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Politics & Government

Bethine Church, Sen. Frank Church's Widow, Political Partner, Dies At 90

Bethine Church
Special Collections and Archives, Albertsons Library
/
Boise State University

Bethine Church, the widow of Idaho Sen. Frank Church, has died at the age of 90. Her son, Chase Church, posted Saturday on his Facebook page that she had passed listening to Christmas music. “She wasn’t in any pain and she always wanted to pass at home,” the post noted. 

Earlier this month, her son posted on his Facebook page that his mother had been “suffering from old age” and poor health.  She’d been on hospice care for the past two weeks and would have turned 91 in February.

Jean Bethine Clark was born in Mackay, Idaho in 1923. She was the daughter of Chase Clark, an Idaho governor and a federal district judge. She graduated from Boise High School and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.  

Bethine Church
Chase Church posted this note on his Facebook page Saturday.

Bethine Church
Credit Special Collections and Archives, Albertsons Library / Boise State University
/
Boise State University
Bethine Church at her home in Boise.

She met Frank Church while at Boise High and they married in 1947 at the Clark family ranch in the Sawtooth Mountains. Her husband was a four-term Senator and ran for President in 1976. The Idaho Statesman called Sen. Church the most influential politician in Idaho. He died in 1984.

"Bethine was his partner in his public career. He served 24 years in the U.S. Senate, the lone Idaho Democrat to win more than one term. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1976, he was a serious candidate for president, looking briefly like the only man able to deny Jimmy Carter the Democratic nomination. He helped pass the Wilderness Act in 1964. He was an early critic of the Vietnam War, and investigated CIA and FBI abuses, forcing reforms that some now question in the post-9/11 era." ~ The Idaho Statesman

Boise State University has the Bethine Church Collection in which you can read more about her background and also see images of her over the years. You can hear Bethine Church talk about her photos and memories from a 2006 tour through a room in her East Boise home in this story from The Idaho Statesman. 

Bethine Church
Credit Special Collections and Archives, Albertsons Library / Boise State University
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Boise State University
Bethine Church and Sen. Frank Church relaxing on the front porch of their Boise home in 1980.

Boise Mayor David Bieter issued a quote Sunday saying that Church lived a remarkable life. "She was a great unifier, the true politician in the family, who helped Sen. Church bring Idaho together and introduce it to the world. She had a lifelong passion for improving the lives of ordinary people, a quality that never waned, even after her husband's far too early death. She will be missed but she will never be forgotten." 

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

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