basque heritage worldwide

In memory of

Joe Goicoechea

Joe Goicoechea
Joe Goicoechea (photo KTVB)

12/30/2016 - Boise, ID, USA

(1921 ~ 2016)

(Published in, daho Statesman on Jan. 8, 2017)

Joe Goicoechea, 95 of Boise passed away Friday December 30, 2016 at the Boise VA Medical Center.

He was born July 31, 1921 on the kitchen floor of the Cortabitarte house in Jordan Valley, Oregon to parents Ben and Eladia Goicoechea. He was the oldest of four children growing up in Barber and Boise. Joe was 8 years old when the Great Depression of 1929 hit. He remembered the day he and his parents discovered that all of the family's life savings had vanished as result of the banking collapse. He made a pledge that day to forever help his family- and he did. Dad went to work shortly thereafter and gave his earnings to his parents.

Joe was a very talented athlete growing up. He graduated from Boise High School and was known as one of the better second baseman and catchers in the area; he loved baseball. He participated in ROTC and forged his father's signature to join the National Guard's 116th Cavalry at seventeen. The lessons learned in ROTC and in the 116th would prove invaluable very soon.

With good jobs being very difficult to find, Joe and a group of his best friends (Rich Pagoaga, George Rosandick, Murray Kidd,…) signed on with the Morrison-Knudsen Company, MK, to work construction on a small Pacific island they'd never heard of before. The year was 1941, and unbeknownst to Dad, Wake Island was in the crosshairs of the Imperial Japanese Navy, along with Pearl Harbor. After working long days as a crew-member building runways, submarine bases, and aircraft revetments on the island, Joe and others volunteered for training on the .50 caliber machine gun and 3 inch and 5 inch artillery guns. Europe was a combat zone and the war drums were beating in the Pacific as the Japanese had brutally gone unchecked through China and most of Southeast Asia.

On December 7th, 1941, "The Day That Will Live In Infamy", Pearl Harbor was viciously attacked in the early morning hours. 2200 miles to the west, Wake Island was attacked a few hours later. A small contingent of Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers would be no match for the Japanese aircraft, invasion forces, and Destroyer Battle Group focused on tiny little Wake Island if not for the civilian volunteers, like Dad. Of the approximately 1200 civilians, Joe was one of the nameless heroes who, like the Minutemen of the American Revolution, laid down his shovel and took up arms in defense of the United States and the precious freedoms we hold so dear.

He was a battlefield enlistee who worked side by side with Marine Corporal, Ken Marvin and his leatherneck brothers manning and constantly moving artillery pieces to avoid getting hit by enemy shelling and bombing raids. The Japanese anticipated taking the island in a matter of a few hours. Instead the small band of American brothers held the island until Christmas Eve 1941; sinking the Destroyer of Admiral Kojioka along with several other small watercraft and enemy airplanes. This was the first defensive blow issued to the Japanese and was an embarrassment for the Imperial Navy. Wake was forever to be known as the Alamo of the Pacific. Dad was severely injured during the shelling and received the Purple Heart for wounds received during combat on Wake Island.

Dad and his brothers in arms were held captive for the entire war – 46 months. They were brutally beaten, starved, tortured, and forced into slave labor within the factories and industries of Japan. Many died of dysentery and disease. Joe never gave up hope and never surrendered his spirit and faith to his captors. After the war he returned to the United States for a few years before going to work in Afghanistan, again for Morrison-Knudsen. He was an ironworker by trade, and a very hard worker by nature.

In 1954 he married Jeanne Stratton and together they had five children before divorcing in 1972. Joe retired in 1982 after working his entire career as an ironworker and as a construction superintendent. Dad's work includes the Morrison Center, Bronco Stadium, two Boise River bridges, the entire MK Plaza, One Capitol Center- the list goes on and on.

In 1983 he married Bonnie Brown, and they have lived the happiest years of his life together. They've raised numerous grandkids together, traveled thousands of miles, shared many laughs and set a great example for all generations of our family.

Joe is survived by his wife Bonnie, his daughter Nancy (Ben,Chris), his son Dan (Katie), his daughter-in-law Kellie (Jordan, Maddie), his granddaughters Sarah and Anna, his brother Carl and sister-in-law Ellen, his sister Sylvia, and numerous nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents, his sister Rosie, his son Ben, his daughter Margaret, and his son Kenneth.

Joe will be remembered as a symbol of hard work, determination, honesty, faith and love. Dad was a founding member of Sacred Heart Parish, founding member of the Basque organization Euskaldunak, and the toughest man you could ever meet.

There will be a vigil for Joe at 7PM, Wednesday January 11, 2017 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Funeral Services will be at 10:30AM, Thursday January 12, 2017 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 811 S. Latah, Boise. Donations may be given in his name to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, 611 Grove Street, Boise, ID 83702.

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