Reactions to J.R. Simplot's death

btalbutt@idahostatesman.comMay 25, 2008 

Author of “A Billion the Hard Way,” Simplot biographer Dr. Louie Atteberry said Simplot must have been one of the few billionaires who knew hard, physical labor.

“He grew up on a farm. He got up early, could hitch a team and do the hard work of farming,” said Atteberry. Simplot was dyslexic and struggled in school. He dropped out, calling himself “dumb,” and went to work sorting potatoes. Atteberry said Simplot was anything but dumb and calls him a genius.

“In the complicated way that judgment and memory and observation comes together in one mind, J.R. was brilliant,” he said. “He had an uncommon vision, was a one-world figure, an internationalist who believed that the world’s problems and the solutions were interconnected.”

Simplot created a pattern of hard work and success that should be an inspiration to young people today, said Atteberry. “J.R. said, ‘I never frauded anybody’, by which he meant he never took anything he hadn’t earned,” said Atteberry. “His word was his bond and his handshake was better than a contract.”

Atteberry says he doesn’t think Simplot was a religious man. “I don’t think he worried about death, but he knew where he came from and what he ought to do. He lived a full life with no regrets, and between birth and death, always opportunity.”

Retired dentist John Lundy of Boise met “Jack” in 1946 after he came home from the war. He says there never was a greater competitor than J.R. Simplot.

Lundy says he and Simplot often went to Fruitland to hunt ducks, and they would always leave at 4 a.m. so there would be a couple hours to play gin before the hunting started.

“He would play just as hard for a dollar as he would for a hundred,” said Lundy. “He was a wonderful wing-shot too, and he would never let anyone bring their dogs to hunt because he had a Chesapeake retriever that he loved. “Rebel will get them all” he would say.”

Former Idaho Power chief Jim Bruce says J.R. Simplot was simply “one of the great individuals in Idaho history, an icon of the State.” Bruce calls Simplot - who was on the board of Idaho Power - “a visionary who proved you could start out with nothing and make something of yourself.”

Other reactions

Simplot Company president and CEO Larry Hlobik statement:

“This is a sad day for our employees, all Idahoans, and especially Simplot family members.” On behalf of myself and every other company employee, I’d like to send sincere condolences to Mr. Simplot’s family. Our thoughts and best wishes are with them in this difficult time.”

“J. R. was the most beloved figure in our organization and a man we all admired very much. You know that a person might not be with you for that much longer when they reach 99 years of age as Mr. Simplot had in January, but this is still a shock. He was one of those people who seemed like they could live forever.”

Hlobik said Simplot family members are discussing arrangements for their patriarch’s funeral. “An announcement will be made when details have been resolved.”

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter statement:

“J.R. Simplot was a wonderful man and a great mentor who embodied what Idaho is all about. His love of family, his appreciation of America, his work ethic and his devotion to making this a better world through the free enterprise system all are values to which Idaho aspires. He had a huge impact on my life for over 30 years, and I shall miss him.”

Congressman Bill Sali statement: “J.R. Simplot left an indelible mark on our state and our nation. Almost all Idahoans were touched by his life in one way or another, whether we realize it or not. Numerous individuals and families felt that impact on a very personal level. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Esther Simplot and her family.”

Statement from Congressman Mike Simpson:

“We all know the name J.R. Simplot. He was a good corporate citizen who continuously gave back to our communities. His contributions to our state exceed well beyond pioneering the frozen technology that made French Fries possible. Our entire country benefited from his futuristic vision. Right now, Kathy and my thoughts are with Ester and the rest of the Simplot family.”

Statement from Idaho Senator Mike Crapo:

“J.R. Simplot lived his life to the fullest, blazing a trail through industry, agriculture and the arts that is hard to match. He was a remarkable man, who used his vision to create technology that has benefitted our entire country. His legacy will be long remembered by our state; he left his mark on not just Idaho, but on the world. Idaho has lost one of its favorite sons today, and I join with Esther and the rest of the Simplot family in mourning his passing.”

Statement from Mayor David Bieter:

“I was saddened to hear of the passing of J.R. Simplot. J.R. did many great things for Idaho and for Boise, but one thing that people may not know about is that he was instrumental in saving Bogus Basin during a difficult time for the resort. He was an outstanding person and my heart goes out to his family.”

Statement from Walt Minnick:

“I served a dozen years on the board of the College of Idaho, and have fond memories of all that J.R. Simplot did to help the school get through some tough times. The school once threw a party for J.R. and for Joe Albertson, and the two of them spent the whole noon hour poking fun at each other and making jokes about who had really saved the school. The reality is that both of them saved that school.

“J.R. had an unusual energy that electrified a room. He was a visionary, an independent thinker, a leader and one of Idaho’s great philanthropists. His business career and life reflects all Idaho was, is and will become, from its agricultural roots to its growing future in technology.

“His legacy will live on thanks to the good work of his many children and grandchildren who continue to call Idaho home. My thoughts and prayers are with them and with Esther.”

Brad Talbutt: 672-6737

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