When “Bee” Comstock was in a room, you knew it. She sparkled. Outspoken, confident, charming and elegant, she could talk with anyone, and “five minutes later, they were best friends,” says her son Ralph Comstock III.
A well-known Treasure Valley community leader, hostess and style maven, Comstock died on Feb. 5 at the age of 100.
The family will celebrate and remember her life during funeral services at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the LDS North Stake Center, 8620 W. Goddard Road. The family also will hold a reception at the center from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, to meet and greet friends.
She was eternally optimistic, Ralph says.
“That’s what people admired most about her,” he says.
Bee and her husband, Ralph Comstock Jr., moved to Boise from Pocatello with their three children in 1962 when Ralph became the executive vice president of First Security Bank of Idaho. Two years later he became president, chairman and CEO of the now defunct First Security. (In 2000, First Security merged with Wells Fargo.)
The Comstocks quickly became part of Boise’s cultural fabric, often taking on causes in tandem, immersing themselves in a social group that included Velma Morrison, Arthur and Jane Oppenheimer, John and Dee Fery and others who through their philanthropy would help to shape Boise as we know it. (John Fery died Saturday, Feb. 11.)
“They were movers and shakers,” Ralph III says. “They worked as a team with a lot of what they did to support Boise and the causes that helped the community grow. ”
After Ralph Jr. died in 1995, the St. Luke’s Foundation established the Light of Philanthropy Award, which is given annually a person who reflects the philanthropic spirit Comstock embodied.
As much as she supported her husband, she also had her own causes and ambitions. Bee Comstock brimmed with enthusiasm and became an ambassador-at-large for the groups she took on — from the Boise Philharmonic to the Rotary Club to helping to create the Morrison Center and much more.
Born Sarah Bernice Broomfield, she grew up in Bountiful, Utah, and attended the University of Utah, where she studied nutrition and home sciences. That’s where she met Ralph. The couple married and moved around during Ralph’s military service. Comstock taught homemaking skills for Utah Power and Light and Safeway, and turned down an offer to do a television show in New York for General Electric.
After World War II, they settled in Ralph’s Southeast Idaho hometown of Pocatello to start their family.
Bee was always there when the kids came home from school. With her background in nutrition, she sent them to school with raisins and nuts for treats; they ate three colors of vegetables at dinner as well as home-baked bread.
“Whenever mom would go on a trip to visit her mother, dad and I would make a beeline for the store to buy white bread,” fashion designer Robert Comstock says. “We loved it, but she would not have it in the house.”
She never wavered in her devotion to her family.
“She was extremely supportive of us, devoted and dedicated to the things we were involved in,” her daughter Christine Poole says. “She believed in us and helped us to believe in ourselves.”
Comstock’s children say she supported every project they pursued, including Robert Comstock’s high-end leather clothing business, which has grown into a multinational fashion corporation. The business got its start in 1976 in the Comstocks’ Boise home.
“The garage was my warehouse, and the basement was my ‘world headquarters,’” Robert Comstock says. He spoke from New York City, where his company is now headquartered. “The family phone number was on my card. I remember getting this phone call from my first big client, and he wanted to talk to my shipping department. I took the rotary phone over to her and said, ‘Hey, Mom, here’s the phone. Answer it, ‘Shipping.’ She did, and neither of us knew what to say next.”
Bee Comstock twice invested in Robert Comstock & Co. when the company was in jeopardy. Once with Ralph Jr., and another time on her own, Robert Comstock says.
“She could have lost everything, but she put it all on the line for me,” he says. “I don’t know many parents who would do that. At the end of the day, she was totally devoted.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts be sent to St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.