Benedicto Goitiandia passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by his family, on March 26, 2021. His parents, Francisco Goitiandia and Juliana Lecona, and Benny’s two older sisters, welcomed him on May 7, 1933, at his childhood home in Zubero, just outside of Aulestia, Bizkaia, Spain. Benny’s three brothers and third sister later joined the family.
He started working at a young age, helping his parents on the family farm. Always knowing the value of hard work, Benny worked a variety of jobs including a sawmill, farming, and working at a marble quarry.
In 1952, Benny took the first airplane ride of his life from Bilbao to San Sebastian, then Paris to New York. After a one-day stay in New York, he traveled to Boise where he was met by sheep company owner, Bill Smith. Benny began working for Woodcreek Sheep Company under the supervision of his uncle, Ted Lecona. His time as a herder brought many life experiences. He worked for Woodcreek for four years, starting out on the desert with 2,700 yearlings and later becoming a camp tender. He had fond memories of riding with Pete Barinaga from sheep camp to many Basque dances around Idaho where he first began meeting other Basques and Basque-Americans.
Benny worked as a logger in Idaho City for a short time and then went to work in a mine in Winnemucca, Nevada. It was in Winnemucca that he was asked to lift weights for the first time. Benny met hundreds of people throughout the western United States during his participation in weightlifting competitions and exhibitions from 1957 through the late 1980s. Benny practiced with and competed against his good friend, Jose Luis Arrieta, for many years. Benny’s incredible strength was featured at exhibitions at the World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington; at the first National Basque Festival in Sparks, Nevada; and at literally hundreds of festivals in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California in which he participated. His weightlifting skill was featured in National Geographic in June 1966.
Benny moved to Boise in 1957. He enjoyed living at Letemendi’s boardinghouse and was proud of becoming a United States citizen in 1960. Benny began working as a butcher for Gem Meat Packing, Meridian Meats, and Missouri Meats. He spent the remainder of his career as the slaughterhouse supervisor for the Idaho Department of Correction, purchasing and butchering meat and teaching the trade to inmates from 1975 until his retirement in 1999.
Benny met Tomasa Erdoisa in 1952, soon after arriving in Idaho. Benny and Tomasa were married on October 29, 1960, at Our Lady of the Rosary in Boise, Idaho. They welcomed two sons: David in 1965 and Ramon in 1967. At Tomasa’s insistence, Basque was the language spoken at home, and both sons appreciate the fact that they are bilingual because of their parents.
Benny and Tomasa co-managed The Valencia boarding house for a short time. Benny remained an integral part of the Basque community throughout his life. He served on the Board of Directors of Euzkaldunak, the Basque Center, from 1979-1981 and was Vice-President in 1981. He helped organize many social events for the Basque Center. In 1970, Benny and Tomasa purchased a small farm in Kuna where Benny had a large area for his storage and personal meat processing in addition to the 80 acres that he farmed. For many years, Benny raised and donated the leeks for the annual mortzilla (blood sausage) dinner at the Boise Basque Center. Annually, Benny and Tomasa would host a full crew of volunteers to prepare the leeks and onions for the mortzilla making. Benny was recognized with a Legacy Award for his lifetime of service to the organization in 2003.
Benny’s garden was remarkable. His pepper plants numbered between 5,000 and 8,000 a year. If fifty leeks were good for most, 5,000 were better. He made thousands of chorizos, smoked turkeys, salamis, and jamons; and he butchered countless lambs, deer and elk. Very generous, Benny always shared everything he had with others.
Benny was most happy if he was in the middle of a gathering of people. He had an expansive and loyal group of friends, ranging from well-known business and political leaders to immigrant laborers. His favorite moments were spent standing in the middle of a river fishing, helping with sheep shipping, cooking for large groups of friends, or hunting in the mountains. He loved the outdoors, and he loved people. The annual hunting trips with the Jackson Peak Hunting Club and his friends at Dunnigan Creek were looked forward to all year. Benny loved playing Mus at the Basque Center in Boise, at Txoko Ona in Homedale, and at the Basque Centers in Gooding, Mountain Home, Elko, or anywhere he could find others to play. He made numerous trips to the Basque Country over the years, traveling there several times with his son, Ramon, their last trip being in 2012.
Known as "Tio Benny" to many, he was a fixture at the Basque Center and his absence will be felt in many communities. Benny and Tomasa were very proud of their sons, David and Ramon, and the boys faithfully cared for both of their parents throughout their final days.
Benny is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, David and Anna of Kuna and Ramon and Diana of Boise; granddaughters Michele Thompson (J.J.), Julianna Goitiandia, and Andresa Goitiandia; and great-grandson Kenji Thompson. He is also survived by his siblings, Matilde Goitiandia and Beatriz Goitiandia of Gernika, Bizkaia, Spain; Maria Goitiandia Amuchastegui and Enrique (Coro) Goitiandia of Boise and Sabino (Maria Carmen) Goitiandia of Caldwell as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins in both the United States and the Basque Country. He was preceded in death by his parents Francisco Goitiandia and Juliana Lecona; by his wife, Tomasa, in 2017; and by his brother, Martin Goitiandia, in 2020.
There will be a viewing for family and friends from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at Cloverdale Funeral Home in Boise. The Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, April 8, 2021, at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, 510 W. Roosevelt Avenue in Nampa, with a reception afterward at Marist Hall. Burial will follow at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise under the direction of Cloverdale Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to support a Basque organization of your choosing. The family would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Rick and Charlette Swank for their many years of extraordinary care, friendship, and laughter. We would also like to thank Keystone Hospice and Home Helpers for the kindness and professionalism shown to Benny and his family.
Raise a glass to Benny the next time you gather together with friends or family or sit down for a good meal. Nothing would make him happier than to know he was still celebrating with you.
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