Cenarrusa, Pete

Mark and John Bieter
Interview Location: 
Boise, Idaho
Interview Date: 

Pete was born in Carey, Idaho on 16 December 1917 to Jose Mari Cenarrusabeitia and Ramona Gardoqui.  His father was born in Munitibar, Bizkaia, and his mother came from Gernika.  His father owned a sheep ranch in Carey, but moved his family to Bellevue, Idaho so that the children could attend school.  He remembers growing up surrounded by sheep herders, where he heard them tell stories while they played muz at the boarding house.  Pete maintained a full-scale sheep ranching operation until the year 2000.

Pete graduated from the University of Idaho in 1940 with a bachelor's degree in agriculture.  He joined the US Navy in 1942, where he served as a Marine naval aviator, flying Corsair carrier fighters in World War II.  Flying became one of Pete's lifetime passions (over 50 years and 15,000 miles) and he instilled the same passion in his son Joe.  He retired in 1959 with the rank of Major in the USMCR (Reserves). In the meantime, Pete held several teaching positions throughout Idaho. Married Freda Coates in 1947. Son Joe died too early in an unfortunate aircraft accident in 1997.

Pete was elected to the Idaho State House of Representatives in 1950, and served in that capacity for nine terms, the last three as the Speaker of the House.  He was appointed Secretary of State in 1967, and reelected to that position until today, making him the National Dean of Secretaries of State, as well as one of the longest-serving public officials ever, with over 50 years of service.  His position in the government has enabled him to promote legislation in favor of Basque issues.  He has often served as a liaison between Idaho Basques and the Basque country.

Researching Basque history and promoting Basque culture, including a generous gift for this Basque Oral History project, has been another of Pete's lifetime pursuits. Pete was given the "Basque of the World" award by the Basque Government in 2001, in Bilbao.

Audio Recording: 
Pete Describes What It Was Like To Grow Up Around Basque Sheepherders
He Outlines His Political Career
Other Images: