The Wilderness Society is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend Bethine Church, who served on The Wilderness Society governing council since 1993.
Bethine passed away in December, 2013, at the age of 90 at her home in Boise. Often known as the matriarch of Idaho's Democrats, she was also a true advocate for wilderness. Up until her death, she continued to fight for protection of the Boulder White Cloud mountains in Idaho.
The widow of Idaho Senator Frank Church, Bethine served as chair of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State University in Idaho. The institute now includes the Endowed Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs, which endows a professorship. The Institute also provides scholarships in Frank Church’s name.
She had recently retired as the president and founder of the Sawtooth Society. The society was formed to repair infrastructure and to protect the Sawtooth Valley and assure compatible development within central Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area. After retiring, Bethine served as an emeritus member of the board.
Beyond wilderness work, Bethine was involved in a wide array of causes and issues. She was the honorary co-chair of the Idaho Ann Frank Human Rights Memorial. Formerly, she served as a member of the Governor's Task Force on Home Care, on the Idaho State Democratic Party Finance Committee and was co-chair of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Visions Management Seminar. Bethine was also an emeritus member of the board of directors for the U.S. Capital Historical Society. She was also past director in the Boise Philharmonic Association and past president of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
Bethine received a BA in Sociology from the University of Michigan and authored of “A Lifelong Affair: My Passion for People and Politics,” which deals with all the years of her life and her family’s life in politics.
Bethine was also a delegate to several national Democratic conventions. She served as the chair of the delegation in Los Angeles 40 years after her husband, the late Senator Frank Church, gave the keynote address there for John F. Kennedy.
Staff members at The Wilderness Society were grateful to have Bethine on our side. She was an amazing woman, and she will be missed greatly.
Photo from Frank Church Institute.