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Scholarships go to kin of men who died on job

Garn offers empathy, support as workers fund awards grants

SHARE Scholarships go to kin of men who died on job

Former U.S. senator and astronaut Jake Garn had a special connection with a room full of sons, daughters and wives of men who died because of work-related accidents.

About 30 years ago Garn received a phone call that his wife had died in an auto accident, leaving him a single parent of four.

"So, I understand," Garn told the 2005 Legacy of Learning scholarship recipients at a banquet in Salt Lake City this past week.

More than 60 people received scholarships this year from the Workers Compensation Fund, which has awarded more than 700 scholarships since 1990.

Brothers Rick and Russell Hall lost their father when Rick, 22, was 8 and Russell, 24, was 10. A bus their father was driving for Utah State University hit a cow and, while waiting for a tow truck, their father was struck and killed by a van.

Garn's perspective of life on earth after being in space inspired the brothers. They heard Garn say how the earth's "insignificance" within the context of space makes all of the fighting, arguing and bloodshed among humans seem almost unimaginable.

"It makes no sense to me the way we treat each other," Garn said.

The Halls, both USU students, took something else away from Garn's speech.

"He would have never had those opportunities if he didn't have his education," said Russell.

The Halls missed having Dad around in their younger years, but they're thankful now for the scholarship fund.

Michelle Davis, 21, is a senior at Weber State University. On March 18, 1994, her father died following a construction accident — she was only 10.

Davis was adopted when her parents were in their 50s, and her mother currently works for Wal Mart. She is grateful for the $1,500 scholarship.

"Otherwise, I don't think my mom would have been able to pay for me to go to college," Davis said.

Davis and other scholarship recipients aren't sure what they'll do after college, but Garn gave them at least one idea — anything they can imagine.

Garn said he would have never imagined as a 10-year-old boy that he would one day orbit the Earth 110 times, traveling at 25 times the speed of sound.

"I cannot guess what you young people would be able to do," Garn said. He added, "I had parents who understood the value of education."

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com