Irish eyes are weeping: Idaho lawmaker Ruby Stone dead at 89

Former Republican Rep. Ruby Stone of Boise died Wednesday, rekindling memories of one of the Legislature’s most colorful characters.

Stone was appointed to the House in 1986, after her husband, Harry, died in office. She was elected later that year and completed her service in 2002 as chairwoman of the House Local Government Committee.

Stone was an ebullient personality who led St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in a perfectly tailored bright green Pendleton wool suit and matching top hat. As the House broke for lunch on that day, Stone would regale colleagues with her Irish brogue.

Part of the moderate GOP “Steelhead Caucus,” Stone was an advocate of abortion rights who once proposed beefing up state law after an arson fire at a Boise clinic that performed abortions. She also opposed term limits and was a fierce patriot who championed veterans’ issues and decorated her car  with American flags. Advocating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban flag burning, she read a poem on the House floor, including the line, “Old Glory is my nickname and proudly I wave on high.”

“She had a wonderful sense of humor and was always cheerful and positive,” said Terri Franks-Smith, the House’s fiscal officer.

After the renovated Capitol opened in 2010, Franks-Smith helped show Stone around, pushing her in a wheelchair. “Everywhere she went, people remembered her so fondly,” Franks-Smith said Friday. “Everyone stopped, everyone came over to talk to her.”

Stone was also a terrific golfer who did great things to advance the women’s game in Idaho. Some years ago, she had to give up golf because of various ailments, a loss that she told me she bore with the heaviest of hearts.

Former Secretary of the Senate Jeannine Wood said Stone recently fell and broke her pelvis. She died in a Boise care center, where she was engaged in rehabilitation.

Wood met Stone in 1976 when both were working as Senate attaches. When Harry Stone ran for the Legislature in 1984, Wood said she was torn because a Stone victory would mean his wife would lose her job because of an anti-nepotism law. Wood wound up volunteering on Harry’s campaign, which he won, and Stone had to give up her post. But Ruby Rocker Stone was back at the Capitol two years later after her husband died of a heart attack.

“She was a wonderful person,” Wood said. “We were great friends.”

Funeral arrangements are pending at Summers Funeral Homes, Ustick Chapel, in Meridian.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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