Pete Cenarrusa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Pete T. Cenarrusa
Pete Cenarrusa euskal-estatubatuarra.jpg
Cenarrusa in July 2010
Secretary of State of Idaho
In office
May 1, 1967 – January 6, 2003
GovernorDon Samuelson
Cecil Andrus
Phil Batt
Dirk Kempthorne
Preceded byEdson H. Deal
Succeeded byBen Ysursa
Personal details
Pete Thomas Cenarrusa

(1917-12-16)December 16, 1917
Carey, Idaho, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 2013(2013-09-29) (aged 95)
Boise, Idaho, U.S.
Cause of deathCancer
Resting placeBellevue Cemetery
Bellevue, Idaho
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Freda Coates Cenarrusa
(1928– )
(m. 1947–2013, his death)
Children1 son: Joe (1948–1997)
ParentsJoe Cenarrusa
Ramona Gardoqui
Alma materUniversity of Idaho
B.S. (agric.) 1940[1][2]
ProfessionEducation, agriculture
state government
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch U.S. Marine Corps
Years of service1942–1945,
1945–1963 (reserve)
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg  Major
Battles/warsWorld War II, Cold War

Pete Thomas Cenarrusa (December 16, 1917 – September 29, 2013)[3] was an American Republican politician from Idaho. He served continuously for over half a century in elective office, first as a member of the Idaho Legislature and then as Secretary of State.[4][5]


Born in Carey, Idaho, Cenarrusa graduated from the territorial school in Bellevue and attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he was a member of the Vandals' boxing team and the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.[1] He graduated with a bachelor's degree in agriculture in 1940 and taught math and science and coached in Carey, Cambridge, and Glenns Ferry. During World War II, Cenarrusa was an aviator in the Marine Corps.[2]

Political career[edit]

Cenarrusa was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives from Blaine County in 1950. He served in that capacity for 16 years, including six as speaker of the house.

In 1967, Cenarrusa was appointed Secretary of State by Governor Don Samuelson to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Edson H. Deal,[6] and took office on May 1.[7] Cenarussa was elected to a full term in 1970. He was reelected seven times (1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, and 1998). Cenarrusa did not run for reelection in 2002, instead supporting his longtime chief deputy, Ben Ysursa. Upon leaving office Cenarrusa was the longest-serving secretary of state in the United States. Cenarrusa is also the longest-serving elected public official in Idaho history, having held elective office for a total of 52 years.[8]

Basque Activism[edit]

The son of Basque immigrants[9] from Bizkaia and a native speaker of the Basque language, Cenarrusa has been a longtime proponent of increased autonomy in the Basque Country, particularly in Spain.[10][11] In the 1970s he worked with the Democratic U.S. Senator from Idaho, Frank Church, in an effort to curtail foreign aid to the Franco regime. Cenarrusa has also appealed for clemency for Basque political prisoners in Spain.[8]

In 2003, Pete and Freda Cenarrusa organized the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture (originally the Cenarrusa Center for Basque Studies), which promotes the culture and history of the Basques by providing resources for performances, presentations and programs and to organizations throughout Idaho and Oregon.[12]

Cenarussa was instrumental in the founding of the Basque Studies Program at Boise State University in 2006.[13]


After a three-year battle with cancer, Cenarrusa died in Boise at age 95.[3] His funeral was at St. John's Cathedral in Boise and he was buried in Blaine County, at the Bellevue Cemetery in Bellevue.


A state office building near the state capitol was named for him in 1998. Built in the late 1970s, it is on the site (43°37′01″N 116°11′46″W / 43.617°N 116.196°W / 43.617; -116.196) of the old St. Alphonsus Hospital, which was vacated in 1972 and demolished a few years later. It is opposite the state supreme court building on State Street.


  • You Tube – Pete Cenarrusa at age 90 in 2008


  1. ^ a b "Seniors". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1940. p. 43.
  2. ^ a b "About my university: Pete Cenarrusa". University of Idaho. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Russell, Betsy Z. (September 29, 2013). "Pete Cenarrusa, Idaho's longest serving elected official, dies at age 95". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  4. ^ Totoricagüena, Gloria (March 2004). "Pete T. Cenarrusa: A Post-Modern Basque". Euskonews & Media. 247. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  5. ^ "Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee Pete T. Cenarrusa '40 Still Fighting for the University of Idaho". University of Idaho. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  6. ^ "Secretary of state dies". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. April 23, 1967. p. 1.
  7. ^ "Samuelson names Cenarrusa Idaho's secretary of state". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. April 27, 1967. p. 1.
  8. ^ a b The Public Career of Pete Cenarrusa (accessed 17 January 2012)
  9. ^ A Biography. Boise State Library
  10. ^ Lansorena, Igor (March 23, 2010). "Pete Cenarrusa, a core pillar of Basque culture in Boise". Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  11. ^ Totoricagüena, Gloria. "Pete T. Cenarrusa: A Post-Modern Basque". Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  12. ^ "About the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture", in the website of the foundation. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  13. ^ Pete Cenarrusa Biography (accessed 17 January 2012)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Edson H. Deal
Secretary of State of Idaho
May 1, 1967–January 6, 2003
Succeeded by
Ben Ysursa