Longtime state legislator Irv Newhouse dies at age 80

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SUNNYSIDE, Yakima County - Irv Newhouse, who earned a reputation as a brilliant parliamentarian and skilled negotiator during his 34 years in the state Legislature, has died at age 80.

Sen. Newhouse died Thursday night at Hillcrest Manor Nursing Home in Sunnyside after an illness.

A hops farmer from Mabton, he was elected to the state House in 1964 and appointed to the Senate in 1980.

Sen. Newhouse served as Senate Republican floor leader from 1988 to 1996 and was Senate president pro tempore from 1996 until he retired in 1998.

"He was a very common-sense guy who was respected and listened to by Democrats as well as Republicans," Gov. Gary Locke said yesterday. "He was considered a legal scholar even though he never received a law degree. He was also one of the first chairs of the House Judiciary Committee who wasn't a lawyer. Even so, he was one of the best."

State lawmakers honored Sen. Newhouse in 1998 by naming a Senate office building after him. Yesterday, the Senate observed a moment of silence for him.

"Irv was a great mentor to me," said Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, who won the 15th District Senate seat after Newhouse's retirement. "Irv's wisdom and institutional memory were incredible. I could ask him about some issue 25 years ago and he could remember little details about it like it happened yesterday."

Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, who represents Sen. Newhouse's former district in the House, lauded him as someone who "always put the interests of the people of Central Washington first."

Born in Sunnyside on Oct. 16, 1920, Sen. Newhouse was the second oldest of 10 children, the son of Dutch settlers John and Tina Newhouse.

He grew up working on the family dairy farm and in 1939 graduated from what was then Washington State College.

He served in the Navy during World War II, then moved back to Yakima County and started his own farm.

Sen. Newhouse is survived by his wife of 55 years, Ruth Newhouse of Mabton, six brothers and sisters, six children, 18 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Christian Reformed Church in Sunnyside.

A memorial scholarship fund has been established in Sen. Newhouse's name at the U.S. Bank in Sunnyside. Contributions may be sent to the Irving Newhouse Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o U.S. Bank, P.O. Box 29, Sunnyside, WA 98944.