Feb. 25 — Gamble "never missed a detail in putting events together whether for Utah's political leaders or Utah's schoolchildren."
It also recounted how following the protests in Salt Lake City last May, that "after a recent release from the hospital and with a weakened immune system, Allyson Gamble insisted on supporting the clean-up efforts after protesters defaced the Capitol grounds."
It was a dedication her husband understood.
"It was sometimes (a) very difficult job. She holds a big position and a lot of responsibility up there," Jim Gamble said.
Dana Jones, who followed Allyson Gamble as the executive director of the Capitol Preservation Board, called the resolution touching.
"It's wonderful. It's hard, too. It's hard to think of Allyson limited to a square footage of her room, when she was just all encompassing," Jones said of having a committee room named for Gamble.
Jones said the memories she cherishes are her walks with Gamble as they reviewed the buildings and grounds.
"She was very involved. She was not tethered to her desk," she said.
The docent program became a point of contact for many legislators and Allyson Gamble. Wilson said that he first met her as his "boss" as he volunteered as a docent in his off time.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said he used to "hijack" some of the docents' tour groups and take them to the floor of the House or Senate chambers and other "off-limit" areas. He said he apologized to her but she said "They love it!" and scheduled him to train her docents.
Ray said they immediately bonded over their experiences with open heart surgery, Ray having experienced it four times. Gamble had had two heart transplants and was readying for a kidney transplant at the time of her death.
Gamble had introduced Ray to Catcher McCardell, a prospective Eagle Scout working on an organ donor project. They worked on the proposal for a special group license plate that became HB272 where money from sales of the plate would go to the organ donation fund.
Unable to get in contact with the Gamble family beforehand, Ray presented the bill while they sat in the gallery for the reading of the resolution. Gamble admitted they were all happily surprised.
"That's a wonderful thing to us because organ donation was critical in our lives and important to us for being part of that system. We're all in this family are organ donors. That was kind of her last gift as she moved on was to be an organ donor and donating anything they needed for science, as well," Gamble said.
His wife didn't specify what part of the Capitol complex she cherished the most, Gamble said, but "I think the rotunda was likely her favorite place." He also noted that she loved the Gold Room and the statues, especially the lions on the east side.
"But it was mostly about, for her, the building and its purpose and operations," he said.
"I've always thanked the Lord for that work for her, because it was a distraction from all of her health issues. (It) gave her purpose, and she persevered through her health issues I think better, because of her passion for her work up there at the Capitol."