Virgil Roy “Red” James
2/19/2019 11:39:00 AM
Virgil Roy "Red" James went to meet his Savior on February 13, 2019. Born on June 22, 1931 to Abner and Jessie (Williams) James, he was raised on the shores of Lake Huron in Pinconning, MI. He lived a very simple life, full of hunting and fishing. He went to a small Indian school on the lakeshore. He was a proud member of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
In 1951 he joined the US Army and was trained to operate tanks. When on the train to Seattle to board a ship to Korea, the troop orders changed and the men went to Alaska instead. This began his love story with The Last Frontier. On January 3, 1953, he married Wanda Lowe, and they had three children, John Wesley, Julie Ann and Jennifer Lee.
Red's love for Alaska led him to many adventures. He used his GI Bill to become a pilot. After the Army, he worked laying carpet for Brady's Carpet, but soon applied to work for the Anchorage Police Department, and worked there until 1963. The family later moved to Seward, AK, where he worked as a deep sea fisherman. He was then hired by the Alaska Fish & Wildlife Department, running the patrol boat The Shark. He was transferred to Glennallen, AK, and was there during the great earthquake of 1964. While still working for Fish & Game, he was transferred to Tok and to Juneau. In Juneau he delighted in setting out crab pots so he could catch and eat King Crab on a regular basis. After he left Fish & Wildlife, he returned to Tok and was a partner in the Probert's grocery store. In 1967 he again worked for the Anchorage Police Dept as the first drug enforcement officer for the city.
Red had a long time desire to own a lodge and 1968 he bought the historical roadhouse, Chistochina Lodge. During this time he developed his flying to the level of a true bush pilot, and transported goods to villages and hunters out to remote areas of the state. After leasing the Lodge, he took a job in Fairbanks as a Special Agent with the US Fish and Wildlife, and his territory was the northern half of Alaska. This gave him the opportunity to spend his days flying and visiting numerous remote areas of the state. During this time he rescued an orphaned polar bear, and transported it to Fairbanks in his plane. The bear, Binky, lived a long and healthy life in the Anchorage Zoo after a short time living at Red's house. But there was a high price to pay for his working life, as his marriage failed, and he and Wanda divorced.
While in Fairbanks he rescued a lady from a horrible date, and friendship with Sandie Niven was soon followed by courtship. He returned to Chistochina Lodge in 1979, and he and Sandie were married there on March 15, 1980. They moved to Kansas for Sandie's schooling, and he was a Sergeant for the Andover Police Department and a Wabaunsee County Deputy Sheriff. In 1985 he adopted Sandie's boys, Jeffrey Ryan and Christopher Neil. They moved to Kettle Falls and he worked for the National Park Service. In 1989 he was in charge of protecting the grizzly bears during the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill cleanup. In 1990 he returned as head of the cleanup project. In 1992, Red and Sandie were blessed with the birth of a daughter, Jessica Margret.
Red was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Orville, Emory and Cliff, and sisters Ethel and Naggy, as well as son Johnny, daughter Jennie, and granddaughters Jamie Allred and Ashlyn James.
He is survived by his wife Sandie James, daughters Julie (Joe) Allred and Jessie (Robby) Burkhart, and sons Jeff James and Chris (Becky) James. His grandchildren are Janaan (James) VanZante, Jason (Lisa) Kindelberger, Amy (Darius) Thomas, Cammy James, Dalton, Tristan and Trevor James, Acacia, Daylee, Ella and Ezra James, and Brayden, Ryker, Journey, and 15 week baby-to-be Burkhart. He leaves 16 great-grandchildren.
Red's Memorial Service will be held Saturday, March 2, 2019, at 11:00 am at Hope Vineyard Church, 184 DeGrief Rd, Colville, WA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Spokane, PO Box 2215, Spokane, WA 99210-2215.