Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Tribute to Rep. Allen Andersen

Allen Andersen's parents were buried in Arbon Valley, Idaho where they spent most of their lives farming. As a young man, Allen spent a great deal of time in Arbon Valley as well, though he attended school in Pocatello. It's fitting that Allen, the former state representative, will be laid to rest in the city to which he devoted so much of his life.

For those of us who knew Allen, it came as a great shock when he passed away last week of a sudden heart attack. If others who knew Allen were at all like me, the shock of it all left us struggling to put into words what Allen meant to us. One word that consistently came up when I spoke to others who knew Allen was kind. Allen was one of the kindest people I ever had the privilege of knowing. His sincere kindness was a constant, as was his sense of humor.

Not only did Allen serve in the Idaho House of Representatives and as chairman of the Bannock County Democrats, he most recently served as co-chair of the first Idaho Redistricting Commission. But Allen's service didn't begin and end with politics. As a former teacher and regional director of the Idaho Education Association, Allen's heart belonged to public education. His more than two decades advocating for public education touched thousands of lives. The Idaho Education Association's collection of responses to the passing of Allen Andersen speaks to how deeply he was loved by his friends and colleagues.

For me personally, Allen Andersen was both a friend and mentor. I came to greatly appreciate his gentle friendship and deeply admired his dedication to public service. Allen was never content with a simple handshake, instead always offering a hug. I was blessed to co-host a local access television show for the Bannock County Democrats with Allen and will always cherish those segments as well as the wealth of knowledge he shared with me during filming. I was also blessed to have the opportunity to campaign for Allen in 2006 when he, James Ruchti and Diane Bilyeu were running for District 29 legislative seats. The truth is, it was one of the easiest campaigning efforts ever due to everyone loving Allen. When I was involved in student government at ISU, Allen was very supportive of everything I was doing and we had many a conversation that ended with him encouraging me to run for Pocatello City Council. That was never in the cards for me, but his confidence in me and support of my goals will never be forgotten. Allen's passing leaves a void in my life and the lives of so many.

There are few people who have so completely and passionately devoted their lives to public service the way Allen Andersen had. This state would be the better for it if more approached public service as Allen did. His presence in Idaho politics, public education, his church, and his community will be deeply missed. Though we will all miss him greatly, the mark he left on our lives and hearts will never be forgotten.

[This piece was cross-posted at 43rd State Blues. The photo that appears here was attained from the Cornelison Funeral Home with permission of the Andersen family.]

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