St. John’s Cathedral in downtown Boise was filled this morning with hundreds of friends, relatives, colleagues and admirers of former longtime Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who died Sunday at the age of 95; the funeral service drew an array of Idaho’s top leadership, including current and former governors and top elected officials. Current Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who was Cenarrusa’s longtime chief deputy before succeeding him in office in 2003, told the crowd, “I worked for Pete for 28 years, and personally witnessed how he dealt with people and various problems. He set the bar pretty high. … He treated people how he wanted to be treated.”
Said Ysursa, “I will always consider him as my most valued mentor.” Phil Reberger, a longtime friend of Cenarrusa’s and a fellow pilot, read the poem, “High Flight.”
Ysursa drew a strong burst of laughter when he told the cathedral full of dignitaries, “Pete was not a great public speaker, but unlike a lot of us here today, he knew it.” He said he’s still, to this day, sometimes referred to or introduced mistakenly as Cenarrusa. That, he said, is “the highest compliment you can give me.” He ended his eulogy, “Adios, my friend.”
Gov. Butch Otter, who also was in attendance along with former Govs. Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus, has ordered all state flags to be flown at half-staff through tomorrow in honor of Cenarrusa, Idaho’s longest-serving state elected official ever. In addition to his long service as the state’s secretary of state, Cenarrusa is a former speaker of the Idaho House and served nine terms there; he’s also a Basque-American leader known around the world; and a prominent Idaho sheep rancher. His friends are gathering after the funeral for a reception at the Basque Center, and he’ll be interred tomorrow at Bellevue, Idaho.