Jose Domingo Juaristi Bengoechea died on Sunday, May 8,2016. He was 85 years old.
His friends and family knew him simply as Joe. He was a sheepherder, brother, husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather.
Joe was born in Gizaburraga Spain, near the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio on September 2, 1930.
When the American West clamored for skilled shepherds after World War II, he signed up and arrivd in Elko in January 1948. He was only 17 years old then, didn’t speak English and had, as he said, “only five dollars in the pocket.”
In Elko, he worked for various sheep camps in the county: first, for his Uncle Vincente Juaristi, then lalter, Smith Brothers, Sorenson’s Ranch and Jess Goicoechea.
He often slept in the open by a campfire with a dog curled by ihs side and the herd nearby. He fought off coyotes and mountain lions to protect the sheep, especially newborns after lambing.
He suffered bitter winters and sweltering summers and hiked twenty miles sometimes with little food or water. Yet he always brought in the herd and never complained.
Little by little, he learned English and saved money. By 1956, he gained his citizenship and then moved into town and bought the Star Hotel in 1959.
After several successful years, he sold the Star and married Rose Marie Elicegui from Boone Springs and Ely, Nevada on May 28, 1966. Their ceremony was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ely.
With a new wife, Joe bought the Blue Jay Bar. There, he drew the railroaders and the local Basque as patrons and lived in the back behind the bar in a small two bedroom apartmentwth his family,
After six years of a thriving business, he moved with his family to a sheep farm on the outskirts of Elko where he tended a small flock on comfortable acreage. Eventually, he sold the Blue Jay and took a job with the City of Elko.
He was always a hard worker. He not only kept up the farm, fed the sheep and irrigated the alfalfa, he also worked duriingthe day to maintain Elko’s parks, mowing the lawns in summer and making the ice rink each winter.
Duriing his free time, he would fish with a buddy in one of his secret fishing holes around the county. He had a knack for catching a fish when everyone said there were no fish to be caught. His success was attributed either to ancient skills common among Basque fishermen, or a secret can of corn squirreled away in his tackle box.
Joe was happiest outdoors. He knew the mountains and valleys of Nothern Nevada better than anyone. He puttered around county roads in an old pickup with friends and relatives, pointing out a bush here, a creek there, and telling stories of his days with the herd. Few told a story with more joy or a greater smilet than him.
Joe and Rosie raised three children in Elko and saw all of them graduate college.
He is survived by his wife, Rosie; three children, Jonna, Vince and Amy; two sons-in-law, Roger and Cameron; two grandchildren, Jacob and Alexis; sister Pilar, still residing in Spain; three sisters-in-law all of whom live in Reno, Anita Williams, Mabyn Elicegui, and Mary Lou Elicegui; and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and friends both in the U.S and Spain.
He was preceded in death by his father, mother, and six brothers and sisters.
A funeral service is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Friday, May 13, 2016 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Elko, Nevada. A reception will follow immediately after.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be offered to Horizon Hospice, P O Box 2284, Elko, NV 89803 or to the Elko Basque Club, P O Box 1321, Elko, NV 89803.