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Longtime partner hopes people will carry on work after local NAACP leader passes

Ken Monroe | Courtesy of Jan Gillette
POCATELLO — A partner, father, grandfather and longtime community leader of the Gate City has died.
Ken Monroe, the president of the Pocatello NAACP branch, passed away from a heart attack on March 8. The love of his life and longtime partner Jan Gillette hopes that other members of the Gate City community will step up to carry on the work he was passionate about.
“I want to make him proud. I want us to realize we need to carry on what he was working so hard to accomplish,” Gillette said.
Monroe and Gillette met on a “beautiful” summer day at Pub New Harmony around eight years ago. While chatting with a group of young woman, Gillette told them she thought Monroe was cute.
He was wearing blue shorts, a blue and white t-shirt and a button up shirt that was open. Gillette found her attention drawn to him as she sat across the bar.
“His smile lights up a room. He’s got the best smile in the world and that’s what won me over,” Gillette said.
The girls approached Monroe and told him what Gillette had said about him. He approached her not long after.
“So I heard you think I’m cute?” Monroe asked.
“Yeah, you’re not too bad,” Gillette responded.
The two started talking, got to know each other “and we have never been apart since,” Gillette said.

Ken Monroe and Jan Gillette | Courtesy of Jan Gillette
While neither one of them had been looking for anything at the time, they clicked and built a life together. Monroe had three children when they met each other and Gillette had two. Her kids saw Monroe as a father figure and their children saw him as a grandfather.
“We had a relationship where we could talk very seriously about things, we could joke about things, we could tease each other. We laughed a lot,” Gillette said.
Something fun Gillette and Monroe would do was watch sports together, like baseball, basketball and football.
While they were both fans of the sports they were watching, they weren’t fans of the same teams. Monroe was a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, Gillette preferred the Green Bay Packers.
There was almost a Super Bowl with those teams playing each other “but Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t run the ball,” Monroe would remind Gillette.
If both of their teams had gone to the Super Bowl, they were going to decorate the house green, gold and red.
“We laughed because I wouldn’t eat any food off of his Kansas City Chiefs plate, and we still joked about that even to this day,” Gillette said.
Monroe’s love of sports went all the way back to his days as a teenager going to Pocatello High School.
He played football, basketball and track, holding the state shot put record for 31 years. After high school, he attended Idaho State University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and played on the football team for four seasons.
Monroe and his family of three siblings and mother, Aurora Love, moved to Pocatello in 1954 when the city’s Historic Triangle Neighborhood still existed. This was a diverse neighborhood made up of many Black, Hispanic, Asian, Italian, Greek and French people.
RELATED | Pocatello to document the history of the Historic Triangle Neighborhood
Being with Monroe opened Gillette’s eyes to the struggles he faced as a Black man in society.
Gillette recalled a day when they were driving through Pocatello, showing her where the Historic Triangle Neighborhood used to be. He told her that he could go across Oak Street back then.
“You couldn’t what?” Gillette asked, shocked.
“I mean, I could go across Oak Street, but they wouldn’t serve me,” Monroe explained.
The couple even had experiences similar to this.
Once when Monroe and Gillette went to a restaurant in town, they were seated in the back room while the rest of diners were in the front.
“Is the front room closed?” Monroe asked their waiter.
“Oh no, it’s not,” they responded.
“So it hasn’t gone away,” Gillette explained. “But he was trying to bring light to it.”
Gillette said that Monroe was a strong Black leader for the NAACP, and she doesn’t know where the organization will go from here.
“It would be devastating to watch the NAACP fold because we lost Ken,” Gillette said.
She said that preventing that from happening will require the current members along with anyone else who decides to join in the future to “step up” to continue his work. While flowers are appreciated, Gillette said that people could honor Monroe better by donating to the branch.
“We need people to not be afraid. Come on, let’s do this,” Gillette said. “What a better way to honor him.”
The post Longtime partner hopes people will carry on work after local NAACP leader passes appeared first on East Idaho News.

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