basque heritage worldwide

In memory of

Genaro Arrizubieta Etxebarria

Genaro Arrizubieta Etxebarria
Genaro Arrizubieta Etxebarria (March 2, 1934 - March 4, 2023)

03/04/2023 - Pahsimeroi Valley, ID, USA

Genaro Arrizubieta Etxebarria, 89, passed away peacefully at his home with his family by his side March 4th, 2023. Genaro was born March 2, 1934 to Jose Arrizubieta Orbe and Raimunda Etxebarria Aboitiz in Ispaster, Spain in the Basque province of Bizkaia near the Pyrenees mountains. Growing up, his family witnessed and experienced many hardships after their homeland was attacked during the times of World War II. His father Jose, travelled to South America and eventually found his way to the Pahsimeroi Valley where he worked as a sheepherder, sending money back to Spain to support the family. Inspired by his father, Genaro was famous for saying “take care of the things that take care of you” and wanted to ensure that his mother, his four sisters and one brother had what they needed. Genaro submitted his immigration paperwork when he was 17 and three years later when the papers were finally approved in June of 1954, he made the trek halfway across the world to the Pahsimeroi Valley to meet up with his father who was working for what is now known as the Sulphur Creek Ranch. He came to work for Pete Elia, owner of the ranch, which later sold to Bolen Uresti. On June 17th, 1954 Genaro was taken to the Upper Pahsimeroi with a band of sheep. His father returned to his beloved family in Spain. Genaro thought this area had to be the end of the world. Speaking only Basque and Spanish and in a country far from the lush green hills of his homeland, he became homesick very quickly. When he would tell his story, he would say that “If there was a bridge across the ocean, I would have hopped on a bicycle and pedaled home.” We’re sure glad he stayed.

After his first successful year of shepherding for the ranch, Genaro soon became foreman of the Sulphur Creek Ranch, which was known as one of the premier sheep operations in Idaho. Eager to learn, Patsi and Judy Uresti taught him to speak and read English as a third language. He was quickly recognized for his strong work ethic, quick learning abilities, his strength, and his ability to fix anything and everything. He was always willing to help whomever asked without hesitation and happy to do it as he greatly appreciated and never forgot all those who helped him when he first came to the valley. He had tremendous respect for Nyle Thornock who helped him get his driver’s license and register for the service.

He met Sharon White, a hard working Pahsimeroi native during his time in the Valley. In 1969, they married and spent 2 months in Spain for their honeymoon and returned to the Pahsimeroi where they would build a legacy together. They welcomed a son, Mikeal, in 1970 a daughter, Susana, in 1971 and sixteen years later another daughter, Rosana. After working for Sulphur Creek Ranch for 25 years it was time to move on. Genaro and Sharon purchased 120 acres on Hooper Lane from Sharon’s parents Kenneth and Mary White in 1978. They drilled a well, cleared the 8ft tall sagebrush, raked the cactus into windrows, built fences, and assembled lambing sheds. They had a lot of help from a lot of good neighbors. Genaro took pride in everything he did and was proud to raise high quality lambs and produce some of the highest protein content hay in the Valley. He was recognized for his achievements when he was awarded “Grassman of the Year” in 2000 by the Custer Soil and Water Conservation District. While the operation was small comparatively, his hard work and determination provided his children with the education he wanted them to have and a start for their own lives.

The Basque are well known for their work ethic, good humor, lots of laughter and having fun as well as their impeccable strength. Genaro was no exception. He had quick dancing feet and a beautiful singing voice. If he was singing “Cielito Lindo” or “Found a Peanut” it was amazing. There are many stories of his strength and a particular story in the valley are witnesses to Genaro walking down main street May with 100 pounds in each hand and carrying another 100 pounds in his teeth. Those who challenged him to arm wrestle were usually told “I’m ready when you are” as they were turning red in the face struggling to put him down. A strong will, one armed pull ups, bucking 130lb bales and moving countless hand lines makes you tough. Even well into his 70’s, he could buck an entire trailer of hay bales off while the 20-something year olds tried to keep up and were gasping for air. He’d be standing on the stack, barely breaking a sweat, with that big smile, prideful that he “still had it.”

The Sulphur Creek ranch was sold again around 1979 to Joe Landa and his son Marty. Genaro wanted to help them understand how the ranch operated so went back to help the Landa family. Although tough times lead to returning the ranch to the Urestis’, a wonderful friendship had developed between Joe, Marty, Danny, Michael and Genaro. They became an extended family. Years passed without seeing each other but in 2021 the Landa brothers made the trip back to visit Genaro. There were smiles, tears and drinks all around.

Together, Genaro and Sharon made a beautiful ranch, home and life together. Neighbors credit them as exemplifying the American dream and as two of the hardest working and kind individuals you’d ever meet. In 2000 the decision was made to keep the home and a few acres but sell the sheep and the hay fields as the work was becoming more difficult for Genaro and Sharon to handle. It was time to move on to “retirement”. Not one to sit back and relax, he kept a watchful eye on how the new owners were taking care of what they had worked so hard on. The neighbors were also carefully watched just in case they needed help. Genaro would find his way to Challis where Susana and her husband, Ryan, ranched. He was excited to finally run a swather that had a cab and air conditioning! They were thankful for everything he taught them.

He never really retired until his 80’s. He didn’t have the patience to fish so he cut firewood and took his 2 dogs and sometimes the cat for walks instead. Some days he would walk 11 miles across the Morse creek bar but most days six miles. He was very proud that he could still do that at his age. When he turned 88 he left a handkerchief tied to a sagebrush on one of his walks. He said that when someone finds it they will know how far he walked that day. If you wander the rugged country of the Pahsimeroi enough, you might even find another handkerchief tied to a tree, on a makeshift cross, or on a rock cairn or two.

He loved going for rides back to Upper Pahsimeroi and to the “Headquarters” where the Bascos, including his father, carved their names in the trees. These were precious times to share memories and relive hunting stories and good times with friends and family. There isn’t a draw, basin, or mountain top that doesn’t have a hunting story behind it. Countless miles and memories were made with many friends but especially his family as hunting was always a family affair. While he wasn’t able to hike the hills like he used to in is later years, he was still the family’s go to for advice on where the game would be and always on standby for a packout. Even when his son Mikeal asked for help to get a bull elk off the mountain in the middle of the night or when his daughter Rosana and her husband Nick needed help getting a buck off the mountain in subzero weather and 2 feet of snow, he was always ready and willing to help. Plus, he liked the challenge and it was a great time for him to recount the “good old days” of hunting in the Valley.

Years of operating machinery and chainsaws left him with severe hearing loss. He lived in a very quiet and sometimes lonely world. That world became quieter and lonelier when Sharon passed away in 2019. The yard was amazing and witness to all 3 of their children’s weddings, grand children’s birthday parties and holiday craziness. When Sharon passed, it was his mission to try to keep the yard and garden the way she would have wanted it. Although he got a little carried away with the weed eater at times, she would have been proud. The amazing yard was witness to one more wedding: his grand-daughter Morgan to Matthew Wheeler. It was beautiful all because of his hard work that summer. He loved to watch his grandchildren play in the yard and enjoyed teasing each and every one of them: Jordan, Christopher, Tyler and his wife Brittany, Morgan and Matt, Aislynn and Kassidy. He also so loved playing with his first great-grandson, Sutton Hughes. They made quite the pair!

There is not a man that was more respected than Genaro. He was simply remarkable and will be greatly missed. His strength, work ethic, determination, kindness, and genuine nature is reflected in his family he leaves behind. His family ask that in lieu of flowers or donation, you take time to lend a helping hand to a stranger or a neighbor, stop in to say hello to someone you haven’t seen for a long time, or go for a walk and find that handkerchief tied to the sagebrush. And remember to take care of the things that take care of you.

Goian Bego (GB) - May Rest in Peace

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