Ramon Ysursa died in Boise, Idaho on January 21, the same day that he celebrated his 95th birthday. To tell the truth, he was in enviable health until the age of 94, even if during the last few months he began to decline. Even in decline, and realizing that his health was not to improve, it’s sure that news like this is always a blow.
(In my case, I was hoping to get together with Ramon, in Boise, in about ten days. We were working on a book about this life and his Basque-American testimony, the fruit of conversations that we have been having over the last few years. The project continues, even more strongly now. This bad news caught me traveling, far from home, but I didn’t want to wait to write these lines about my memories of my friend and the father to my friends, a very close person to me and a significant person in Boise, his Basque live, who many Boise Basques considered as their “aitxitxe.”
Ramon Ysursa was born on January 21, 1920 in Boise to Benito Ysursa and Asuncion Camporredondo, two emigrants who arrived, as many others at that time, from the Basque Country. Benito came to the country in 1915 and met Asuncion in the heart of the Basque circles in Idaho’s capital. They were married in 1919 and Ramon was their first born, followed by his sister Ruby in December 1924, who has already passed away.
Basque hotels and boarding houses were an important part of the Boise Euskaldun history. Ramon grew up in this environment. His father and his Uncle Tom Ysursa opened one in the early 40s in downtown Boise, an area at that time that included many establishments of this kind. Later, Ramon would become the manager of the Valencia until Basque emigration ceased and the lack of boarders caused it to close.
Ramon was Basque from head to toe; American and Basque. Euskaldun through and through, his Basque was fluent and expressive and his mastery of the language rivaled that of any newcomer from any town in Bizkaia. He was a good story teller and his good humor was proverbial. It was always a pleasure to listen to him, not just because of what he was saying, but how he said it. He was born a Basque speaker in Boise at a time that an entire generation of Boise natives combined Basque at home with English at school. He spoke Basque, English and Spanish. Throughout his life, with these three languages, he helped many immigrants at the doctor, or the bank, with paying taxes, or taking care of papers.
For years he worked for Ada County (Boise). I met him in 1987 or 1988 when I visited the Basque club in Boise of which he was the president at that time. The friendship and relationship that started with him, and his wife Begoña, and children Ellie and John then, remain today.
Many things can be said about Ramon, given his long life, and we will have time to do so over the coming days.
These lines serve as a chronicle and urgent message to show my respect. A huge hug to Begoña, John, Ellie, Pilar, Bernard, Ben, family and his many friends. Gogoan izango zaitugu, your memory will endure in us.