Jean Bethine Clark Church
1923 ~ 2013
Jean Bethine Church, widow of the late Idaho Senator Frank Church, died December 21, 2013 at her home in Boise. Church, known as the grande dame of the Idaho Democratic Party, was born February 19, 1923 to Chase and Jean Clark, who homesteaded on the Salmon River near Mackay, Idaho. Her father served as Governor of Idaho and later a Federal District Judge. Her family included an uncle, Barzilla Clark, also an Idaho Governor; and cousin, D. Worth Clark, who served in the U.S. Senate.
Church graduated from Boise High School, attended Boise Junior College, and received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1945. She married Frank Church in 1947 and became his political partner during his twenty-four years in the U.S. Senate, where she was known as Idaho's "third Senator," because of her active partnership in the Senate. With the Senator, she traveled the world and campaigned with him for President in 1976. Her memoir, titled "A Lifelong Affair: My Passion for People and Politics," describes her long and full life.
After the Senator's death in 1984, Church returned to Idaho, where she remained active in political and public life. She was the founder and chair of Frank Church Institute at Boise State University, where she received an honorary doctorate degree in 2009. She was also the founder and former president of Sawtooth Society, established to protect Sawtooth National Recreation Area. For her work, the overlook at Galena Summit was named "The Bethine and Frank Church Overlook." She also mentored numerous Democratic candidates for local, state, and federal office. For her public service, the City of Boise named the "Bethine Church River Trail," along the Greenbelt.
Among the many other organizations, Church served as a former trustee of the Boise State University Foundation; member of the governing council of The Wilderness Society; former honorary co-chair of the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial; former president of the Center for Responsive Politics; emeritus member of the board of directors of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society; and former member of the advisory committee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In addition to her son Chase and his wife Pam of Boise, Church is survived by six grandchildren: Frank Forrester Church V, Seattle; Nina Church Adams, Portland; Andrew and Monica Church, Boise; Nathan and Jacob Luce, New York City; and three great-grandchildren. Also surviving is her daughter-in-law, Carolyn Buck-Luce, New York City, the widow of the Church's older son, Reverend Forrest Church, who predeceased her.
A memorial service has been scheduled for 11:00am February 1 in the Simplot Ballroom at Boise State University. Parking available in the Lincoln Garage. For more information, please contact Garry Wenske, Executive Director, the Frank Church Institute, Boise State University. GarryWenske@boisestate.edu.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs at The Frank Church Institute, Boise State University, 1910 University Dr., Boise, Idaho 83725; or The Sawtooth Society, P.O. Box 209, Stanley, Idaho 83278.
Published in Idaho Statesman on Jan. 5, 2014