Former Wood River Valley “Citizen of the Year” John S. Chapman died Monday in Boise at age 77.
Chapman was active for many years as a board member of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, St. Luke’s Wood River hospital and the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation.
Chapman was a 50-year member of Hailey’s Masonic Lodge No. 16, and a longtime supporter of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey.
Chapman’s work as a public official in Boise helped to establish the Boise Greenbelt. He was also a key figure in helping to establish the Martin Institute, a center for peace studies and conflict resolution at his alma mater, the University of Idaho. In 2008, he endowed a chair for peace studies at the Martin School of International Studies at the university and was honored with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his life accomplishments.
“He was devoted to the community in so many ways,” said Jeanne Cassell, who served with Chapman as a nonprofit board member in the Wood River Valley. “He helped our organizations in many ways. He was a wonderful gentleman, always kind and thoughtful. He loved this community.”
One of Chapman’s grandfathers came to Idaho on a wagon train from Missouri in 1864 to find gold. Another arrived in 1904 to manage a mining company, later serving as interim president of the University of Idaho. Chapman’s father and uncle were attorneys in Twin Falls, where they gave speeches in support of the Democratic Party during the Great Depression.
Chapman’s father bought the Cloverly Ranch north of Hailey in 1941. The ranch had been the first parsonage for priests of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey.
Chapman worked as a busboy and “dead-head” mail carrier for General Manager Winston McCrea at Sun Valley Resort before traveling by train to Chicago to work as a page at the 1956 Democratic National Convention. He attended the University of Idaho and Stanford University Law School before working as an estate-planning attorney in Boise and the Wood River Valley for many years.
Chapman’s political activities included serving as treasurer for Idaho Govs. Cecil Andrus and John Evans. He also served for 10 years on the executive committee of the National Democratic Party, and for four years as representative for the Democratic Party of the 11 Western states.
As chair of the Idaho Commission on the Arts during the 1980s, Chapman helped to start Arts for Idaho to lobby for more money from the Legislature for arts funding. He also served nationally on the State Arts Advocacy League.
“When we began, Idaho was 52nd in the nation, behind even Guam and Puerto Rico,” Chapman said in interview in 2010. “By the time we finished, Idaho was ranked 26th in arts funding.”
Former state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, who served with Chapman on the Idaho Commission on the Arts, said, “His contribution to the arts and to the state were very valuable. His estate-planning services were also very beneficial for many nonprofit organizations. This is something he did very quietly.”
Chapman hosted numerous fundraisers for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and for the Idaho Democratic Party at the Cloverly Ranch, where he lived with Steve Champion, his partner of 34 years.
Chapman and Champion were longtime members of a private fraternity of gay men known as Gamma Mu. They were married aboard a yacht in New York City harbor on July 4, 2012.
In 1988, Chapman established the Gamma Mu Foundation at the Cloverly Ranch “to support the unmet needs of the gay community on a nationwide and continuing basis.”
As described in its mission statement, the Gamma Mu Foundation is “a perpetual, philanthropic fund to provide financial assistance for the health, enhancement, and pride of our community.”
Funeral services will be conducted by Episcopal Rev. Shawn Cart, on Monday, July 15, at 2 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, Box 640, Hailey, ID 83333.