Isaac (Ike) Leon Echeverria

Friday, May 28, 2010
Isaac (Ike) Leon Echeverria

Isaac Echeverria left our world on May 25, 2010, after teaching us how to battle cancer with inspirational courage and grace. He lived to the fullest to the very end, thankful for the beauty and love around him.

Ike was born to Basque immigrant parents, Zoilo and Maria Dolores Echeverria, in Bruneau, Idaho, on March 10, 1924. He attended school in Mountain Home, Idaho, and after graduating from high school went to work as a surveyor for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Shortly afterward, he joined the army and served honorably during World War II in Oro Bay, New Guinea, New Glouster, New Britain in the Salomon Islands, Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea, Leyte in the Philippines, and during the invasion of Luzon, rising to the rank of technical sergeant.

In December of 1945, he arrived back in Mountain Home. His father, who had suffered a stroke, died the next morning. Even after this hardship Ike became the first of his family to attend college.

He studied accounting at the University of Idaho, where he met his lifelong love, Phyllis Whitsell. They were married on Sept. 2, 1950, at St. John's Cathedral in Boise, and started raising their family of seven children.

After graduation, Ike began his career as a Special Agent for the criminal investigative "Intelligence" branch of the Internal Revenue Service.

In 1965, Ike moved his family from Idaho to the suburbs of Chicago, then in 1970 to Los Angeles, and in 1972 to San Diego, advancing to the position of group manager with the IRS. He retired in 1974 and returned to Boise, where he later worked for five years as the State Tax Policy Administrator for the Idaho Tax Commission.

He also served as the president of the Basque Center in Boise and was instrumental in establishing the Basque Charities program.

As his children grew to adulthood, Ike willingly surrendered the role of disciplinarian to become their advisor and comrade, nurturing them in the ways of the Basque culture and sharing his fondness for the outdoors. He bought a cabin in Cascade, Idaho, and greatly enjoyed taking his kids and grandkids fishing in the nearby lakes.

After years of anticipation, he became a great-grandfather and took enormous pleasure in being called "Aitxitxa", which means grandfather in Basque. He felt happiest when surrounded by his big, boisterous family at the dinner table.

During his wife's struggles with Alzheimer's disease, he cared for her with affectionate dedication. He was the truest of friends.

To write merely that Ike will be missed is far too great an understatement.

Those he leaves behind will try to reflect what he has taught through his example by facing each day with courage and kindness. We take great comfort in envisioning him with his parents, several siblings, and many friends who have undoubtedly been saving a special place for him in heaven. Ike's family wishes to express their deep gratitude to all of his caregivers, but most of all to his dear daughter, Felisa Wood, her husband, Dwayne, and their children, John and Maria. Their abounding love and generosity for over two years while Ike lived in their home gave him immeasurable comfort and countless joys and blessings. He could not have had more tender care.

Ike was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Zoila Chacartegui, and his brothers, Leon, Benito and John Echeverria.

He is survived by his wife, Phyllis, his sister, Dolores Robison, his sons and their spouses, John and Carolyn Echeverria, and Mark and Tammy Echeverria, his daughters and their spouses, Teresa and Rick Townsend, Debra and Kevin Geraghty, Christine and Douglas Bender, Felisa and Dwayne Wood, and Diana and Dave Coba, as well as his much-loved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Viewing will be at St. John's Cathedral on Tuesday, June 1, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and a rosary at 7 p.m. A funeral mass will be celebrated at St. John's on Wednesday, June 2, at 10:30 a.m., followed by a graveside service at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Summers Funeral Homes, Boise Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made in Ike's name to the Basque Center or the Basque Museum and Cultural Center of Boise.