Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.
Amidst all the well deserved accolades for the good, great former four-term governor her role in his success understandably gets overlooked, but it shouldn’t. The Latin phrase “sine qua non” is appropriate. It means “without which there is nothing” and without Carol it is doubtful he would have achieved as much as he did.
Few outside of the immediate family realized how much Cece respected her political instincts, used her as a sounding board, and often listened as she had the last word. She too had multiple roles to handle from the formal duties of being the First Spouse to being a mother to their children, protecting their zone of privacy and fighting for family time.
At times being a political spouse must have been draining to say the least, especially when one values their privacy yet knows that an adoring public expects to know everything and anything about a governor.
I started off on the wrong foot with Carol and ran smack dab into the “Mama Bear” role. It was the winter of 1969 and I was the rookie political reporter at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. I’d begun writing a weekly political column and the key question then was would State Senator Cecil Andrus try again to make a run for governor. If so he would have to win a contested primary.
Without thinking one day I threw into one of those “bits and pieces” columns an item that State Senator Andrus might have a special in with students at Idaho State because Andrus’ oldest daughter, Tana,was dating the ISU student body president. My bad and big mistake.
The next thing I knew I was on the phone with an angry Carol Andrus who explained in no uncertain terms that unless a family member was actually out campaigning for the candidate they were off limits and their right to privacy was to be respected. She was correct and I was wrong and I had the good sense to apologize.
Fast forward to December of 1972 with Cece now being governor. He comes to the breakfast table one morning where Carol is reading the Idaho Statesman. She looks at him with those penetrating eyes and coldly states “I see where I have to read in the paper that you’ve hired Chris Carlson as your press secretary.” Cece acknowledged the obvious and wisely let the subject drop.
It took a couple of years and a long car drive from north Idaho back to Boise during the 1974 campaign in which just the two of us were in the car and we discussed many subjects. I gained an invaluable insight into the multiple roles demanded of Carol and had a new respect for how well she handled all of them.
Another key role for political spouses is to keep the politician’s ego in check. Carol was a master of the well-timed put down. The classic example came early in Cece’s first term as governor. He and Carol were fishing for steelhead on the Clearwater. Cece gave her a few pointers and fairly quickly Carol pulled in a couple of nice fish. Cece still had not landed anything so in a bit of role reversal Carol suggested a couple of pointers.
Naturally, Cece didn’t like the role reversal and the teacher didn’t like the student offering suggestions, so he got a little huffy. Carol looked at him and then struck right to the heart, saying, “well why don’t you just throw a few of your business cards overboard and let the fish know who is up here!” Ouch.
Carol was particularly good at protecting family time and keeping matters private that she felt should be private while still accommodating public interest. The most recent example was the decision by the family for a private funeral church service and a private internment balanced off with a public memorial service at Boise State and the lying in state ceremony at the State Capitol.
Cece had some exceptionally competent administrative assistants over the years – Zuriel Brown, Billie Jeppsen, Clareene Wharry. The common denominator was all three knew the importance of consulting with Carol on the governor’s schedule. Furthermore, they knew they were to assist in preserving Cece’s family time, especially time at their get away cabin on Cascade Reservoir.
I couldn’t help admiring how well Carol composed herself and carried with her usual grace and aplomb the last public role Carol was called to fulfill in late August. Obviously tired she nonetheless displayed steadfast stoicism while comforting grief-stricken daughters and the extended family.
Cece and Carol were married for 68 years. Their devotion to each other and her willingness to share him with the demands of politics was clearly a key to his success.
I invite all those who admired and respected Cecil Andrus to join me in a heartfelt thanks to Carol Andrus for sharing, nurturing, protecting, humbling Cece when needed, and throughout their 68 years loving him as only a spouse can.
Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.Share on Facebook