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20 years


A true American patriot died on Monday, October 2 in a one-car crash near Tonopath, Nevada (172 miles northwest of Las Vegas)—and America barely noticed. ABC, CBS, NBC nor FOX did not interrupt regular programming to note the passing of Helen Chenoweth-Hage. There was no brief eulogy on FOX News, MSNBC or CNN. The major liberal media was completely devoid of even a three or four line news blurb about her passing on Tuesday. A few western newspapers covered her death, and ABC included the AP wire service story on their website. But no major newspaper in the country thought the tragic death of a popular Congresswoman was worth the filler space. FOX News—which is hawked by the left as the media of the right—sadly, did not think the death of former three-term Idaho Congresswoman was worth an additional 15-minutes of fame.

Chenoweth's daughter, Megan Chenoweth-Keenan, provided details of her mother's death to the media. Chenoweth-Hage, an arch-conservative lawmaker who was idolized by the militia movement, was the passenger in a car driven by her 24-year old daughter-in-law Yelena Hage, and Hage's 5-month old son, Bryan as well as other family members. Details of how the accident occurred were not released to the media. Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Rocky Gonzalez only said that Chenoweth-Hage was holding the baby in her lap, and that the former Congresswoman was not wearing a seat belt. Chenoweth-Hage and her grandson were thrown from the car on impact. She managed to shield the baby who miraculously suffered only minor injuries. Chenoweth-Hage was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was seriously injured.

Born in Topeka, Kansas in 1938, Chenoweth-Hage grew up in Grants Pass, Oregon. She attended Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington before moving to the Idaho lumber town of Orofino where she worked at Northside Medical Center. Getting the political bug, she moved to Boise in the 1970s when she became the Executive Director of the Idaho Republican Party, and later, as Chief of Staff for US Congressman Steven Symms.

In the 1980s the darling of the right had a five-year affair with a married man that would come back to haunt her during her third and final political campaign. (Chenoweth made a three-term pledge when she campaigned for the House of Representatives in 1994, and was one of a handful of conservatives elected during the Republican Revolution who actually kept her word.) Helen Chenoweth ran for Congress in 1994 against Idaho incumbent Democrat Larry LaRocco and gained national attention when she held "endangered salmon bakes," serving canned salmon and ridiculing the listing of Idaho salmon as an endangered species during fundraisers.

Challenging her in 1998—as he did in 1996—was Dan Williams, a Boise attorney who had served as an aide to former Democratic Idaho governor Cecil Andrus during his second term. The battle between Williams and Chenoweth was a battle between urban growth (Williams' position) and protecting the rights of Idaho's ranchers and landowners (Chenoweth's position). Chenoweth was clearly winning. Williams' introduced Chenoweth's illicit affair into the race. Liberal smear websites sprang up all over the Internet as smear jockeys painted Chenoweth as Harlot #1. It was the nastiest political campaigns of the season. When the dust settled, Chenoweth won her third term by a margin of 6,500 votes.

When she retired from the House, Chenoweth-Hage did not retire from politics. She traveled throughout the northwest with her husband fighting for private property rights and to curtail the federal government's ownership and control of public lands. While attending a field hearing on "forest health" in Montana where she was scheduled to speak in September, 2000, she was hit in the face with a "pie" made from rotten salmon. The meeting was adjourned long enough for the former Congresswoman to clean salmon flakes from her hair and jacket. When she finally took the podium, she joked: "I would like to say that I find it amusing that they used salmon. I guess salmon must not be endangered anymore." In 1995 Chenoweth called for the disarming of federal resources agents after they landed black helicopters (which are actually a dark brown color) on private land in eastern Idaho to enforce the Endangered Species Act on the intimidated landowner. Later, Chenoweth was forced to admit that she had never seen a black helicopter on private land in Idaho. And, of course, we all know—according to the left—if the right doesn't have photographic proof of an event, it must not have happened.

In 1999 Chenoweth married Wayne Hage, the Nevada rancher who epitomized Nevada's sagebrush rebellion as the leader of that State's fight for private property rights and curbing oppressive laws designed to strip landowners of the use of their own land. Hage held a master's degree in livestock management from the University of Nevada-Reno. The media described Hage as a "...blend of old-school frontierism and intellectualism." Hage's first wife, Jean, died in 1997. She was buried in a meadow she loved behind the ranch house Hage shared with his new bride in 1999.

When Helen and Wayne married in 1999, Chuck Cushman, Executive Director of the American Land Rights Association said when the congresswoman retired he expected to see her continue her penchant as a firebrand for the conservative cause. "I don't see either one of them riding off into the sunset anytime soon." Both rode off into the sunset far too soon for the American right. Hage died in June of this year. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, the firebrand of the right, died without any media fanfare on Monday, October 2, 2006. Cushman was wrong about one thing. He was convinced that even if Wayne and Helen Hage rode off into the sunset, "...they won't do it quietly." But quietly they did. And that is a real American tragedy.

Helen Chenoweth's funeral will be held at 2:00 p.m. MDT, Monday, October 9th. The funeral service will be at the Capital Christian Center, 2760 East Fairview, Meridian, Idaho, 83642 (Pastor Ken Wilde; 208-888-1060; corner of Meridian Street and Fairview Avenue, Meridian, Idaho).


Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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