The tragic death of former Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage in an automobile accident on October 2, left me, like so many others, stunned. Her sudden passing was all the more shocking since it followed by only four months the death of her husband, Wayne Hage, a well-known fellow champion of property rights and constitutional government. Over the years, both Wayne and Helen had written articles for THE New AMERICAN. Each of them had also been the subject of separate feature interviews in the magazine, and each had been the focus of multiple stories in these pages.
I first met Helen Chenoweth many years before she would gain national recognition in the political world. She was a young wife and mother in my hometown of Orofino, a small timber town in northern Idaho. I was her paperboy and, on a couple of occasions, her baby sitter, when my sisters weren't available to watch her children, Megan and Michael. Later, in high school, I worked part-time for her husband, Nick Chenoweth, in his construction business. I was always impressed with Helen's intelligence, gracious charm, warm friendliness, and captivating smile.
Although I had always considered her a friend and neighbor, in the way that folks in small, rural communities do, our real friendship didn't blossom until after my graduation from college in 1975. That same year, Helen became America's first woman to be appointed a state executive director for the Republican Party. She and Nick also became deeply involved at that time in the reelection race of their longtime friend, Idaho Congressman Steve Symms, for whom Helen served as chief of staff. For a couple months in 1976, I became the volunteer chauffeur for Congressman Symms and the Chenoweths, as we crisscrossed Idaho's beautiful 1st Congressional District on the political stump circuit. It was an exciting time.
I soon went on to join the staff of The John Birch Society and began to write for its magazines. Helen continued on in politics and then launched another career as co-founder of a consulting firm that fought for the rights of property owners and against the heavy hand of federal regulation and taxation that was crushing family farms, ranches, and businesses. …