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Services will be held Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 900 H Street, with a Rosary at 9:30 AM and Funeral Mass at 10 AM, officiated by Monsignor Stephen Frost, for Miguel Iturriria, 86, who entered eternal life on July 15, 2021.
Miguel was born on March 3, 1935, in Lekaroz, Navarra, Spain. He was the eighth of fourteen children born to Francisca Goñi and Bautista Iturriria. Miguel grew up in his beloved family home of “Ortiborroa,” in Lekaroz. Miguel developed his strong work ethic early on when he would get up with Aitatxi before dawn and herd livestock into the green mountains surrounding Lekaroz. He graduated from the Colegio de Lekaroz, sang in the choir, and was an altar boy in his youth.
In November 1952 at the age of 17, Miguel, along with his brother Paco, left his family and homeland and immigrated to the United States to pursue his dream of a better life and more opportunity. Miguel and Paco arrived in Bakersfield, CA and joined their oldest brother Andres, who had paved the way for their employment with M&R Sheep Company. Miguel herded and tended sheep for six years. He lived in trailers and trailed sheep through the desert and into the high country of the Eastern Sierra mountains by foot or donkey for many years, accompanied by his dog. He enjoyed that time and because of it he always had a greater appreciation for what the sheepherders did. In 1958, Miguel, Andres and Paco started I&M Sheep Company with Joe Mendiburu. Their partnership flourished for 25 years, continuing into the 1980’s when the three brothers began operating the business on their own. Two additional brothers, Fernando and Antero, also immigrated from the Basque Country, and first worked for I&M before forming their own business, A&F Sheep Company. The legacy of I&M Sheep Company continues today and has included cattle, farming, and of course, sheep.
One night in the mid-1960s, while Miguel was on a date at Woolgrowers, he met Yvonne Echenique, daughter of sheep rancher Joe Echenique. The two would go on dates whenever Miguel “came to town.” On September 6, 1969, Miguel and Yvonne were married in Las Vegas, Nevada. They settled in Bakersfield, CA, and were blessed with four daughters: Suzy, Trisha, Nikki, and Crissy.
One of Miguel’s proudest moments was becoming an American citizen (thanks to the support of Marcelina Mendiburu). He remained an avid supporter of the Basque culture and was an honorary member of the Kern County Basque Club. He took pride in celebrating the culture, faith and traditions with his family and friends. He loved the picnics where he could catch up with old friends and make new ones, play in mus tournaments, dance, and watch the pelota games held at the club. He was also a lifetime member of the California Woolgrowers Association and the Kern County Woolgrowers Association. Miguel was a longtime parishioner at Christ the King Catholic Church. He was also a proud supporter of his daughters’ and grandchildren’s sporting adventures.
Miguel was preceded in death by his parents, Francisca and Bautista; brothers and sisters Andres, Maritxu, Conchita, Manuel, Paco and Antero; in-laws Joe and Lucie Echenique; sister and brothers-in-law Maria Esther, Bautista and José Maria.
Miguel is survived by his loving wife of 51 years Yvonne, his daughters Suzy Alexander (Bill), Trisha Garcia (Robert), Nikki and Crissy (Josu Cadilla). He was proud Aitatxi to Will, Juliana, and Analisa Alexander and Michael and Viviana Garcia. Miguel is also survived by his brothers and sisters Gloria, Bautista, Fernando (Yvonne), Pazita, Txarito (Norberto), Luis Mari (Inés), Martin José (Isabel), sisters and brothers-in-law Lolo, Maria Luisa, Lourdes, Suzanne Arrache (Antonio), Joe Echenique (Patti), as well as numerous nephews and nieces.
The family would like to extend a special thank you to Miguel’s doctors: Dr. Tommy Lee, Dr. Jorge Del Toro, and Dr. Robert Waguespack, for their years of care. In addition, a special thank you to Debbie (RN), Melissa (RN) and Irene (aide) from Hoffman Hospice, for their kindness and compassion. You are true angels.
In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to the Nick Bordagaray Kern County Basque Club Scholarship Fund (PO Box 416 Bakersfield, CA 93302), Christ the King Building Fund (1800 Bedford Way Bakersfield, CA 93308), Hoffmann Hospice (4325 Buena Vista Road, Building A Bakersfield, CA 93311) or a charity of your choice.
Beti Gure Behotzean
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