Keith Douglas James (1928-2020)
Keith D. James peacefully passed away of natural causes Saturday, October 24, 2020. Keith was born October 30, 1928 in Des Moines, Iowa to Dr. Audra (Jim) James and Maude (Baxter) James. He graduated from Lincoln High School, Des Moines, IA. In high school he lettered in swimming and received state recognition. He received his B.S. degree from Iowa State University in Animal Husbandry with a minor in Agronomy. At ISU he received a ROTC Rifle Team competition letter in minor sports. He was a member of Alpha Zeta Fraternity.
As a student he received a military deferment. Upon graduation he was drafted and became part of the 5th Armored Division at Camp Chaffe, Arkansas for basic training after which he became a member of Company B, 45th Army Infantry, BN 5th Armored Division on his way to Korea.
En route to Korea he was called upon to use his artist skills as the ship’s Illustrator. From Korea he was sent to Eta Jima, Japan for Specialist Welding School. Back at camp, as part of the 703 Company B Ordinance Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, he was responsible for welding army tanks and tank pullers. Being an excellent welder and problem solver, he was often sent to other camps for difficult welding projects. He received a commendation for welding projects done at field hospitals where he made necessary utensils from scrap metal. He was a recipient of the Korean War Medal with 3 Service Stars, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea Service Award, and Ambassador of Peace Award. He was honorably discharged in 1953. Returning from service he built his father’s all-season lake home at Lake Vermillion in Minnesota after which he took residence at the Baxter Homestead, Hazel, SD.
As a boy he often spent summers at the Homestead tagging along with his grandfather H. Edson Baxter doing farm chores and yard chores for his Aunt Grace. His dream was to one day farm and own the Homestead. With the help of his Uncle Everett Baxter and farm property owned by his mother and aunt, he was able to crop-share. Eventually with lots of prayer, endurance, grit and creativity he accomplished his goal. The Baxter Homestead received recognition as a Century Farm in 1990 and Quasquicentennial 125 Year Farm in 2018.
He strongly believed in soil conservation and worked to improve the quality of the soil at the Homestead. He was awarded the Watertown Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Young Farmers Award in 1963, State Crop Show Grand Champion for his Wheat Exhibit in 1968 by the SD Crop Improvement Association and received the Hamlin County Soil Conservation Award.
A blind date introduced him to June Holzwarth, a native of the Hazel area, who was home on summer break from teaching school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The match makers were right, it was a perfect match. One year later they were married on October 8, 1960 and recently celebrated 60 years of marriage. They are blessed with two beautiful daughters, Linda and Robin. The family worked together raising sheep, doing field work, yard and garden activities. They enjoyed camping, fishing, traveling, sightseeing, the Casino Speedway stock car races, and Sunday drives ending at the A&W in Watertown.
Keith became known as Mr. Mom as he transported the girls to 4-H activities, teacher conferences, clinic visits, sporting and school events. Keith was a fan of NCAA wrestling. He and June traveled to major NCAA championship events in the Midwest and Northwest to cheer for the Washington State wrestlers whom his brother coached.
Keith had many talents, music being one of them. He is noted as singing to June during their courtship, whenever they traveled and as she prepared meals. On a good day he could be heard singing throughout the day and as he worked in the field. He was a soloist at many weddings, funerals, community and church events.
He was an avid sportsman & a skilled craftsman. Target shooting and precision marksmanship was one of his passions. He competed in numerous competitions and was a Hunter Safety Course Instructor. He held a life membership in the Watertown Sportsman Club, and the Kranzburg Black Powder and Muzzle Loader group.
He received many marksmanship patches for accuracy. He also loved fishing and his equipment was the latest and best. He made his own lures, flies, and fishing rods. He enjoyed reading news, sporting, and hunting magazines. In later years he did wood working projects such as windmills, fishing chairs, and wood puzzles like Soduko. He was also gifted in photography, showing his work at art events, farm shows and the South Dakota State Fair.
He served on the Hamlin County Board of Education which began laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the Hamlin Education Center. He was a board member of the Hamlin-Codington Farmers Home Administration, Grover Farmers Elevator Board of Directors, and Jenkins Living Center. He was a member of the Hamlin County Crop Improvement Association, Hamlin County Weed and Pest Association, and the Cook-Olson Post #217 American Legion.
He was a member of Kellerton United Methodist Church in rural Hazel. He served as trustee, treasurer, Sunday school teacher, soloist and as part of the Kellerton Men’s Quartet.
He was an avid reader of the Bible.
Keith is survived by his wife, June of Hazel, SD; daughters Linda (Trent Bratland) Johnson, Sioux Falls, SD; Robin (Douglas) Roegner, Rockford, IL; grandchildren Lindsay Roegner, Brooklyn, NY; Christopher Roegner, Rockford, IL; great-grandchildren, Kylie Johnson Heumiller, Sioux Falls, SD; Trevor Hawley, Sioux Falls, SD; Ashlynn Hawley, Sioux Falls, SD; Taylor Hawley, Spencer, SD. Nieces Susan (James) Clark, Corvallis, OR; Ann James, Kalispell, MT; Mary Beth (James) Parson, Filer, ID; and numerous other nieces and nephews through marriage.
He was preceded in death by his parents Dr. Audra (Jim) James and Maude (Baxter) James; stepmother Bernice (Nelson) James, brothers Quinten James and Roger James, beloved granddaughter Angela (Johnson) Hawley; and nephew Brett James.
A walk-through visitation will be held on Thursday, October 29th at 4-7 PM at Wight & Comes Funeral Home.
Private family services will be held Friday, October 30th at 10:30 AM at Kellerton United Methodist Church with Reverend Mark Tracy officiating.
The family kindly requests the wearing of a face-covering/mask and that social distancing be observed.
The service will also be broadcast in the church parking lot on radio FM 89.1.
Interment at the Kellerton Zion Cemetery with Military Graveside Honors.
Memorials may be made to the Kellerton Zion Cemetery Fund or to the Hamlin County 4-H Shooting Sports.
Arrangements by Wight & Comes Funeral Chapel, www.wightandcomes.com.