James died peacefully on Oct. 9, 2020 in Sun City, Arizona. He was 92. Jim, the youngest of eight children, was born Jan. 6, 1928 in Gardenville, a small town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He left school in his junior year to work on ships transporting ore through the Great Lakes during World War II.
In 1947, Jim moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., with several family members. He worked for a time at the storied Broadmoor Hotel, where he waited on celebrities including Mickey Rooney, Peter Lawford and Walter Pigeon.
The next year, Jim decided to join the Navy, thinking his able seaman rating would ensure him a position. When he was told the Navy had met its recruitment quota for the month, he walked down the hall and enlisted in the Air Force. He was eventually assigned to an intelligence unit in the 15th Air Force and given top-secret clearance.
The 15th moved to Riverside, Calif. in 1949, and this is where Jim met his future wife, Phyllis Beggerow, at a welcome dance. They were married the next year. Though Phyllis left the military in 1951 after becoming pregnant with their first child, Jim remained in the Air Force, serving in Colorado; Japan; Texas; Vietnam; and Anchorage, Alaska, where the family settled after his retirement as a senior master sergeant in 1968. Jim then worked for the State of Alaska’s transportation department until 1986.
Jim loved to camp and fish, and he spent summers outdoors with family and friends. After his children were grown, he and Phyllis lived in Hawaii for several years. In 1999 they settled in Sun City after touring the country in a motor home. He became a member of the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne and spent many hours volunteering in the community. He made frequent trips to Nevada to gamble and organized reunions for his large, scattered family. He also enjoyed watching sports, particularly basketball, on TV, as well as a wee dram of Glenlivet each day.
Jim is survived by his children Jamie, Paul, Jason, Loretta, Mary and John, and their spouses; 10 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife and eldest daughter, Lisa.
The family would like to thank the staff at the Gardens of Sun City for their thoughtful care during Jim’s last years. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Charity and Development Appeal, Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne, 11625 N. 111th Ave., Sun City, AZ 85351.
A Funeral Mass will be held 10am on Monday, October 19, at the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne. Condolences may be shared at www.menkefuneralhome.com.