Richard Levern James June 13, 1930 – October 9, 2022
ALTOONA, Wis. – Richard Levern James, 92, from Altoona, Wisconsin died Sunday, October 9, 2022, at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, surrounded by his family. Richard was born to Levern and Leola (Horner) James on June 13, 1930 (Friday the 13th), at his family’s homestead in the Kirtley, Wyoming, community. He attended the first eight grades at Node School, a one-room schoolhouse, and then graduated from Lusk High School in 1948. Richard attended Creighton University for two years before joining the Army. He was a proud US Army veteran serving in the 2nd Division, 23rd Infantry, where he received a Combat Infantry Badge for his service in Korea from 1951-53. Before and after his military service he and a friend toured the United States by car. Following military service, Richard returned to his hometown of Lusk to work with his father on the family ranch. In 1960 he met the love of his life, “the little redhead” Catherine Grove Maxwell. When they married on May 27, 1961, he gained an instant family with her three children, Jeffery, Mark and Kimera. Joseph came along later to complete the family.
Richard and Cathy lived and ranched in Lusk for the next 42 years, raising registered Rambouillet and Columbia sheep and cattle. For several years, he worked as a professional sheep shearer, traveling the area each spring with a shearing crew. His happiest days were spent outdoors working the cattle and sheep and farming his alfalfa and oat fields. In Lusk, Richard was an active community leader, serving several terms as member and chair of the Niobrara County School Board and as member and chair of the Niobrara County Commissioners. He was a long-time 4-H leader and member and chair of the Republican Party. Richard was a proud 33rd degree Master Mason where he served several times as Worshipful Master. He later became a Shriner. Richard also served as the associate guardian of the local Job’s Daughters chapter and a member of Eastern Star.
No matter where his kids’ activities took them, Richard was a staunch supporter and fan, cheering the boys on in football and wrestling and his daughter on in piano recitals and Job’s Daughters. He was always up for a Sunday trip to the Black Hills to “see the faces” and finish the day with a swim at the Evans Plunge in Hot Springs, S.D. where he never failed to impress family and friends with his ability to swing across all the rings hanging above the pool. His and Cathy’s exploits with friends and family were legendary. They included Sunday boating trips to Glendo Dam, ski trips, working livestock sales, wrangling greased pigs for the county fair, riding on parade floats, working springtime brandings, hosting Super Bowl parties, and even dressing up to trick or treat as adults to trick or treat. He and Cathy had a wide circle of friends in Lusk with whom they made countless memories.
Richard and Cathy moved to Altoona, WI, in 2003 to live near their daughter. He immediately got to know the Chippewa Valley through his job delivering flowers for Avalon European Floral (Eau Claire, Wis.), where he was known as the “Cowboy.” He and Cathy spent weekends traveling the state to watch their granddaughters play soccer and swim. He attended countless swim meets, dance recitals and soccer games. He also enjoyed traveling to visit his sons and their families in Texas, Arizona and Illinois. On September 16, 2017, Richard participated in a Freedom Honor Flight trip for military veterans to Washington, DC, an experience he said was one of the best of his life. He was proud of his military service and his country.
A few years ago, Richard became a sheep “mentor” to Beth, a family friend who decided to enter the sheep business. For the last several years he loved talking sheep with her, advising her on the ins and outs of raising sheep and attending the annual sheep shearing of her small herd.
Richard is survived by his wife, Catherine, and their four children – Jeffery Maxwell (Tammy), Dallas, Texas; Mark Maxwell (Heidi), Phoenix, Ariz; Kimera Maxwell Way (Darcy), Eau Claire, Wis.; and Joseph James (Suzanne), Milton, Wis. He also is survived by 10 grandchildren: James (Heidi), Jordan (Megan), Jayme (Jason), Kyle (Caitlin), Amie (Jake), Elizabeth, Anika, Emily, Parker and Cody and six great grandchildren: Ophelia, Rowan, Kolby, Layne, Landry and Ford. His parents and siblings all pre-deceased him.
Richard’s family would like to thank the physicians, nurses and other staff at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire who provided him with such compassionate and quality care.
A memorial service for Richard will be held at 11 a.m., Friday, October 21, 2022, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Eau Claire, with Rev. David Huber officiating. Military honors will be performed by American Legion Post 53. Visitation will be held one hour before the service at the church. Inurnment will take place at a later date at Lusk Municipal Cemetery in Lusk, Wyoming. Lenmark-Gomsrud-Linn Funeral and Cremation Service, Eau Claire is assisting the family. Online condolences may be shared at www.lenmarkfh.com.
In lieu of flowers the family wishes for donations to the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org/support).