10254 W. Carlton Bay | Garden City, ID 83714

Joseph M. Spinazola December 22, 1955 - January 20, 2022

Joseph M Spinazola of Boise, Idaho was born in Chicago, Illinois to parents Lorraine and Joseph Spinazola. After attending several universities, he landed at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a degree in Forestry. It was there in calculus class he met his wife, Jean. They were married on June 9th, 1979. It was a rainy day, and though Joe endured the traditional “kidnapping of the groom to get him wasted”, he outwitted his new sisters-in-law, abandoning them at the bar without a ride, and returning to his life partner’s side no worse for wear.

The young couple then moved to Garden City, Kansas where Joe worked for the US Geological Survey. They later moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and after Jean became pregnant with their first daughter, Leanne, they made their best and final move to Boise, Idaho.

Four years after Leanne was born, Joe and Jean welcomed their second child, Audrey. Not too long after, Vincent was born. Joe loved and supported his three children with gusto, attending every possible game, concert, recital, and ceremony. He refereed soccer games for all three children while they played in city rec leagues and continued to ref even after they abandoned soccer for other pursuits.

The Spinazola household was a tightknit group from the beginning. While the kids were growing up, Sundays were family days and spent adventuring around town and in the Idaho wilderness surrounding Boise. From the slopes at Bogus to the Snake River plain, the Spinazolas were always outside and always together, eating snow and collecting rocks. Joe was a hot springs enthusiast, making it a point to visit family favorite spots like Silver Creek Plunge and Sligers on a regular basis, and discovering new hydrothermal havens whenever possible. Hot springs became a Spinazola tradition and even after his children became adults it was something they all enjoyed together whenever the opportunity arose.

Joe loved to travel, and while the kids were young, summers typically included camping excursions on the weekends and road trips to places like Yachats, Oregon for daily tidepool observing and agate hunting, and back to the Midwest to visit family in Minneapolis and Chicago. Once they were empty nesters, Joe planned trips to take with Jean. They enjoyed regular visits to beloved places like the Oregon Coast and Portland, Oregon, one of Joe’s favorite cities. The pair also spent time discovering new places like New Orleans during Halloween and Savannah, Georgia where they kayaked through cypress swamps. Part of Joe and Jean’s travel routine invariably took them to see their children, visiting for holidays and performances, graduations and just because.

Family dinners were a Spinazola ritual. A talented cook, Joe was always experimenting in the kitchen. When Audrey became a vegetarian in high school and was defaulting to a daily diet of PB and J, he began focusing more on vegetarian cuisine and eventually went back to being a vegetarian as well (a lifestyle he had led in his early adult life). Though he avoided meat in his own diet, he was happy to continue cooking old favorites like chicken and dumplings and breaded pork chops for his carnivorous wife and offspring. When Jean developed gluten and dairy sensitivities and removed those ingredients from her diet, he quickly adapted stapes such as lasagna and Saturday morning pancakes to be gluten and dairy free. Every dish he made was a labor of love and was always savored by those for whom he cooked.

Joe joined the workforce at the ripe age of 14, working summers at Taber Farms. After college he became a devoted public servant and was employed by the Forest Service as a fire fighter after graduating from the U of M. He then joined the USGS as a hydrologist, and finally the Bureau of Reclamation as a project manager where he received the John W. Keys, III Award. Before retiring in 2013, he split his time between Boise and Portland, Oregon working with Bonneville Power as a liaison for the Bureau of Reclamation.

Retirement agreed with Joe and he was constantly working on something: making improvements to the family home, collaborating with Jean to make their magical backyard an ever-more amazing paradise, and practicing music on his many guitars. He could often be found picking out melodies on his acoustic or electric guitars and enjoyed listening to an eclectic variety of music. Joe loved technology and even rebuilt an electric guitar. He was the family IT professional, researching, adopting, and having fun with the latest tech as it became available.

An avid cyclist and recreational skier, both downhill and Nordic, Joe was an active guy who enjoyed the outdoors with his wife and kids. When they weren’t in the mountains or zooming down the greenbelt, he spent time hiking in the Boise foothills and walking the many beautiful footpaths of the Treasure Valley. Any vacation always included a well-researched bike excursion, nature walk, hike, or kayak outing, depending on the location.

Joe will be immeasurably missed by his devoted family. He is survived by his wife, Jean, his three children, Leanne, Audrey, and Vincent, and sisters Sharon McGreevy (Tom) and Judy Spinazzola. A private memorial for family and friends will be held in the spring. Memories and condolences can be shared with the family here. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Interfaith Sanctuary.


  1. REPLY
    Shelly and Daniel King says

    Daniel and I send you all our love and prayers of comfort.

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      Kathleen Berg says

      Joe! It’s enormously sad you had to go. To Jean and the kids- I am so sorry for Joe’s passing. I hope there are many moments of magic in the wind and through the days that help you feel his essence near and continuing on. What a wonderful life, well lived, with abundant love. Sending big bear hugs and heart healing grace, Kathy

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    Keith and Therese Gerard says

    Jean, Leanne, Audrey and Vincent… how we enjoy being your neighbors and seeing your family out and about in the neighborhood. Our hearts go out to you as you grieve Joe’s passing. We are so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the beautiful obituary and the opportunity to carry on Joe’s legacy with a donation to Interfaith Sanctuary.

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    Tonya Wicklund says

    Thinking of you and the kids. Sorry for your loss.

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    Mel and Mike Koob says

    So sorry to hear of your loss. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Treasure your happy memories!

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    Kathy Marshall says

    I enjoyed working with Joe at Reclamation. He was always helpful, very knowledgeable and kind. I so appreciated him faithfully sending out all the notices to the retirees and keeping us updated. It kept us feeling like “family” and I will miss him. My prayers are with you in your loss.

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    Patty Cutler says

    Jean, Leanne, Audrey and Vinnie, I am so very sorry for your loss. Joe was a dedicated man to the family he loved and everything he did. There are no words for this tragic loss. I send many hugs and lots of love to all of you at this difficult time.

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    Lori Postlethwait says

    Jean, Leanne, Audrey, and Vincent, I am so sorry for your loss. I was blessed to work with Joe for many years starting when he worked for USGS and continuing when we worked together at Reclamation. He was so proud of all you kids and I loved hearing his stories about you. I send you prayers for comfort.

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    Sean Welch says

    I always looked forward to working with Joe when he came to Portland or when we were together in the field. He was always a patient teacher, thinker and problem solver. Always encouraging, he was an absolute pleasure work with and I’m proud to have had him as a friend. The Spinazola family is in our prayers.

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    Diana Cross says

    So very saddened and stunned by this news. I worked with Joe at Reclamation and also appreciated all he did to support the retirees staying connected. We used to run into Joe and Jean at concerts, as Leann and our son Dan shared a love of music which led to friendship. Joe was a very good man and I’m very sorry for your loss.

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    Sue Camp says

    Thank you so much for sharing pictures of Joe and your family. I was lucky to have a couple of years working with Joe at Reclamation and just caught occasional glimpses into the incredibly fun and interesting life you all have together. We have many interests in common and enjoyed swapping family stories when we had some time, including one trip to Salmon where I learned of Joe’s mad mountain driving skills! 🙂 I have helped spread the news among our colleagues and want to share a few key words that keep popping up as we each reflect on our times with Joe: “kind”, “selfless”, “thoughtful”, “good to talk to”, “interesting”, “big part of our team”, “a wonderful guy”, “sharing of knowledge”, “incredible person”, “nice guy”, “great to work with”, “amazing”, “nice guy”. The list goes on; I hope these brief insights from Joe’s work life bring you some comfort. My deepest condolences to your family and respect for a life well-lived.

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    Ted Walker says

    Joe was a very thoughtful and selfless man. And much too young to pass. He was also a great “customer” at Reclamation. Very easy and enjoyable to work with. He’ll be missed by all who knew him. Jean, may you and your family find comfort to get you through this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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    Judy spinazzola says

    I will forever miss my big brother. He was wonderful to me as a child and teen and grown up. Always had patience helping me with my math homework or driving lessens, took me everywhere with him. The list goes on and on. Memories I treasure. To know I won’t see or hear your voice and fabulous laugh is unreal to me. His family adored him, as he adored them. Forever in my heart, Joe until we meet up again.love you.

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    Carmen Oldenburg says

    Jean, Leanne, Audrey and Vinnie, we are so very sorry for your loss. Sending hugs and love your way.

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    Linda and Steve Lester says

    Joe and Jean are our neighbors. We knew Joe to be a sweet and loving person. We only wish we had gotten to know him better. We wish Jean and the family comfort and peace in the times ahead.

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    Kate Puckett says

    My sincere condolences to Joe’s family. Joe was completely committed to Reclamations’ habitat improvement program for salmon. He consistently gave 110%. Joe was totally a team player and always tried to find solutions to our many challenges. His hard work and dedication made a difference and was a real contribution to both Reclamations’ and Bonneville Power Administrations’ habitat improvement programs. I appreciate that he worked with the Reclamation retiree group – keeping us connected with one another.

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    Mike Zaczek says

    Stan Mike Joe the fabulous furry freak brothers in Chicago in the early 70s
    Pals with Joe all through high school
    We were great teenagers and had a ball
    Joe on the cross country team smoking a cigarette
    Great memories of a great guy , miss ya Joe Spin

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    Stan Shakenis says

    Just heard of Joe’s passing – very sad. My condolences to Jean and the children. I new Joe in Chicago. At 14 we took waiter jobs at Tabor Farm resort in Michigan. In our group of friends, we always considered Joe to be the one with the brains. He was a very talented and caring man.

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    Mike Zaczek says

    Friends with Joe through high school and did the stuff teenagers typically did in the 70s
    Together with Stan we experienced lots of fun high schoolers have . Joe was highly intelligent and yet one the guys at the same time , a rare attribute.
    Rest easy Joe and thanks for the memories.

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    Diana says

    I believe this was the same Joe S. I knew in the seventies when I was attending U of I in Champaign. We did some bike rides and spent time together. I have only good memories of those days

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