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Jess James 1934 – 2023

Jess W. L. James was born Wayne LeRoy James in Spencer, Nebraska on June 20, 1934, to Clyde Arthur James and Ada Pearle (Thiessen) James. Jess passed away peacefully with family by his side, on Saturday, March 18, 2023, at Goldpine Home in Bemidji, MN. While in the Navy the mailman would holler out, “Mail for Jesse James!” and the name stuck. After many years passed, he had his name legally changed to Jess W. L. James.
On December 24, 1953, Jess and Mary Frances (Bernard) were united in marriage in Lodi, CA. They had three daughters: Susan, Rhoda, and Janai. On August 6, 1953, Jess joined the US Navy at Stockton, CA and served until his discharge on August 5, 1957. He served in the Navy as a USN Hospital Corpsman attached to the USMC 3D Division, Korean Era. Jess was very proud to have served his country.
Dad was a wild one at times. He enjoyed fast cars and while in California he raced modified stock cars on dirt tracks. This was part of an adventurous life. He was not afraid to try new things. In 1968, he and his family moved out of California to the beautiful wilds of northern Minnesota. Here in Minnesota, he and Mary Frances began their adventure of growing 15 acres of vegetables, strawberries, and raspberries, which became James’ Truck Garden, located south of Nevis, MN. Later supplying a few local stores and businesses such as Dave’s Red Owl, Bieloh’s Red Owl, Dairy Queen, and A&W. To supplement income during the winter he logged and sold poplar. Later he partnered with his wife selling homeowners insurance under James’ Insurance Agency.
A machinist by trade for McClellan Air Force Base and Aerojet General in California, precision and detail spilled over into all areas of his life. Whenever he built something, it was built well, strong, and sturdy. Just like himself, strong and sturdy.
A man of amazing intelligence, Jess was able to learn, absorb, retain, and share great amounts of information. He loved camping, fishing, and being out in the beautiful wild country of California when time permitted. After retirement in Minnesota, he and Mary Frances enjoyed traveling with his brother, sister-in-law, and different friends.
Jess is survived by daughters, Susan Wilson of Nevis, Rhoda (Lawrence) Henry of Lapwai, ID, and Janai (Greg) Lampert of Laporte; grandchildren: Elaine Santiago, Stacy (Adam) Nelson, Ryan (Naomi) Wilson, Brian (Sara), Eric (Nicole), and Lee (Mandy) Henry, Jessica (Israel) Silva, Crista, Lee (Brianna), and Eva Lampert; 22 great-grandchildren; three great great-grandchildren; sister-in-law, Irene James; nephew, Philip (Millie) James; and niece, Lori Ramos.
Jess is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Frances; parents; brothers, Clyde James, Jr., Judson Thiessen, Charles Porter; nephew, David James; and son-in-law, Dale Wilson.
A Memorial Service for Jess will be Saturday, June 24, 2023, at 11 a.m. with a visitation one-hour prior to the service, all to be held at Northern Peace Funeral Home in Walker, MN. Pastor Matthew McWaters will officiate. Urn bearers are all Jess’ grandchildren. Honorary urn bearers are Jess’ great-grandchildren. Interment following services will be in Rest Haven Cemetery in Nevis, MN.
Jess’ care has been entrusted to Northern Peace Funeral Home of Walker, MN. Online condolences for the family may be left at

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