Joseph P. Ayarbe

Joseph P Ayarbe

April 25, 1929

March 25, 2013

Joseph Pierre Ayarbe - husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, god father, Professor Emeritus, teacher, coach, counselor, athlete, golfer, friend, mentor, veteran, BLM fire crew chief, and gentleman - died March 25, 2013 at home surrounded by his family.

Joe was born April 25, 1929 in Ely, Nevada. A first generation Nevadan, Joe was born to his Basque immigrant parents Pete and Grace Ayarbe (formerly Grace Oilliaraburu), and raised on a sheep ranch in Deep Crick, White Pine County, Nevada. The family later moved to Ely, Nevada, where Joe graduated from White Pine High School in 1947, earning his varsity letter in football. Immediately after high school, Joe enlisted in the United States Army with a number of his high school friends, and he reported to Fort Ord, California for basic training. After basic training, Joe was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky for a short period of time before he was transferred back to Fort Ord. He was honorably discharged in November 1948.

Upon Joe's return to Ely in late 1948, Joe worked for Kennecott Copper until January 1950. During that time, he met the love of his life, Dawn Erickson. In January 1950, Joe enrolled at Utah State in Logan, Utah on the G.I. Bill. Joe and Dawn married in Ely, Nevada on August 27, 1950, and they settled into married life in Logan while Joe continued college. While still attending Utah State, Joe walked on to the football team, earned a spot on the roster, a scholarship to help pay for his continued education, and received his Bachelor's Degree in Education in June 1954. While Joe was attending Utah State, his and Dawn's son Joseph Lynn was born in Ely, Nevada, followed a couple of years later by daughter Susan Dawn, who was also born in Ely.

After Joe's graduation from Utah State, he and Dawn moved their young family to Carlin, Nevada where Joe was hired as a teacher and coach. Joe taught Algebra, Chemistry, and American History. He also coached football, basketball, and track. In 1957, the Ayarbe family moved to Elko, Nevada where Joe was a teacher and coach at Elko High School. Joe was on the faculty at Elko High from 1957-1966, during which time he taught Sociology, American History, and American Government, and coached football, basketball, and track. Joe also sought and was granted permission by the principal to start a baseball program at Elko High in 1960, and the community whole heartedly supported Joe's initiative , fund raising, and hard work to bring high school baseball to Elko.

While still teaching and coaching in Elko, Joe and Dawn's youngest daughter, Karen Marie , was born. The family moved to Reno in 1966, where Joe joined the faculty at Wooster High School and taught American History. Joe was also a counselor at Wooster, and was on the football and basketball coaching staffs until 1969 when he left Wooster. During this time Joe earned his Master's Degree in Education at the University of Nevada. Joe left Wooster in 1969 and began working for the Nevada System of Higher Education where he was instrumental in the development and implementation of educational programs at the community college level. As a result, Joe was one of the pioneers and founders in the establishment of Western Nevada Community College (WNCC), now known as Truckee Meadows Community College, in Reno. With the professional guidance and assistance of Nevada State Senator Bernice Martin- Matthews, Joe and Senator Martin-Matthews were instrumental in obtaining the funding for and establishing the School of Nursing at WNCC. The School of Nursing remains a highly regarded program at Truckee Meadows Community College and to this day continues to educate and train registered and licensed practical nurses.

In addition to implementing the education programs at WNCC, Joe sought and obtained the funding to establish a men's intercollegiate basketball program. During the 1972-73 basketball season, the WNCC Wildcats basketball team was the first intercollegiate community college team, in any sport, to compete from the State of Nevada, competing in the Golden Valley Conference out of Northern California. In 1974, Joe also established a golf team for the WNCC Wildcats. Neil Fockler was assistant basketball coach with Joe and eventually Mike Olivas took over as head coach of the Wildcats while Joe continued on as athletic director and golf coach. During the 1979 legislative session, Joe appeared before the Ways and Means Committee of the Nevada State Legislature and pled his case for the continuation of athletics at WNCC - for the benefit of the students, faculty, and community. Unfortunately, Joe's requests for further funding were denied, and the athletic programs at WNCC had to be discontinued.

Joe retired from his career in education in 1984, as Professor Emeritus. Throughout his career, and beyond, Joe's dedication to the academic success of his students and athletes was surpassed by none, emulated by many. In 2011, Joe was inducted into the Elko High School Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of his work on and off the field on behalf of the students of Elko High while he was there. It was not unusual during Joe's retirement years for him to be contacted by many former students and athletes just to visit, reminisce, and to check in on him and Dawn.

He spent his retirement years playing golf with his son Joe and his many friends, taking trips with Dawn and their friends and, ultimately, spending time with, playing with, and enjoying his five grandchildren - the joys of his life. Joe and Dawn have both spent countless hours (sometimes freezing in the bleachers!) cheering on their grandchildren at their various sporting events, applauding their musical performances, and celebrating their academic achievements and graduations. Joe (known as "Aiti" to his grandchildren) was often at his happiest when surrounded by his grandkids. And the feeling was mutual.

Joe is pre-deceased by his parents Pete and Grace, and Brother Gilbert. Joe is survived by his wife of 62-1/2 years, Dawn; son Joseph Lynn of Reno; daughters Susan Ayarbe Skeffington and Karen Ayarbe Pintar, both of Reno; sons-in -law Mike Pintar and Pete Skeffington; grandchildren Ryan Joseph Ayarbe Burks, Jacqueline Dawn Ayarbe Burks, Michael Joseph Pintar, Katherine (Katie) Marie Pintar, and Ariana Josephine Ayarbe, all of Reno; brother Jean Ayarbe of El Paso, Texas ; nephew and nieces John Ayarbe, Carrie Ayarbe Fields, Heidi Ayarbe, and Elizabeth Ayarbe-Perez; and numerous great nieces and nephews.

Services for Joe will be held Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Snows Catholic Church, 1138 Wright Street, Reno, Nevada, followed by a reception at The Grove, 95 Foothill Road, Reno, Nevada.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Joseph Ayarbe Memorial Scholarship Fund, Truckee Meadows Community College. Donations to the scholarship fund may be sent payable to:

TMCC Foundation, 7000 Dandini Blvd., Reno NV 89512.

Memories and condolence messages may be expressed in the Book of Memories at the website


Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from Mar. 31 to Apr. 1, 2013