Leaders from both sides of the political aisle are mourning the passing of 95-year-old Pete Cenarrusa, who held elected office in Idaho for more than five decades and died Sept. 29. Cenarrusa had been battling lung cancer.
"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," said Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter. "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."
Cenarrusa was first elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 1950, serving nine terms, including three terms as Speaker. Governor Don Samuelson appointed him Idaho Secretary of State in 1967. He stayed in that post until 2003 when he retired.
"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," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. "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."
Cenarrusa is survived by his wife, daughter-in-law Jean Cenarrusa-Jacobson and her husband Greg, two grandsons and two great grandchildren. One of the great grandchildren, a boy, was born Sept. 28, the day before Cenarrusa's death. A son, Joe Cenarrusa, died in an aircraft accident in 1997.
Cenarrusa's body will lie in state, Thursday, October 2 from noon to 6 p.m. and a vigil will be held later that same evening, at 7 p.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church on State Street. A funeral mass is set for Friday morning at St. Mary's, followed by a reception at the Basque Center. Burial is scheduled for Saturday, October 4 at 11 a.m. at Bellevue Cemetery.