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Luisa Bilbao, 85, formerly of Nampa, ID passed away on Monday, October 30, 2023, in Boise, ID, after a year-long battle with cancer.
Luisa was born on February 15, 1938, in Mutriku, Gipuzkoa, Spain to Julian Pagoaga and Maria Urresti. Growing up at the Arantzamendi baserri, she helped her father tend to the livestock and with chores at the farm.
At the age of 18, Luisa accepted a contract to work at the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C. even though she knew very little about the United States. Luisa received the passport and papers she needed within a month thanks to her then employer, the Count of Mutriku. She arrived in America on November 26, 1956.
After working in D.C. for four years, she moved to Idaho to continue to build her life in America where she had met Felix Bilbao on a previous visit. Luisa and Felix married on May 6, 1961. After having two sons, Miguel and John, they moved to Melba to work at the Nicholson Sheep Ranch, where Luisa began working as a cook. Luisa learned English with her children and became a citizen of the United States in 1972.
After almost 30 years of working at the Nicholson ranch in Melba, Felix retired, and they moved to Nampa. They built a new home near her older sister Carmen, with whom Luisa was very close to her entire life. Luisa began a new job working at Mercy Medical Center delivering food to patients until she retired in 2003.
She was active in the Basque community and a long-time parishioner of St. Paul's Catholic Church. Luisa, often teamed with Carmen, enjoyed attending and occasionally help cook for, Basque dinners & picnics, dances, festivals, and other special events. They also enjoyed playing competitive Briska among friends.
Luisa was passionate about cooking, baking, and gardening. Her loving touch to her apple cake, chocolate chip cookies, and brazo gitano will be missed by many. She also mastered preserving foods, from the tomatoes and jalapenos out of her garden, to membrillo and the best jarred tuna in olive oil you’ll ever eat.
Luisa quipped how she fell in love with America after she saw her first washer and dryer. She never wanted to move back to the Basque Country, but happily visited several times over the years and kept in close contact with her family and friends there. She often referred to her arrival in the U.S. as her second birthday - starting a new life on her own in a strange new land without a dime in her pocket and a language unfamiliar to the Basque and Spanish she grew up speaking. Truly a remarkably determined, brave and strong woman.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Felix, her parents and eight siblings, Maria Cruz, Joaquina, Jose Mari, Elvira, Ignacio, Maria Carmen, Ramon I & Ramon II. She is survived by her two children, Miguel (Carrie) and John; nephew Julian Lete; niece Miren Lete-Odencrantz (K.C.) and their children, Aisea & Andoni Odencrantz; and nephew J.P. Lete (Leandra) and their children Manu & Belen Lete; in addition to sister-in-law Maite Bilbao Aberoa, and many nieces and nephews in Euskadi, the Basque Country.
We are especially grateful for all the love and support Luisa received from family & friends both here in America and Euzkadi during Ama’s illness.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Basque Foundation, Basque Museum & Cultural Center, Txoko Ona Homedale, or a charity of your choice.
A recitation of the Rosary will be held at 4:00 P.M. Sunday, November 19, 2023, at the Nampa Funeral Home Yraguen Chapel, 415 12th Ave. So., Nampa. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11:00 A.M. Monday, November 20, 2023, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 811 S. Latah St., Boise with a full reception to follow in the church parish hall. A graveside service will be in the Mount Calvary Cemetery on the corner of S. Powerline and Greenhurst in Nampa at 3:30 P.M. after the reception. Arrangements are under the direction of the Nampa Funeral Home, Yraguen Chapel. An online guest book is available at www.nampafuneralhome.com