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BOISE -- Friends, former colleagues and relatives gathered Saturday at Boise State to remember Bethine Church.

Bethine Church was the wife, and political partner of the late Senator Frank Church. She passed away of natural causes last December, nearly 30 years after Frank Church died.

From the time she was young, Bethine Clark Church was surrounded by Idaho politics.

In 1936 when Bethine was 13, she had to be totally immersed in politics, said her second cousin, Patricia Young. Her dad was running for mayor of Idaho Falls, her uncle was running for governor, and her cousin was running for US Congress.

Her dad went on to become the governor of Idaho, and later her uncle followed. Her place in the political scene continued with her husband Frank Church.

This is a woman who insisted on not just observing, but being a part and a full-fledged participant, offering wise counsel, smart ideas, said Peter Fenn, a former Church staffer.

Garry Wenske, Executive Director of the Frank Church Institute, said had Bethine been born later, she may have run for an office herself. Instead, she partnered with Frank Church on his political career, even becoming know as Idaho's 'third senator.'

Bethine was a bundle of energy, cooking meals, stockpiling casseroles while running campaigns and reading speeches, and she never lost that spark and that optimism, Fenn said. This is a woman with so much common sense it was uncommon.

Friends say there was a lot of life in Bethine Church's 90 years and her involvement in and impact on the community will live on.

In short, Bethine exhausted her life, and not unlike the Cheshire Cat, nothing was left but her smile, said Wenske.

Bethine Church was a trustee of the Boise State University Foundation, member of the governing council of the Wilderness Society, and honorary co-char of the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, just to name a few.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs at the Frank Church Institute.

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