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Body Of Idaho's Longest Serving Politician Will Lie In State At Capitol

Boise State University, Albertsons Library

The body of Pete Cenarrusa will lie in state at Idaho’s capitol building Thursday from noon to 7:00 p.m. Cenarrusa, who held state office in Idaho uninterrupted for more than five decades, died Sunday at age 95 with his wife Freda at his side.

Cenarrusa served nine terms in Idaho’s House of Representatives, including three terms as Speaker. He served as Idaho’s Secretary of State from 1967 to 2003. He was also well known for his work to preserve Basque history and culture in Idaho.

Preparations for Cenarrusa’s body to lie in state began before his death. Idaho’s Department of Administration is in charge of the public viewing in the Capitol, and the Idaho Military Division of the Idaho National Guard handles the details. The last time Idaho honored someone this way was in 2004 after the death of three-term governor Robert Smylie.

The celebration of Cenarrusa's life begins Wednesday when mourners can pay their respects at a Boise funeral home. A vigil is also planned for Thursday night at St. John's Cathedral in downtown Boise.

On Friday, a funeral mass will be held at St. John's, then Cenarrusa will be buried Saturday at Bellevue Cemetery.

Idaho leaders, Republican and Democrat, are united in their praise of Cenarrusa, the longest serving elected official in Idaho’s history. Here's what they are saying. 

Credit Boise State University, Albertsons Library
Cenarrusa campaign material circa 1970

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter:

“No one could have been a better or more passionate advocate for the Basque people, for fair and transparent elections, or for responsible stewardship of our public lands than Pete Cenarrusa. He was an Idaho original, and I was among many in state government – on both sides of the aisle – who benefited greatly from his advice, counsel and friendship. It’s hard to imagine Idaho politics without Pete there. He loved the arena – encouraging public involvement, standing firm on his principles, gently nudging us all toward doing the right thing, and keeping us anchored in reality. Miss Lori and I send his tireless wife Freda and all Pete’s family and friends our love, sympathy and prayers.”

Boise Mayor David Bieter:

"Pete was the longest serving elected official in Idaho history and he also was the the most loyal -- loyal to his constituents, his Basque heritage, his family, and everyone whose life he touched, including mine. I am proud to have worked with Pete to support Basque culture while in the Idaho legislature and to have been his friend. His passing is an enormous loss for Idaho. There will never be another Pete Cenarrusa. My heart goes out to his family."

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch:

“The state of Idaho lost a dear friend yesterday (Sunday) with the passing of Pete Cenarrusa.  Pete had a unique capacity to lead people and institutions with good will, great humor and wise counsel.  Pete was a personal friend and advisor to both of us and we will forever remember the example he set for all public servants.  Pete’s long and dedicated service to the people of Idaho will last forever.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Freda, their family and all of Pete’s friends.”

Congressman Mike Simpson:

“Pete Cenarrusa displayed a relentless commitment to working on behalf of Idahoans and we have a better state because of his leadership. Personally, I’m extremely thankful for the guidance I received from Pete over the years. Kathy and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Freda, their family and friends as we all mourn his passing. He will be sorely missed.”

Congressman Raul Labrador:

"I was saddened to hear of the passing of Pete Cenarrusa – one of the true gentlemen of Idaho politics.  When I served in the state legislature and after being elected to Congress, I always enjoyed talking with him and learning from him.  The longest-serving state official in Idaho history, Pete loved our state, and Idaho is better off because of his service.  He led a full and happy life, and he will be missed.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

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