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Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga

Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga
Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga

28/06/2017 - Boise, EEUU

Born in Ziortza-Bolibar, Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga, 76, died on June 28, 2017 at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, several days after suffering a stroke.

A rosary service will be held on Sunday July 9 at 7pm, with a funeral held on Monday July 10 at 11 a.m. Both services will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 2612 W. State St. in Boise. Burial will follow at Morris Hill Cemetery.

Arrieta is survived by his wife Josune, son Jon of Mountain Home, brother Javier of Mountain Home and brother Ignacio of Gernika, Basque Country.

Ez adiorik, Jose Luis

Today we lost another great Euskalduna. Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga known to many as "Highland Joe" has passed away, with family by his side. Growing up, his son Jon (forever Jontxu to me), my sister Angie, and I were raised more like siblings than cousins because Josune, Jon's mom watched us during the day at their home, making us the original 3 kids of what would be 100s of kids to be loved and cared for there. As I got a little older Jontxu and I would head out with Jose Luis to the sheep camp or the mountains, to check on herders, bring them supplies or setup a coral and help count the band. We had many adventures and I have so many stories with Jose Luis. As I grew up, graduated and moved away I saw them less, but always made an effort to swing by when I was in town and see Josune and Jose Luis as they have always been like second parents. More recently, as Jose Luis retired, I realized Jose Luis had joined what I like to call the "mus circuit" travelling around to various local tournaments as part of a cuadrilla with my dad. I last saw him this past March in Mtn Home for such a tournament. Goian bego Jose Luis. I am sure you have already found some cards with Jose Ramon Legarreta and you're already well on your way to 40 tantos. (by Joe Guerricabeitia Murelaga )


Read this nice last farewell article to Jose Luis by John Sowell published June 30 in Idaho Statesman (with a picture selection):

Sheepherder dies at 76; you know him as the weightlifter in Boise’s Basque Block mural

by John Sowell.

When they unveiled the mural in Boise’s Basque Block in 2000, José Luis Arrieta Arriaga refused to go see it.

Arrieta, shown hefting a 230-pound cube during a traditional Basque weightlifting competition, was extremely proud to be included on the outdoor mural depicting Basque life through the ages. However, it just wasn’t in the longtime Boise resident’s nature to put on airs or go around promoting himself.

“He wouldn’t go see it until Patty Miller (then executive director of the Basque Museum & Cultural Center) grabbed him by the hand and made him see it,” said Arrieta’s son, Jon, 39.

Arrieta, who emigrated from the Basque Country at age 18 and spent his entire career in the sheep business, died Wednesday morning at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, several days after suffering a stroke. He was 76.

“It’s a sad day for the sheep industry and the Basque community both,” said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, whose family employed Arrieta soon after he arrived and for four decades afterward. “He was a big part of our family and he took care of the sheep like they were his own. We were very lucky to have him working for us.”

A rosary service will be held at 7 p.m. July 9, with a funeral held the following day at 11 a.m. Both services will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 2612 W. State St. in Boise. Burial will follow at Morris Hill Cemetery.

Arrieta is survived by his wife Josune, son Jon of Mountain Home, brother Javier of Mountain Home and brother Ignacio of Gernika, Spain.

Arrieta met Josune, also a native of the Basque Country, when she was visiting relatives in Boise. They married in the Basque Country in 1971.

Arrieta, who came from the small village of Ziortza-Bolibar in the Biscay province, arrived in Boise the day after Christmas in 1958. Three days later, he went to work for Jessie Naylor, Little’s aunt from Emmett, and the family’s Highland Livestock and Land Co. He became so intertwined with the Little family and their sheep operation that he became known as “Highland Joe.”

While Basques did not herd sheep in the old country, a lot of Basque immigrants who came to the United States did so. They didn’t have to speak English. The skills were easily learned. And by spending most of their time in far-flung sheep camps, they saved their money, which was often used after a few years to buy a business or start a new one.

Arrieta stuck with the sheep business. He spent 11 years as a sheepherder and was promoted to foreman when the person in that position retired. He wasn’t sure he wanted the position and the extra responsibilities it entailed, but another worker convinced him he was the right man for the job, Jon Arrieta said.

“He loved every aspect of the sheep industry. He knew it wasn’t the most glamorous job or the best job but it was clean and pure and he really enjoyed it,” Jon said. “He enjoyed the guys, the mountains, the deserts. That whole industry just felt like home to him.”

Arrieta was a hardworking guy who was well known in U.S. Basque circles for his weightlifting skills in what is known in the Basque language Euskara as Herri Kirolak, or Basque rural sports, said Joe Guerricabeitia, whose father was a cousin of Arrieta.

The sports, including stone lifting, chopping wood and drilling holes in quarry rocks, trace their origins to farm work. Steeped in bravado, men wanted to show they were the strongest and the fastest, said Guerricabeitia, who grew up in the Treasure Valley and now lives outside Seattle.

“Those skills were very important,” he said.

Guerricabeitia said Arrieta would have never asked for his image to be placed on the Basque Block mural, but it was fitting that he was depicted in the weightlifting scene. Arrieta and fellow local weightlifter Benny Goitandia traveled the West extensively to compete against one another and were well known in Basque circles.

“I’m sure tons of people have seen his face on the mural and didn’t know who that was,” Guerricabeitia said.

Annie Gavica, current executive director of the Basque Museum, said Arrieta was “super involved” in the Basque community and took part in events at the cultural center.

Arrieta also assisted Josune, who has operated a day care center in her North End home since 1977. The Arrietas passed along their knowledge of Basque culture to the hundreds of kids who went through their homes over the years. They were beloved by three generations of children, the oldest of whom are now in their 40s.

Two weeks ago, Gavica said, Arrieta was competing in a Mus card game tournament in California. The game, popular in Spain and France, is of Basque origin. He was active right up until his death, she said.

Arrieta went out of his way to avoid conflict and to treat everyone working under him well, which made a deep impact on his son. He’d be at the airport to pick up new workers flying in from Peru and the Basque Country. And he tried to make them feel welcome, knowing the fears and anxiety he experienced as a newly arrived immigrant, Jon said.

“It didn’t matter how mean and ornery a sheepherder was or how nice and kind a sheepherder was, he treated everyone the same. He treated everyone with dignity and respect,” said Jon.


Listen an Interview with Jose Luis Arrieta by John Bieter in the Boise Basque Museum and Cultural Center files 


(El siguiente obituario fue publicado el 6 de julio de 2017 en Idaho Statesman,

Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga

(1940 ~ 2017)

Jose Luis Arrieta Arriaga (Highland Joe) was born to Eugenia Arriaga Jaio and Esteban Arrieta Anitua on July 10th 1940 in the farm house "Jaio" in Bolivar, Vizcaya, Spain.
Jose's childhood years were spent working the family farm alongside his parents and two brothers Ignacio and Javier Arrieta. His first job opportunity away from home was working in a stone quarry, where he handled jackhammers and dynamite, and later moved onto the logging industry. Since Jose was young and strong his job in logging was loading logs by hand onto trucks. He did this work up until the day he was called to come to America.

Jose arrived in Boise, Idaho on December 13th 1958. Soon after arrival he began working for Highland Livestock and Land Co. on December 26th 1958. His first job for Highland Livestock was as a herder. He was a quick learner and soon excelled at the new position. After working many years as a herder, it was evident that Jose had a passion and dedication not only to Highland Livestock, but also to the sheep industry. He was soon elevated to Foreman where he spent the rest of his career. 

The Little Family entrusted Jose with all the day to day operations including taking care of men, the sheep, the pack & strings, and all the ranches. His loyalty and dedication was so evident that he had earned the nick name "Highland Joe". He continued his service and dedication to the Little's and Highland until October of 2003. After leaving Highland, he continued his work as foreman for Shirts Sheep Co, and continued his legacy as "Highland Joe". He worked for Frank Shirts until December of 2010. Highland Joe's knowledge of the sheep industry and his ability to work with people was second to none.

Jose's passion was Basque sports. Including Basque handball, stone pulling, tug of war, wood chopping, and most importantly stone lifting. He competed all over the west at Basque festivals, dances, and other events. He traveled, trained, and competed against many athletes. Most notably his good friend Benito Goitiandia. Jose was an athlete that enjoyed and thrived in competition. In later years, he found great joy in playing Mus (Basque Card Game). He would play alongside his friends in many card tournaments. Most notably qualifying and competing in Fresno California at the North American Basque Organization Mus championship this year.

In 1975 Jose married Josune Urquijo Barrencua in Natxitua Vizcay Spain. Jose brought his beloved bride Josune back to Boise Idaho where she established a very successful child care center out of their home. 

In August of 1977 Jose welcomed the birth of his son Jon Arrieta. Jose was well known for having his son always at his side. They worked together at Highland Livestock where they experienced many adventures and shared a strong bond. Jose also instilled in his son Jon a passion for Basque sports and a strong work ethic.

During retirement Jose assisted Josune with her child care business. All the kids called him Aitxitxe (Grandpa). All of the children loved playing with him as he would manage pushing all 4 of them on the swings. Jose was also famous for sharing his bread, frosted flakes, and the occasional cup of coffee with the children. Needless to say appetites were ruined and Josune was not happy.

Jose was a happy man and a good man. His strength, humanity, and character made him one of a kind and those qualities we all love and cherish will never be duplicated and will no doubt be greatly missed.

Jose is preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife Josune Urquijo, his son Jon Arrieta, and daughter-in-law Maria Vergara. Jose's Brother Javier Arrieta, wife Angie and their daughters, as well as Brother Ignacio Arrieta, wife Maria Isabel and their daughters. Finally, Jose's beloved Grandchildren Maite Maria Arrieta and Jon Vicente Arrieta.

A rosary service will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Sunday July 9th at 7pm. The funeral service will be held at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Monday July 10t. h at 11am. Followed by a reception at the Basque Center, Boise Id. Please send all memorials to the Basque Center or the Basque Museum and Culture Center.


  • GB

    Sentido pesame a los Failiares de Jose Luis desde Caracas Venezuela

    Pedro Javier Arriaga Aguirre (Caracas / Venezuela), 12/07/2017 14:24

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