Joe Sturza Passes Away at 61

Joe Sturza

Joe Burr Sturza passed away quietly at his home in Hermiston on Oct. 5, 2019 at the age of 61.

He was born on Aug. 17, 1958 in Redmond to Pete Sturza and Faye Rice Sturza.

Joe grew up with his brother, John beginning in Redmond, moving to Arcadia, Calif. with his mother during grade school and ending up back in Redmond. Joe’s father taught him about the world of cattle and ranching, while his mother immersed him in horse racing and showing. During his adventurous youth, Joe developed the passion to hunt, fish, and try anything once. Aboard his favorite horse, G.I., Joe rodeoed for Redmond High School, where he graduated in 1977.

In college, Joe rode bareback horses and roped for Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton and Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, where he earned a Farrier Science degree.

In the years to follow, Joe rode outside colts, shod horses, worked for his step-dad Alex Hadden’s construction company, and continued to rodeo. He trained, rode and ran race horses, and drove and handled horses for his mother’s horse transport business.

Joe married Julie Habeck in 1982, and they moved to Heppner. They had a son, Ty, and a daughter, Casie.

Joe was raised around many influential people, one being Mel Prince, who employed Joe as a horse handler for a Kentucky-based aircraft horse transporter, Tex Sutton Forwarding Co. In 1986, Joe was the handler for Ferdinand, a Kentucky Derby winner, on one of the horse’s cross-country flights.

Joe moved his family to Hermiston in 1988, where he started his general contractor business, Sturza Construction. Later, Joe and Julie divorced. Joe went on to open Horse Plaza, a one-of-a-kind equine services establishment, in 1995 on East Highland Avenue with the support of then-girlfriend Dency Paluso. As the store took off, the construction business was left behind to keep up in his new adventure.

In 1999, Joe moved the store and his residence to the Diagonal Road location. The store continued to grow and was a full-time venture. He lent help and shared knowledge where and when he could. He was a philanthropist in his own way. He sponsored various clubs and organizations with tack and saddles. Joe was as big a draw for Horse Plaza as the goods that were sold.

Joe worked hard and played hard. He enjoyed his band of brood mares, stallions and jacks and looked forward mostly to the babies in the spring. Joe spent countless days a-horseback, hunting and fishing. For many years, Joe had enjoyed the company of his girlfriend Kathy Moore, doing some traveling, relaxing and wine tasting. He appreciated a good card game and enjoyed music and dancing, and betting horses. Little kids were drawn to Joe and he adored them. He loved his friends, liked good whisky and would tolerate a good fist fight. Joe threw a big loop; he had more friends than one could count.

Joe is survived by his son, Ty and his wife Keeah; daughter, Casie and her boyfriend Mickey; brother; John Sturza; sisters to Pete Sturza and Faye Rice Sturza, Jill Kenfield, Robin Sharp and Barbara Haide; his greatly treasured grandchildren, Steely and Pete; numerous nieces and nephews; and girlfriend, Kathy Moore.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents and stepfather.

A celebration of life gathering will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 at 4 p.m. at the Skip and Sherry Walchli Farm, 32697 E. Loop Road, Hermiston.

In lieu of flowers or donations, please contribute in Joe’s memory to the Children’s Rodeo held during the Pendleton Round-Up, in care of Burns Mortuary, P.O. Box 289, Hermiston, Ore., 97838.

Please share memories of Joe with his family at

Burns Mortuary of Hermiston is in care of arrangements.


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