Joe was born Sept. 13, 1916 in Wibaux, Mont., to Jerry and Clementine (Majkowski) Stefanowich. He grew up on the family ranch in Wibaux and at the age of 16 he started riding broncs for 5 cents a ride. An injury with a bull ended “Smokey Joe’s” career at the age of 22. While in the hospital recovering, he met the love of his life, Ruth Berg. Joe and Ruth were married in Wibaux on May 23, 1942.
The couple was blessed with two daughters, Judy and Karen. The family moved to Worland in 1946, where Joe became a successful farmer. In 1977, Joe moved the family to town and worked for Pepsi. Joe spent his later years fishing, hunting and beating his friends and family at cards.
Joe and Ruth moved to Powell in 2003 to be closer to family and enjoyed retirement together at the Rocky Mountain Manor. Ruth died in 2005 and shortly after, Joe moved to the Powell Valley Care Center, where he continually received kind and loving support. “Smokey Joe” was easily recognized by his genuine smile and Stetson hat.
Joe was a faithful parishioner of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Worland, where he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and he attended Mass at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Powell.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents; his beloved wife Ruth; cherished daughter Karen Luna; great-grandson Matthias Bell; brother Pete Stefanowich; and sisters Mary Wilmot, Rose Payne, Victoria Hickman and Gertrude Stefanowich.
Joe is survived by his daughter Judy (George) Ribble of Powell; son-in-law Santos Luna; and grandchildren David (Jennifer) Ribble of Indianapolis, Ind., Stefanie (Jim) Bell of Cody, and Darci (Cory) Ostermiller of Powell, Lynn (Victor) Martinez of Casper, Joe (Nicole) Snider, Joy Luna, Ana Luna, Santos Luna Jr., Mario Luna, and Ruth (Jonathan) Castillo, all of Kennewick, Wash. Grandpa Joe was blessed with 27 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren. Joe is also survived by his sister Florence Johnson and brother Father Paul Stefanowich.
Rosary was offered by Father Glen Whewell at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Powell on Sunday, Nov. 11. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Father Ray Rodriguez on Monday, Nov. 12 at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Worland. Rite of Burial was at Riverview Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Worland.
Memorials may be made to St. Joseph’s Children’s Home at P. O. Box 1117 – Torrington, WY 82240.
Veile Mortuary of Worland was in charge of the arrangements.