We are so sorry to learn of the passing of Eddie Basha. For those of us who were public school educators during the 1980s-90s, Eddie Basha was our hero. He was a leading voice in trying to move Arizona toward positive educational reform but was also a voice in support of the parents and educational staffs who worked in the schools for the children of Arizona. He was one very special man.
Eddie also loved Arizona and at the Basha's corporate headquarters in Chandler, he put together one of the greatest museum of Western American & Native American art found anywhere. We wrote a story about the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery a few years ago and share it here in honor of Eddie. Hopefully the Basha Corporation will continue to open this wonderful museum for the enjoyment and education of all the people of Arizona. This museum is well worth the drive to Chandler, Arizona.
Rest in peace, Eddie Basha. God just recalled one of his best earthly angels. Thank you for all you did for us and the kids and the people of Arizona. We will all miss you! With the greatest of admiration and respect - "you did great, brother!"
Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher
Basha Corporation gave us permission to use the following photos in our 2008 IN&Out Magazine article. We share them again here.
It is quite possible that Arizona’s best Western art museum is found in the most unique location for a museum in all of Arizona. The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American & Native American Art is housed at the cooperate headquarters of Bashas’ Supermarkets in Chandler, Arizona. The words spectacular, beautiful and amazing are understatements for the quality and quantity of western art found in this visitor friendly museum.
The Basha family entered the Arizona grocery when brothers Ike and Eddie, Sr. opened their first store in 1932. Today the 153 Basha stores, some of which are called AJ’s Fine Food and Food City, serve communities throughout Arizona, New Mexico and California. Cooperate growth over the last 40 years has been under the leadership of Eddie Basha, Jr., one of the real good guys in the Arizona story.
Eddie Basha, Jr. graduated from Stanford University with a degree in history but came back to Arizona in the early 1960s to rejoin his father’s grocery business. Aunt Zelma Basha had cared for Eddie, Jr as a child and had involved him in those early years in her artwork and the works of other artists. She now encouraged Eddie, Jr. to get a hobby that would involve him more deeply with his community and that would support the arts.
With his interest in history, especially Western History and his aunt’s influence for the arts, Eddie Basha, Jr. purchased his first artistic piece in 1971. He hasn’t stopped his buying yet and how lucky we all are for that fact.
Over the past 40 years Eddie Basha, Jr. was a major supporter of schools and schoolteachers throughout Arizona. He served as the chairman of the Arizona Board of Education and ran for Governor of Arizona in 1994. During all those years, he kept adding to his art collection and what a treasure that collection has now become.
The Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery opened its doors to the public in 1992. Within two years the first expansion doubled the size. Additional expansions occurred in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2005 until today the museum occupies over 4000 square feet with 1500+ pieces of Western and Native American art displayed.
Within the museum one will find a spectacular “Cowboy Artist of America” collection featuring founding members Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen. Other paintings from artists John Clymer, James Reynolds, Melvin Warren, etc., etc., etc. cover wall after wall after wall of this mind boggling Western Art display.
But the museum visitor has only just begun this odyssey. There is what must be the largest and most spectacular display of Hopi Katsinas as well as Native American pottery, jewelry and fetishes. These pieces are the works of artists named Yazzie, Calnimptewa, Begay and so many more.
A whole room is dedicated to Native American baskets of the late 1880s – early 1900s. One after another after another after another greet the visitor with their beautiful designs and their exquisite handwork.
So, what has this special man, Eddie Basha, Jr. done with his amazing art collection? In true Eddie fashion, he has made it available to the people of Arizona. At what cost to enter such an amazing museum, you ask? Well, for all of us who have known him through the years, it is no surprise that the charge to enter Eddie Basha’s Jr.’s museum is, well, just FREE! “Eddie, get involved with your community and support the arts” – he did Aunt Zelma, oh, he did! You did well, brother, you did very well!