Jay Dee James 1943 - 2011 Wasilla, Alaska
Longtime Wasilla, Alaska, resident Jay Dee James, 67, died May 10, 2011.
He fought a courageous battle with lung cancer over the past year. A celebration of life will take place next summer in Seward, Alaska.
He was born Sept. 10, 1943, in Santa Ana, Calif., and grew up on a farm in Tonganoxie.
After high school, he traveled and worked a variety of jobs, including working for Proctor and Gamble for about four years.
His first marriage was to Marilyn K. Evans in March 1965. In 1968, he graduated with honors from Kaw Area Vocational Technical School in Topeka as an automobile body repairman. Mr. James worked for Jerry Allen Volkswagen in Lawrence, and eventually owned his own body shop in Tonganoxie. In the early 1970s he became a journeyman carpenter and worked on bridges in the Kansas City area. He continued to use both skills throughout his life.
In 1975, he and Marian Poterbin traveled to Alaska and were married in Anchorage that July. They spent their first winter in a tent diving for gold on Gulch Creek. He continued searching for gold all over Alaska throughout the years and owned many mining claims. One summer he worked as field superintendent and flew around the Talkeetna Mountains in a helicopter prospecting for gold. In 1977, he discovered an old two-story log cabin on Main Street in Wasilla and restored it to be known as the Mother Earth Gift Shop. This building was later moved to the Wasilla Historic Museum. Mr. James also worked for Busch Concrete throughout the Matanuska Valley area. In 1979, he moved his family to Montague Island in the Prince William Sound where they lived for more than a year. After returning back to Wasilla he worked as a carpenter and for several summers as a warehouseman for Matanuska Telephone Association.
By the mid 80s he became a full time stay-at-home dad and worked from home as an entrepreneur and inventor. He was instrumental in establishing the Inventors Institute of Alaska and helped many people with research and development of new ideas. Mr. James was the inventor on three patents, and held many copyrights. He was the proprietor of Alaska Mercantile Warehouse and distributed many Alaskan items throughout the United States. He was a true adventurer, free spirited and lived by his motto, “It’s all good.”
He will be remembered for his charismatic personality, innovative mind and being a great storyteller.
He is survived by his mother, Cleo Stillwell; father and companion, Earl Downing and Ethel Caldemeyer; wife of 35 years Marian E. James; daughter Jayleen (Pat) Harvey; sons Montague James Jesse (Makaela) James; four grandchildren; sisters Nancy Downing and Jana (Jerry) McFarland; and father-in-law, James A. Poterbin.