Arija Powell, 86, passed away peacefully in her home on June 28, 2021 with close family by her side. Arija was born in Lativia on the Baltic Sea on July 31, 1934. She was born prematurely on her grandfather's yacht that could not get back to shore due to a storm. Her world drastically shifted as World War II started. Her father, an army officer, was taken by the Russians and the rest of her family were deported out of Latvia and placed in German Camps. Arija's mother was forced to tend to wounded soldiers on the front lines of the war and was later used in German Labs for experimental drug trials.
Arija was relocated to the United States in 1950 after a family out of South Dakota sponsored them to come over. Arija traveled to the US with her Grandparents and younger brother. She was later reunited with her mother. In South Dakota they worked on the sponsored family's farm which furthered her childhood desire to own horses, rodeo and one day own a large farm. Arija spent her younger years with her family throughout the war and once relocated she was housed with her grandparents, younger brother and mother. Arija has two sibilings Andris Keksis (1937- ) and Gunars Grants (1955-2013). She has three children Michael Luongo (1957- ), Michelle Luongo (1959- ), and Nora Shannon (1963-1997).
Wanting to ensure her independence and never needing to rely on anyone, she put herself through school gaining herself a BS in Library Science and minors is psychology and art. She then began working in schools as a librarian and in special education classrooms. Working in the school system ensured she would have her summers off to Rodeo, a passion that drove her career choice. She rodeoed almost her whole life besides minor breaks for children, education, or work. Her passion was horses and anything involved with raising, training and riding them. Arija rode bareback horses, barrel raced, worked cutting horses, and partook in anything that involved a rodeo event at some point in her life. Once she began to Barrel Race & cut she found a passion for raising and training the horses for these events. Arija knew of the first major bloodlines for Quarter Horses and had a knack to breed just to the right bloodlines to get quality horses. She rodeoed and rode up until she was 78 years old.
Arija's other hobby which turned into her lifelong career was art. As an artist she worked with multiple mediums including ceramics, watercolor, ink, acrylic painting and her own techniques created throughout the years. She won multiple awards and could be found in galleries from Arizona to Montana. She was well known in Wickenburg for her clay horses she sculpted and had them in the galleries throughout town.
She was proceeded in death by her late husband Leon, brother Gunars, and daughter Nora. She is survived and remembered by her son Michael, daughter Michelle, stepson Leon Jr., stepdaughter Connie, 7 grandchildren, 2 step-grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren.