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John and Jessie Beitia

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John Luis Beitia

Dec. 27, 1922 – Mar. 17, 2016

Jessie Elizabeth Beitia

Mar. 30, 1923 – Aug. 10, 2017


John Luis Beitia, 93, died of natural causes on Mar. 17, 2016, in Caldwell. His beloved wife, Jessie Elizabeth Beitia, 94, died of natural causes on Aug. 10, 2017, also in Caldwell.

John was born in Shoshone on Dec. 27, 1922, to Manuel and Fernanda Beitia, both Basque immigrants. He grew up in Shoshone, the youngest of five children.  John graduated Shoshone High School in 1941. In 1942, with the U.S. now engaged in WWII, John enlisted with the Army. During basic training, he took the radio operator’s exam on a whim and passed, which placed him with the Army Air Corp. He served in the Pacific Theater as radio operator and then as co-pilot of a B-29 bomber. In the latter days of the conflict, he flew missions over Japan out of Saipan and Tinian Island, and glimpsed the Enola Gay before it left for Hiroshima. On Mar. 4, 1945, John’s plane was hit and ditched off the coast of Japan, killing two crewmen, with the surviving crew being rescued by a Dumbo flying boat. He received the Purple Heart. John and his three brothers all served in World War II, and all returned home.

            After the war, John attended Boise Junior College in 1947, and then North Dakota State Teacher’s College, receiving a BS in Education 1950. He returned after to Shoshone, where he would meet his future wife Jessie Selaya on a double date, though not with each other. Jessie often said she fell for John that evening because of the way he looked at her with his beautiful brown eyes. They were married on July 15, 1951, in Twin Falls. Soon after, John would serve in the Korean conflict, now as a B-29 pilot. He returned home to his wife and firstborn son, Larry, in Dec. 1952.


Jessie was born in Twin Falls on Mar. 30, 1923, to Lorenzo and Benita Selaya, both Basque immigrants. The oldest of three children, she grew up in Twin Falls in the family’s bustling boardinghouse, a rich well from which Jessie drew many colorful stories. After graduating Twin Falls High School in 1941, Jessie worked at the Twin Falls Times-News, a job she loathed after the first day but quickly grew to love, staying on for nearly a decade. Her youth was well-spent going out with friends and lots of dancing. She liked to fritter away her salary spoiling her nieces and nephews. In 1948, Jessie traveled with her father, uncle and others to visit the family her father left behind in Spain, a trip she captured in photos and 8mm, and always remembered with great fondness.

            After Korea, the new family moved to Lake Charles, LA, where John was stationed at Lake Charles AFB. Not long after, John decided to follow his heart and pursue a career in education, retiring from the Army at the rank of lieutenant. The family moved to Fairfield in 1954 when John took his first teaching position, where he also coached high school basketball. The family next moved to Kimberly, where John taught and in the summers earned his Master’s Degree at Idaho State University. In 1959, the family of four, with the addition of son Terry, moved to McCall for John’s next teaching position, where he soon became high school principal, and later, superintendent of schools. In the McCall summers, he put the flying skills he’d acquired in the military to further use as a smoke jumper pilot. In 1965, the family, now with third son, Tony, moved to Logan, UT, where John earned his PhD in Special Education. The family moved to Caldwell in 1967, where John and Jessie put down roots. John became a Professor of Education at Boise State University in 1970, where he made a career and many friends, retiring in 1985.

            Jessie would say she always cried when they moved somewhere new, but by the time they moved again, she cried because they were leaving. They made friends wherever they landed, and Jessie always found her way to the library before the first moving box was unpacked.

Jessie liked to joke that when they decided John would retire from the military to pursue his career in education, she told him not to worry because whatever money he earned she could spend. Her joking aside, she was always a good steward of the household. She loved to entertain friends, and even gamely tried to learn bridge. Jessie created a welcoming home, and enjoyed holiday celebrations with family. After their children were grown, Jessie liked to take quirky summer jobs with a pal, including apple picking, worm harvesting, and working the USDA potato inspection line. She was a “pink lady” hospital volunteer at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell for many years, until her health precluded continuing. When her grandchildren came along, she always had open arms, a full cookie jar, a stocked drawer of art supplies, and never fretted when someone spilled on her clean carpet. Jessie took great pride and satisfaction in being a wife and mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and friend.

            In retirement, John had many hobbies, including woodworking, gardening, bowling, their charitable work with Euzkaldunak/Caldwell Basque Charities, and attending BSU basketball games with Jessie. He always had time for his grandchildren, teaching them to bowl, playing ping-pong, letting them win at pool (a game he learned in his father’s pool hall as a young boy), playing croquet and baseball in the back yard, crafting toys from wood in his garage, fashioning a play tent from a parachute from his flying days, and playing countless games of cards.

            John and Jessie loved to travel in retirement, with trips including reunions for John’s Korea “September Song” bomber crew, and a trip to Spain’s Basque country and the family homes their respective parents had left behind when they immigrated to America.

            They were lifelong members of the Catholic Church.

            John was known by all as a patient, kind and humorous gentleman. There was a dimple in his cheek and a twinkle in his eye, and he always had room for dessert. Jessie was quick to laugh and bighearted, with a twinkle to match John’s. Whenever there was music, Jessie never resisted the urge to dance. Even when Alzheimer’s robbed her of her words, her playful spirit shone in her impish laugh and arching eyebrows. They will be missed.

            John was preceded in death by his sister and three brothers, Jessie by her sister and brother, and their son, Tony. They are survived by sons: Larry (Pamela) and Terry (Loree); five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

            Funeral Mass will be held jointly for John and Jessie at 10:30 AM on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church, 1122 W Linden St, Caldwell, ID with inurnment services for both to follow at the Canyon Hill Cemetery, with military honors for John provided by the United States Air Force Honor Guard. A reception will be hosted by the family at the Caldwell Elks Lodge after the committal service. Arrangements are entrusted to Flahiff Funeral Chapel, 624 Cleveland Blvd., Caldwell, 459-0833. 

 Service Information

Memorial Mass
August 18, 2017

10:30 AM
Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church
1122 West Linden Street
Caldwell, Idaho 83605

Graveside Service
August 18, 2017

12:00 PM
Canyon Hill Cemetery
2024 North Illinois Avenue
Caldwell, Idaho 83605

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