James Stansberry

Obituary of James Rex Stansberry

On March 9, 1947, Jim’s wonderful first cries caught his father, Claude Stansberry’s attention as new dad Claude rushed to the side of his wife, Mary in the Charles City, Iowa hospital. Thus began James Rex Stansberry’s adventure filled days. Jim “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” on August 3, 2023 with family at his side, after nine years of living with declining physical and mental limiting diseases. 

Jim’s earliest days were filled with adventures on his mother’s family farm in Floyd, Iowa. Even after the family moved away, Jim spent many summers at the farm getting up at dawn to help milk the cows. Those early mornings prompted Jim to declare when he was older he would sleep in… but as many know, Jim was an early riser, reading, making lists and more lists, waiting for the newspaper and working crosswords puzzles. Jim’s three kids as teenagers, were often making their ways back home to bed as Jim was greeting the new day. Jim started kindergarten when the family moved to Carlisle, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines, and was there through ninth grade. Jim and his good friend Rob spent hours, days exploring Rob’s family’s farmland. Exploring nature led Jim to a lifelong passion and interest in science. Jim’s first plane ride was in a single engine plane piloted by Rob’s dad over the Iowa farmlands.

Jim’s family’s move to Torrance, California found Jim in a high school with a population larger than the Iowa community Jim left. Jim adjusted well and participated in basketball, football, golf, track, and pursuing girls. When the family moved to Loveland, Colorado, Jim found himself in Loveland High School where he took French because the majority of the class were females, not because he was interested in learning French. Jim continued to be involved in school activities and graduated, Loveland High School Class of ‘65!

Off to Boulder where Jim had a wonderful time, while enrolled at University of Colorado. Jim’s focus was more on terrific times than classroom studies. In 1967 Jim enlisted in the US Army to the concern and disappointment of his mother. Jim served in Intelligence and Traffic Analysis in the US Army from 1967 – 1971, with a year’s deployment in Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange. During his Army service, Jim received a Sharpshooter Badge Rifle M14, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, 1 Overseas Service Bar and a Good Conduct Medal. Daughter Jenny once asked Jim what his most important job was during the war. Jim responded by saying that broadcasting the football scores to the troops was. While doing a night perimeter patrol in Vietnam in the rain, Jim recalled thinking he could probably return to college and actually go to class, participate and turn in assignments.  After a year of stellar “A” grades at Aims Community College-Greeley, Jim did successfully return to CU – Boulder and graduated with his education degree.  Jim became a wonderful Buff alum enjoying cheering for the CU Buffalos especially in football but also in basketball.

While at CU, Jim lived with his parents in Loveland where on a blind date set up by his father, Jim met the love of his life, Sally Jo Zaruba. Sally, also a teacher, was quickly smitten and Jim and Sally were married June 17, 1972. Sally was teaching junior high in Colorado Springs and Jim started his elementary teaching and principal career in Colorado Springs. One of the teachers with whom Jim worked said for the staff at Audubon Elementary, Jim was their favorite principal.  Jim’s strong support and confidence in the entire Audubon staff built an atmosphere of working together for the good of the students. Jim also served as Science Supervisor for the entire school district before retiring in 1998.

Sally and Jim had a wonderful life together highlighted by the arrival and lives of their three children: Jenny, Katie and Joe. As the children grew, the family activities were made memorable with times together: camping trips, trailer and fishing escapades at Lake McConaughy, trailer trip to Disneyland, Mexico trip, campfire singing, Sonic Wacky Packs, fishing, hunting, golfing and adventures with Ref the dog. Nephew Darin Zaruba often joined them for family escapades. Upon Sally’s death from ovarian cancer in 1997, Jim took over all parental roles doing his best to ensure the children were okay during this difficult loss.

Jim and his second wife, Witzie, were married in 2008, during which time Jim obtained his single engine pilot’s license. This was a long dream of Jim’s, rooted in his childhood days of flying over Iowa. After obtaining his pilot’s license, Jim would rent plane time as he saved money to buy his own plane. A genetic clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden and the possibility of losing his medical license to fly led Jim to begin building an ultralight sport plane from a kit. As Jim’s mental capabilities declined that project was put on hold.

Throughout his life Jim was the best of friends. Jim remained in contact with childhood friends, friends from the military and friends in the field of education for decades. Jim always thought of his friends first and did what he could to make their times the best. Days and days were spent with friends hunting, fishing, golfing, talking B.S. while drinking Old Milwaukee Light, going to CU football games and just hanging out. A friend once said that Jim was the kindest person she knew. The last years of his life, Jim saw many physical and mental declines as a result of his diagnoses of frontotemporal or Lewy Body dementia, primary progressive aphasia, sensory and cerebellar ataxia, peripheral neuropathy and diabetes. Jim never complained and participated in life the best he could each and every day.  

Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Sally Jo Zaruba Stansberry; his daughter, Katie Stansberry Huckaby; his father, Claude Stansberry; and two of his sisters, Theresa Burd and Jeanette Fritzler.  

Trying to emulate Jim’s attitude of accepting what life dealt him and with a deep sense of loss are: his daughter, Jenny Stansberry; Katie’s son, Harlan Huckaby; Jim’s son, Joe Stansberry; daughter in law Myriah Stansberry; grandson David Stansberry; his wife, Witzie Stansberry; his mother, Mary Stansberry; brother-in-law Ron Fritzler; sister Pat Sparks (Greg); brother John Stansberry (Katie); sister Dee Woodward (Pete); sister-in-law, Jane Gorman; brother-in-law, Miles Flesche (Laura); sister-in-law, Lisa Mercier (Steve Brown); brother-in-law, Chad Flesche (Brownie); and numerous Stansberry, Zaruba and Flesche relatives and a cadre of bonded long standing friends.

Jim’s ashes will be scattered near 11 Mile Reservoir west of Colorado Springs at a later date.  

Jim Stansberry Celebration Party, 2:00PM, Saturday, September 9, 2023, Audubon Elementary School, 2400 East Van Buren Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80907. If you attend the party you will be able to share some favorite memories of Jim. Please dress in casual attire: CU Buff gear, fishing shirts, anything comfortable.  The program will be an informal sharing of fond memories/roasting of Jim with light refreshments to follow.

Following Jim’s wish to make his organs available for donation, the VA Biorepository Brain Bank will use Jim’s brain tissue in a study on ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In lieu of flowers, Jim would be happy if you had a drink in his memory, enjoyed some time with family and friends or made a contribution in his honor to:
Colorado Wildlife Federation: checks may be mailed to Colorado Wildlife Federation, 1580 Lincoln Street Suite 1280, Denver, CO 80203 or electronic contributions at coloradowildlife.org OR Colorado Youth Outdoors: checks, may be mailed to Colorado Youth Outdoors, 4927 E. County Road 36, Fort Collins, CO 80528 or electronic contributions at coloradoyo.org.

Jim, “because of you I (we) have been changed for good.”

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Jim Stansberry Celebration Party

2:00 pm
Saturday, September 9, 2023
Audubon Elementary School
2400 East Van Buren Street
Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
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