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James Burgess

September 1, 1942 - May 25, 2020

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James Morris Burgess, 77, died peacefully in his lakefront home on Monday, May 25, 2020 in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Jim, with fraternal twin brother Jack, was born Sept. 1, 1942 in Ballston Spa, N.Y., to Mary Elizabeth Smith and John Chamberlain Burgess. The Burgess boys grew up with their mother, a World War II widow, and their cousin, Sharon Smith, in Rutland, Vt.
Jim worked as a loss prevention specialist for Montgomery Wards and Conagra before forming his own business. At work, he was nicknamed “bullet” for his ability to immediately zero in on the heart of the matter, including getting confessions from the guilty.
He lived in Cottage Grove, Minn.; Longmont, Greeley and Berthoud, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; and Sandpoint (since 1998).
He married Jean Holm Wilson on Jan. 11, 1987, and they both made the most of their second marriages, creating the home they envisioned on their “unbuildable lot” overlooking Lake Pend Oreille.
Jim was a playful man. He coached his kids’ baseball and basketball teams, always stressing the importance of having fun. It wasn’t unusual to have 20 kids in the Burgess backyard, playing whiffle ball (with Jim as the “all-time pitcher”) or football or some other game they invented, like “suicide sprinkler soccer.” Later in life, Jim loved going to his grandchildren’s football and lacrosse games, swimming meets and marching band events.
Jim was a grateful man. At the Thanksgiving table, he annually gave thanks to dialysis and its ability to prolong his life. He treated every day as a gift.
Jim was a gentle soul. He made a profound impact on many people, especially those who never witnessed what conflict resolution in a loving marriage looks like. He also taught others that a man can be both kind and strong. A man of velvet and steel, he was encouraging but also direct with his communication. His purpose in life was to create safety and peace. He assisted Jean in teaching Responsible Living Classes, where they’ve mentored more than 1,000 people and given them tools for stepping out of the victim game, taking responsibility for their own lives, letting go of resentments and forgiving.
Jim was a patient man. He endured many medical conditions, including polycystic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, skin cancer, pleural effusions, poor circulation, and a lot of pain, and was a marvel to medical professionals who treated him, some of whom bluntly told him he should not still be alive. But Jim did not like to focus on his medical problems: There was too much fun to be had.
Jim enjoyed spending time with his family, living his retirement years on “lake time,” riding on the pontoon boat, listening to music, dancing, going on anniversary cruises with his soulmate, playing free online poker, watching sports, playing fantasy football, and, to his sons’ horror, often spent Sunday afternoons watching Hallmark movie marathons, with Jean at his side, instead of the Vikings, Broncos or Seahawks.
Jim had many dear friends. A couple days before he passed, Jim, drifting in and out of consciousness, declared, “I love so many people.”
He is survived by his children, Todd Burgess of Woodland Park, Colo., John Burgess (Melissa) of Evans, Colo., Todd Wilson (Belinda) of Sandpoint, Trina Kennedy (Dave) of Sagle, Steve Kantrud (Dawn) of Lakewood, Colo., and five grandchildren, Abigail and Isabel Burgess, Tyler and Tanner Kennedy, and Sabrina Wilson. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Donations can be made in lieu of flowers to Responsible Living Classes, 1547 W. Oden Bay Road, Sandpoint, ID 83864.A celebration of life will be held “at the mountain beach” at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 30. If those directions alone make sense to you, you are welcome to attend.