What can be said about such a well-known and well-liked public figure as Jake Garn that isn't already familiar and obvious?

That his decision not to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate after his current term expires is going to deprive Utah of one of its most effective political leaders ever?That his announcement Wednesday, some 18 months before the end of his third Senate term, is an act of characteristic foresight and consideration that gives others a chance to start working to replace him and the public a chance to start making its wishes known about the kind of replacement it wants?

That, despite his early announcement, it's hard to think of him as a lame duck? The term implies weakness, but there's nothing weak about Jake Garn.

That his hard work, strong character and vigorous personality achieved a high national profile for both the senator and for Utah, an achievement that is unusual for any political leader from such a small state?

No, all this should virtually go without saying - along with much more.

Most Americans will remember Garn for the history he made in becoming the first incumbent member of Congress to travel in space when he joined six astronauts in orbiting the Earth aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1985.

Others will remember Garn as a staunch champion of conservative principles, a foe of big government and a leader on defense, space and banking.

As for Utahns, some still remember Garn as the highly effective S.L. mayor who launched the city's downtown beautification project in the early 1970s. The project involved adding trees and fountains and widening sidewalks. Although controversial at the time among local business people, who claimed the construction drove off customers, the final result was widely praised.

But the way this page most fondly remembers Garn is for his act of personal sacrifice in 1986 when he underwent a major operation to donate his left kidney to his diabetic daughter, Susan Horne.

It was an act of love that drew national attention to the need for organ donors and helped provide added impetus to this campaign. Though the public was not always aware of the tender side of this sometimes acerbic man, it should have been since his love of family also extends to love of country and love of principle.

If that sounds like a funeral oration, we apologize. It's clearly much too soon to say farewell to Jake Garn. He still has plenty of service to render in the U.S. Senate - and probably after he leaves it. But it's not too soon to start expressing appreciation for his long record of outstanding work for Utah and the nation.