Joe Eisaguirre, born Dec. 17, 1921, longtime Montrose, Colorado resident, died peacefully at the home of his son, Lew Eisaguirre, in Los Olivos, California on Feb. 20. He was 97.
Joe was born in Salt Lake City Utah on Dec. 17, 1921. His parents, Luis and Isadora Eisaguirre, who were Basque immigrants, moved to Grand Junction, Colorado when he was in the first grade in 1927. Joe graduated from Grand Junction High School where he was an all-state quarterback and led his team to state championships and played on the All-State Team at the Denver Stadium in 1940. In addition, he was active in student government as president of the student council.
Joe had learned sheep ranching at the early age of 12 with the sole responsibility of managing a herd of sheep during the summer on his Uncle Rufo’s ranch near Rifle, Colorado. After graduation from high school, Joe and his father bought a sheep ranch northeast of Montrose on East Mesa. But, with the beginning of WWII, Joe felt compelled to volunteer. He attended officer and pilot training at Michigan State University; he was then recruited to be a nose gunner/bombardier on the B24. He flew 24 combat missions while based in Italy until World War II ended, keeping track of each flight with a mark on his pipe.
Joe returned home after the war and married Wilma King in 1949. They lived a full ranch life raising their three children while running their sheep and cattle operation that expanded to Cerro Summit, Blue Mesa, and his beloved “high-country” BLM/Forest Service permits which spanned from Lake City to Telluride to Silverton, Colorado.
Joe lived a life of service. Joe and Wilma were both longtime active members of Hillcrest Congregational United Church of Christ, where he rang the bell along with his “helpers,” the church’s children, for many years. He was president of the Montrose School Board for ten years, during which his proudest accomplishment was leading the board to fund and build the Vo-Tech School near Olathe. In addition, he served as president and an active member of the Western Slope Wool Growers Association and served on the Montrose Library Board. He was a long-time member of both the Montrose Elks Lodge 1053 and Montrose Lions Club and he served on the BLM and Forest Service Land Use committees.
Joe was an active and passionate skier and was a partner in the original group that developed the Dallas Divide Ski Area in the late 1940’s. He continued skiing into his 80’s and passed his passion for skiing on to his children, grandchildren and even his great grandchildren!
He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Wilma King Eisaguirre, and his three children: Lynne Eisaguirre, Kim Eisaguirre Jones (spouse, Jeffery Jones) and Lew Eisaguirre (spouse, Susan Altenbern Eisaguirre). Joe doted on his six grandchildren: Joseph Michael Eisaguirre, Jake Henry Eisaguirre, Edward (Ned) Eisaguirre Jones, Barton Jeffery Jones, Elizabeth Eisaguirre Evans and Nicholas Eisaguirre Evans, in addition to Amanda Hammers Jones, Ned Jones’ wife and mother of his two great grandchildren, Jonathan Hammers Jones and Daniel Robert Eisaguirre Jones.
A memorial service will be held sometime this spring at Hillcrest Congregational United Church of Christ in Montrose. Memorial donations may be made to the Montrose or Olathe High School Athletic Departments. Make checks payable to: Montrose Country School District, Attention: Emily Imus, Accountant, Montrose County School District, P.O. Box 10,000, Montrose, CO 81402. Please designate Olathe or Montrose Athletic Programs.