Son of prominent Idaho Republican Phil Reberger dead at 44

John Philip Reberger Jr., the son of Phil and Nancy Reberger of Boise, died Saturday of a sudden heart attack near his home in Los Angeles. He leaves a wife and two young sons.

Phil Reberger, 71, was chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Steve Symms, R-Idaho, and Gov. and U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. Reberger’s management of the 1980 Symms campaign against four-term Democratic Sen. Frank Church is considered one of the most important GOP victories in Idaho history. He now works as a lobbyist at Sullivan & Reberger, with his partner, Patrick Sullivan.

Reberger’s son, who went by John, graduated from Boise High School, the University of Virginia and Pepperdine University, where he earned an MBA last year.

John Reberger was working out at a gym when he suffered a heart attack, said Gary Mahn, a friend of Phil Reberger’s since they met as members of the Sigma Nu fraternity at the University of Idaho in 1961.

John Reberger swam for the Downtown YMCA team and skied for the University of Virginia. Mahn said the Y is considering establishing a scholarship for young swimmers in Reberger’s name. His younger sister, Diane, won a swimming scholarship at Purdue University. She now lives in Denver.

John Reberger worked as a territorial sales rep for E. and J. Gallo Winery, for Mahn’s Fisher’s Office Products in Boise, and as a medical equipment sales rep in Southern California.

His funeral is set for Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. A memorial will be set in Idaho at a later date.

Phil and Nancy Reberger attend the McCall Community Congregational Church, where the couple spends  most weekends at their second home. Said Mahn: “What’s getting them through this is their deep commitment to their faith.”

John Reberger is survived by his wife, Jen, an executive at the Walt Disney Co., and two sons, John “Jack” Philip Reberger III, 7, and Hank, 4.

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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