Dear Mr. and Mrs. Eppes:
If only you’d had the chance to know your daughter as an adult.
I don’t know what differences drove you apart or who was at fault. I just want to assure you that your daughter, Star Euthene, will live on in Idaho history as a champion of women’s rights.
Star died just before Christmas. She turned 50 last August as gracefully as the seasons change and was pursuing a new quest to help women celebrate aging.
She wanted America to appreciate and respect aging, not view it with repulsion.
Cancer had hold of her even then, but she didn’t know it.
“She was always there for other people but never really revealed to her friends all of her pain or problems,” says Janet Torline, one of Star’s closest friends. “She never wanted to burden people.”
So she ignored the pain in her back, the fatigue, even the low-grade fever. Star chose to live simply, from the time she arrived in Idaho from California in 1973. She earned enough to support herself, but not to buy health insurance.
“Health insurance is so expensive that people can’t afford it. She had no money, so she didn’t go to the doctor,” longtime friend Nancy Mjelde says. “We just threw her away.”
Forgive Nancy’s anger. She still aches from the loss of the woman who pushed Idaho to acknowledge and take action against domestic violence.
“Star was very instrumental in getting victims’ rights legislation,” Nancy says. “She was a doer and I’m going to miss her dearly.”
Star left the San Francisco area in the early 1970s to get back to the land.
She replaced her birth name, Patricia, with Star. Her half American Indian grandmother once had dubbed her Euthene, after an Indian princess, she said. Star kept the name.
Idaho’s wild and sparsely populated environment appealed to her free spirit. She settled in Carlin Bay, raised goats and opened an antique store in Harrison.
To help support herself, she took a job aiding a handicapped student. The work satisfied something deep inside her and she decided to pursue special education in college in Coeur d’Alene. But finances demanded she work.
She chose a job helping developmentally disabled adults in Hayden Lake and within months was appointed to Coeur d’Alene’s Mayor’s Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped and Older Worker.
As Star developed her advocate’s voice, a movement began growing in Coeur d’Alene to open a center to help victims of rape and sexual abuse. It was a cause Star completely supported.
She volunteered at the new Women’s Center and threw her energy into making solid, statewide changes to benefit women.
That men legally separated from their wives for six months could still demand sex from them angered her. She gathered friends to help organize rallies at the state capitol. Her persistence led legislators to prohibit marital rape in 1989.
Her articulate activism led to the birth of the statewide Idaho Women’s Network, recognition in the state of domestic violence as a problem and specific laws to deal with domestic violence.
“She was a very hard worker when it came to getting changes made,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Dave Scates says. “She made people think who maybe didn’t want to address the fact that domestic violence does happen and it happens here.”
She didn’t allow the politics of domestic violence to remove her from its victims, even during her five years as director of Coeur d’Alene’s Women’s Center.
“She gave me the courage to stand on my own,” says Linda Miles, who was a battered woman seeking shelter with her three boys when she met Star six years ago.
Star mentored Linda and encouraged her to stick with school. Linda is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social work this spring.
“She taught me spiritual peace that I didn’t have and that I was OK,” Linda says. “She gave and gave and gave.”
Star rejuvenated spirits and rebuilt shattered souls without losing her own.
“I remember asking her once if her work at the center was giving her a bad attitude toward men,” Janet says.
“She said if anything it gave her more compassion toward men because the men and women in the domestic violence situations were only doing what they had learned. If they knew something different to do, she felt 90 percent would do it.”
Star left the Women’s Center in 1994 at her doctor’s suggestion. She turned her attention to sculpting and jewelry-making and sold her creations at art fairs nationwide.
Doctors discovered her huge gastric tumor in October. Her spiritual beliefs were strong and death didn’t scare her.
Wealth never interested her, but a benefit in her honor that she attended last month proved she was rich in a way she could accept. Hundreds of friends gathered to support and love her.
“It’s a tremendous loss in my life. I’m really going to miss her,” Janet says. “But I knew she wouldn’t live to be old. The people who have the really important things in life figured out, they get to go.
“I’m just glad she’s free.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo