BOISE -- He was Idaho's longest serving politician, a self-made man, and a proud Basque American. Former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa passed away on Sunday at the age of 95. He served in Idaho politics for over 50 years.
Current Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa worked alongside the legendary figure for several decades, and described him as a tireless civil servant who obeyed "the golden rule of treating people how you'd like to be treated."
But Cenarrusa was more than a politician.
Friends who knew him well say his legacy lives on through the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture. The foundation supports the Boise Basque Museum, Basque Center, Oinkari Basque Dancers, and Boise State University's Basque Studies Program.
BSU program director John Ysursa says it was Cenarrusa's Foundation for Basque Culture that helped foster the creation of the modern Basque Studies Program in 1996.
"His role was pivotal," Ysursa told KTVB.
Here, students learn the language, culture, and have an exchange relationship with the Basque Government.
Coincidentally, that program celebrated the opening of a new office on the Boise State campus just one day after Cenarrusa passed away.
Longtime friend and former Basque Studies Program Director John Bieter says it's Cenarrusa's financial support that will keep the program running for years to come.
"We mourn the loss of Pete and applaud him. Without him our Basque Study Center wouldn't be here today," Bieter told KTVB.
Thursday Cenarrusa will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda from noon until 7 p.m. then a vigil will be held at St. John's Cathedral beginning at 7:30 p.m. The funeral service will be Friday at 10 a.m. at St. John's Cathedral.