BOISE -- Bethine Church, matriarch of the Idaho Democratic Party and wife of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Church, has died. She was 90.
Her son, Chase Church, said she died at about 6:15 p.m. Saturday of old age after two weeks on home hospice, listening to Christmas music with he and his wife, Pam, by her side.
Bethine Church traveled the world with her husband, campaigning with him four times for senator and once for president in 1976.
The daughter and niece of former Idaho governors, she was often called the "third Senator" from Idaho because of her active participation in public life during her husband's tenure in the Senate.
Church became a widow in 1984 when her husband died of cancer at the age of 59.
In a Statement, the Idaho Democratic Party described Church as energetic, with a keen intellect, who never stopped being a vital part of the Party.
“To me, Bethine Church was the Jackie Kennedy of Idaho,” said IDP Vice Chair Jeanne Buell. “She handled everything with style and grace.”
IDP Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown said Bethine Church inspired generations of Idaho women.
“Bethine Church was an inspiration to many of us in Idaho and she served as a wonderful role model for generations of young women,” said Boynton Brown. “She was an example of a woman who was firm in her convictions and a powerful advocate for progressive, Democratic values. To me, and to many others, we will remember how she led her life with dignity, grace, generosity and humor.”
Sunday, current and former Idaho lawmakers and community leaders released statements remembering Church:
“Carol and I join thousands of Idahoans and her many friends around the country in mourning the passing of Bethine Church. She was a force of nature, a great political partner to Frank, and for almost 30 years after his death a keeper of his legacy, fighting the good fight for what both of them cared deeply about. Bethine will be remembered for her own important work on conservation issues and as a great champion of Democratic candidates from the 1940’s into the 21st Century. Idaho has lost one of its leading citizens.”
-Former Gov. Cecil Andrus
“Idaho has lost a great friend and advocate. Bethine had a way to mix civility with politics that is too often forgotten on the national scene. I will miss her input and charm and I join with all Idahoans in mourning the passing of this Idaho legend."
-Sen. Mike Crapo
"Bethine lived a remarkable Idaho life. She was a great unifier, the true politician in the family, who helped Senator Church bring Idaho together and introduce it to the world. She had a lifelong passion for improving the lives of ordinary people, a quality that never waned, even after her husband's far too early death. She will be missed but she will never be forgotten."
-Boise Mayor David Bieter
"Bethine Church was a natural leader her entire life, and Boise State University was one of the institutions fortunate to have benefited immensely from her insight, generosity and spirit. From the time she was elected freshman class vice president at Boise Junior College to her founding and chairing the Frank Church Institute, Bethine has been integral to the growth and success of Boise State. The honorary doctorate Boise State bestowed upon Bethine in 2009 was just a token of thanks for a lifetime of dedication and service that will be remembered for generations."
-Boise State President Dr. Bob Kustra