Joe Sturza



August 17, 1958 — October 5, 2019

Joe Burr Sturza passed away quietly at home in Hermiston, Oregon, on October 5, 2019, at the age of 61. He was born August 17, 1958, in Redmond, Oregon, to Pete Sturza and Faye (Rice) Sturza.

Joe grew up with his brother, John, beginning in Redmond, Ore., 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 BMCC in Pendleton and WWCC in Walla Walla, where he earned a Farrier Science degree.

In the years to follow, Joe rode outside colts, shod horses, worked for his stepdad 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, they moved to Heppner, Oregon. 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, Oregon, 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 with 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 of 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 on 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, 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 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, October 19, 2019, at 4 p.m. at the Skip & Sherry Walchli Farm, 32697 E. Loop Road, Hermiston, Oregon.

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

Please share memories of Joe with his family at

Burns Mortuary of Hermiston, Oregon, is in care of arrangements.

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martin brunette

I met joe only twice he gave me kindness in his voice and great consideration for me and my mother Loretta Brunette Jones, from Martin E. Brunette

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