Gene Edward Fuzzell, longtime sheriff of Idaho County, died peacefully on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. He was born on March 30, 1925, in Nowata, Okla., to David Washington Fuzzell and Ella May (Briggs) Fuzzell and joined siblings: brother J. R., and sisters Margaret, Audy and Francis.
Gene’s mother died when he was a small child shortly after giving birth to his younger sister Ella Lee. In the absence of his mother, Gene’s early development was greatly influenced by his grandparents, stepmother and older siblings.
He left Oklahoma as a teenager and moved to California. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, which he hoped would allow him to enjoy international travel, but ended up spending most of his enlistment in the California desert. His service was cut short when he received life-threatening injuries as the result of an automobile accident. He spent 11 months in the hospital, which likely influenced his enlistment in the U.S. Maritime Service where he served aboard the U.S.S. Marigold, a hospital ship that transported wounded military personnel from Japan and the Philippines.
To say that Gene had an interesting life would be an understatement. As a young man he traveled the west and found work in construction, agriculture and mining. He even did some prizefighting and once rode a bull to earn a few extra dollars. He eventually landed in Idaho County where he mined gold in the Florence area before moving to Riggins. While there, he worked for the City of Riggins and as a sheriff’s deputy. He also met the love of his life and married Jean Marie (Hamilton) and together they raised three children.
After working as a deputy for several years, Gene ran for sheriff in 1962 and after a successful election the family moved to Grangeville where he stayed until health issues required a move to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley in 2014. He served as the Idaho County Sheriff until 1975 when he was injured in a snowmobile accident while transporting an emergency radio into Florence.
After his retirement, he continued to enjoy camping, fishing and hunting with family and friends. He enjoyed being a peace officer and spoke fondly of the people and places in Idaho County. He referred to it as “God’s Country” — he was right. He treated people with respect and kindness no matter their social status, which was evident from the many cards and letters he received from crime victims, recovered hikers/hunters and even from some of the prisoners that spent time in the county jail.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, siblings, wife and a grandson, J. Tyler Thomason.
He is survived by his children, Bruce (Tucson, Ariz.), David and Sydney Fuzzell (Cottonwood) and Tina and Mike Thomason (Lewiston). He also leaves three granddaughters, Sara, Emily, Megan; three grandsons, Mario, Nicholas and Jon; 10 great-grandchildren and many extended family members whom he loved dearly.
His family is deeply appreciative of the care he received from his physicians and the staffs at Evergreen Estates, Tri-State Memorial Hospital, the Idaho State Veterans Home and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.
At Gene’s request there will be no memorial service, however the family would appreciate stories and remembrances be sent to blackmerfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Idaho County Search and Rescue, 320 Main St., Grangeville, ID 83530. He will be missed.