Joe E. Larrea

March 3, 1935 ~ February 22, 2019 (age 83)


Jose Esteban “JOE” Larrea 83, of Caldwell Idaho passed away quietly at home February 22, 2019 from Congestive Heart Failure. Joe was born March 3, 1935 in the Community of Paresi, Township of Busturia, Province of Vizcaya in the Basque Region of Spain. He was the first child of eight born to Esteban Larrea-Asla and Petra (Zubiaga-Foruria), Larrea. The family spoke the Basque language at home but having grown up under the dictator regime of Franco, Joe learned Spanish during his 8 grades of education. 

Joe had an Entrepreneurial spirit at a very young age of 10. Joe would contract with neighboring farmers to cut their grassy hay fields and employ other boys to help. He learned that if he did  a good job he would be well compensated. He would keep half the money and divide the rest between the other boys. It was instilled in his spirit by his Mother to someday pursue the American dream. Each time she would pull a large potato plant loaded with potatoes she would wave them in the air and shout, “America!” Hearing stories of when his Father had come to America before the Great Depression, Joe always dreamed to see for himself this faraway place. His dad's cousin visited the family while on vacation. He spoke of a State called Idaho, the same place his dad had been many years earlier. There were jobs available for hardworking people to herd sheep. Well how hard could that be? Joe asked if his cousin would sponsor him to come to America. Joe was 19 years old and he was ready to pursue his dream. With the help of his cousin, Joe secured a job before he came with the Thompson Brother's Sheep Company in Grandview Idaho. He arrived with a working green card   December 22, 1954.

While herding sheep in the mountains above Little Camas, Joe spent the next 18 months teaching himself English by listening to a transistor radio and reading a Spanish/English dictionary. He was very successful with producing the fattest lambs the Thompson Brothers had ever had. Joe had a way with keeping the sheep calm and grazing. His boss paid him an extra $500 bonus at the end of each season above his $180 a month. 

Joe thought it was pretty lonely in the hills and perhaps an old man would be better suited for this type of work so he gave his notice and quit his job. A couple days later he heard there were several Basque guys working for Morrison Knudson Company building the runways out at the Airbase. The next day he caught a ride to apply for a job. The supervisor was impressed with his English-speaking skills and called him to work the next day. His pay was $1400 per month and at last he knew he hit the “America” jackpot!

Joe had met Judy Campbell shortly after her divorce early into her pregnancy. The couple married in early 1959 and Joe became an overnight father to her infant son, Lysle. They had daughter Tracy in 1960 and son Ramon in 1961. With a completed family Joe applied for his citizenship papers and became a proud American at the age of 24.

When the job had finished on the airbase, the Company's next job was in Missouri.  Joe decided not to go. Married to the daughter of Joe Campbell, the best childhood friend to J.R. Simplot, and faithful employee, Joe got a job working on the hog farms. Sometime later a dispute between a supervisor and Joe took place and Joe walked away from the job. He found work in Meridian with Roy Harris Trucking hauling hay. The family then moved to a home on Fairview Avenue. One of the customers Joe delivered hay to, a dairyman named Evert Jansen van Beek, was impressed with Joe in how he was careful and respectful in handling the hay as he unloaded for Evert. Joe would later work on weekends for Evert milking cows and a great friendship and admiration developed between the two men. Evert took a vacation and asked Joe to milk for him for two weeks and was going to hire extra help to assist. Joe re-assured Evert that he was capable to handle them by himself. When Evert returned the milk, production had gone up and Evert made more money being away with Joe in charge than if he was there himself. Joe had a gentle easy way around animals.

About 1964 Roy Harris approached Joe about buying his trucking Company as he was old enough to retire. Night after night Roy would stop by to persuade Joe to go in business for himself. This was the American dream after all. Joe made a trip to Caldwell and spoke to Bill Richardson at the Simplot offices to sell and haul hay for them The men made a contract and Joe secured his first deal to launch his own business. He took the contract to the bank and obtained a loan to purchase Roy’s business.

In 1972 Joe moved his family and business to Mountain Home where his children attended the Junior and Senior High. With lots of work Joe bought more trucks and employed more men to haul hay, grain, lumber and livestock. To cut back on the overhead, Joe decided to sell trucks to his brothers and a couple of the other men giving them a chance at the American dream. With all the financial pressures and long hours, the business took its toll on the family. In 1981 Joe started over with a dairy business in Caldwell.  

Joe met Sheila Thurman in 1983   and on July 1, 1987 the couple exchanged vows promising to love each other forever for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do they part, all of which they encountered. That same year Joe then went into producing Quality Alfalfa for Dairymen. If one baler was good, then 2 or 3 were better.  He loved to watch the sunrises and sunsets as he seemed to work around the clock. Baling hay and working to the rhythm of the baler under the starry skies to get the best moisture in the hay, gave Joe plenty of time to talk to God. Amazed by the beauty of this life, Joe never lost his zest to do more. He measured his value as a father and as a man by his ability to provide and create his own path with not just hard work but also taking pride in the quality of his work. He took time out occasionally to attend Basque functions or a night out to go dancing. He loved music and if it had a good tune, he was tapping his foot or bouncing to the beat. He was an excellent dancer.

From the small child who had to earn his own way, the spirit of providing a better life for his own family or to allow others the opportunity to have more from life, gave Joe the drive to never gave up on his dreams. He loved America and has always been willing to help others along the way. He was proud to be an American businessman. He admired and was influenced by President J.F.K. and Joe would often quote,” Ask NOT what your country can do for you, but what YOU can do for your country.” And, the Entrepreneurial heart of J.R. Simplot, “If you are making money than double your efforts, but if you are supporting one endeavor from the other then get rid of it.” Then also the Christian heart of Evert Jansen van Beek, a great man, 12 years his senior, a hard-working and physically fit immigrant who also carved out a great life and influenced others.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Esteban and Petra, sisters Begonia and Maribel, brother Luis   and nephews Jon, Steven and Inaki.

Joe is survived by his wife Sheila, his son, Lysle Larrea,  Nampa; Daughter, Tracy {Jerry Williams}, Caldwel;, son, Ramon Larrea, Mountain Home; Sheila’s three children, Dan, Jamie and Dustin; brothers, Nick {Jan} Larrea, Meridian; Ray {J.P.} Larrea, Meridian sisters, Nieves Nadeau, San Antonio  Texas and Sole’ {Reynaldo Sr.} Morales, Burke Virginia;  9 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren with one on the way and numerous nieces and nephews.

A viewing and visitation will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 1, 2019 at the Nampa Funeral Home, Yraguen Chapel, 415 12th Ave. So. A Funeral Service will be held on  Saturday March 2, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. at the Centennial Baptist Church, 3610 E. Ustick Rd. in Caldwell with a brief burial service on Monday March 4th at  2:00 p.m. at Canyon Hill Cemetery in Caldwell. 

A special thank you to the ladies that were of service to Joe in his final hours from Signature Hospice Group.

The family wishes donations be made to the Idaho Alzheimer’s Association, 2995 N Cole Rd. Suite #120, Boise, ID 83704 or donations to the Monument Fund.



To send flowers to Joe's family, please visit our floral section.


March 1, 2019

5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Nampa Funeral Home
415 12th Ave. So.
Nampa, Idaho 83651

Celebration of Life
March 2, 2019

10:30 AM
Centennial Baptist Church
3610 E. Ustick Rd.
Caldwell, ID 83605

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