BELLEVUE — Pete Cenarrusa selflessly served others in hopes that their lives would become better.
It was the message of Deacon John McKinley's homily at an interment ceremony Saturday at the Bellevue Cemetery for Idaho's longest-serving elected official.
As he stood behind the tombstone, McKinley told more than 70 attendees that Jesus asked us to love our brothers and sisters. What better example of that than how Cenarrusa lived his life, he said, through service in the military and to the state.
"In doing so, it was not done in personal self gain," McKinley said. "It was done in love and charity."
Cenarrusa, a sheep rancher, served the state for more than 50 years first as a state legislator and then as Idaho Secretary of State.
Cenarrusa, 95, died Sept. 29 in Boise after a three-year battle with cancer.
He was born in Carey and grew up attending school in Bellevue, a city in Blaine County that now has just over 2,200 residents.
Before the burial service began, attendees greeted each other with handshakes and hugs. On the sunny but chilly Saturday morning, people were bundled in jackets as they stood in a grassy area near tombstones at the Bellevue Cemetery. About 20 family members sat or stood under a blue tent behind the casket.
The Idaho Army National Guard provided military honors at the ceremony.
As the burial service started, members of National Guard carried the casket with an American flag draped over it.
Family members and friends took off their hats, and many put their hand over their heart.
McKinley invited the crowd to gather closer before he started the homily.
He told the group that it was a beautiful day to celebrate Cenarrusa's life. McKinley said he couldn't have asked for a better day, "unless jazz is playing," and the crowd laughed.
After a prayer, he walked around the casket, sprinkling it with holy water to bless the gravesite. It's a reminder of the promise that came with baptism, he said eternal life.
As the Idaho Army National Guard continued to stand at attention, two of the honorary pallbearers Miren Artiach and Miren Eiguren read two Basque poems. It was a way to honor Cenarrusa's Basque heritage.
After Artiach read each poem in Basque, Eiguren translated into English.
Following the ceremony, Artiach and Eigurean told the Times-News that they were like Cenarrusa's adopted daughters. Eigurean said she lived with the family for three years and Artiach worked for Cenarrusa.
Members of the Idaho Army National Guard fired three gunshots to salute Cenarrusa, which was followed by the playing of "Taps" on a trumpet. As the music played, a few family members and friends clenched tissues in their hands, bowing their heads and wiping away tears.
The American flag was folded and presented to Pete's wife, Freda. She put the flag gently in her lap, resting her hands on top of it.
As he concluded the 30-minute ceremony, McKinley said the idea he wanted everyone to take home is "what Pope Francis is trying to tell us."
The most important person in this world is the poorest, McKinley said. He challenged the crowd to ask the questions of how they handle wealth.
"Are we generous for the benefit of others?" he asked.