Cenarrusa to lie in state at Capitol, Otter calls him ‘an Idaho original’

Pete Cenarrusa, the longest-serving elected official in Idaho history, will lie in state at the Capitol on Thursday and be buried Saturday in Bellevue, not far from where he ran sheep for almost 50 years.

(UPDATE 3 p.m. The site of the funeral service and vigil have been changed since Monday morning, as have times.)

The celebration of the life of the former secretary of state and speaker of the Idaho House begins Wednesday at Summers Funeral Home in Boise, at 1205 W. Bannock St. The public may pay their respects from noon to 6 p.m.

On Thursday, Cenarrusa will lie in state from noon to 7 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., a vigil will be held at St. John’s Cathedral, 775 N. 8th St. in Boise.

Friday at 10 a.m., the Rev. Thomas Faucher will preside at a funeral service at St. John’s. A reception will follow at the Basque Center, at 6th and Grove streets Downtown.

Cenarussa will be buried Saturday at 11 a.m. at Bellevue Cemetery, said Dave Yraguen of Summers.

Gov. Butch Otter issued a statement mourning Cenarrusa, noting how he loved the public arena, encouraged public involvement, stood by his principles while “gently nudging us all toward doing the right thing, and keeping us anchored in reality.”

Otter’s statement was issued Monday morning on behalf of himself and his wife, First Lady Lori Otter.  Cenarussa, 95, died Sunday about noon.

Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, another former speaker of the Idaho House also issued a statement Monday morning. Congressman Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch weighed in Monday afternoon.

Otter’s statement:

“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.”

Simpson’s statement:

“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.”

Labrador’s statement:

“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.”

Joint statement from Crapo and Risch:

“The state of Idaho lost a dear friend yesterday 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.”


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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