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James "Jim" Lee Mans

April 30, 1951 August 15, 2019
James "Jim" Lee Mans
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Obituary for James "Jim" Lee Mans

Any time you ask someone to tell you about his motorcycle accident and he asks you which one, you can be sure he’s lived every day of his life. Jim Mans received a diagnosis of Stage IV stomach cancer and was given six months to live. Eleven months past that, he was crossing off bucket list items: sky diving with his son, Kristopher. By the way, if he was here, he would tell you, “Jump, do it. It feels more like flying than falling.”

Then he would make sure every person who made his jump possible was mentioned: from Tiffany Walker of One More Time, to every single person at Auburn Crest Hospice, to each employee at Skydive West. If Jim was here, I’d need to list them each out by name, as well as his and Katie’s dear friends, Patty and Scarlett, who brought a basket of steak dinners to the family when they returned home.

That was Jim Mans, he saw people. He was grateful. It is one of the many ways he and Katie left every person they met better off, they acknowledged them. Even when lifting a cup of coffee to his lips required concerted effort, Jim still sat up to give a guest a hug when they left.

Jim led a very successful career as a Cadastral Surveyor, charting boundaries by the lay of the stars. His work helped preserve petroglyphs, old growth cedars, and fossils. He was working to make the Hiawatha Trail and the Pulaski Trail a reality over a decade before we started using them. He served as an expert witness to honor boundaries: mining retracement in the Silver Valley, trespass cases, and stolen timbers. He wrote computer programs still used by the Forest Service today; brought GPS and GIS to his staff; led five national forests.

But these aren’t the things he’d tell you mattered most. He’d say it was his family: his wife, Katie Mans and his two sons, Jared Travis Mans and Kristopher Schuyler Mans of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. He’d tell you, “The most important thing was being there when my sons were born.” And then he and Katie would look at one another and laugh. He’d tell how she wounded him when she was delivering Jared. And Katie would back him up, “Trim your nails before you go into labor.” Then there would be more laughter. They were always sharing the same memory without a sound.

James Mans, born on April 30, 1951 in Great Falls, MT, left his body behind on August 15, 2019 in the comfort of his own home receiving the loving care of his wife Katie. He received his love of music from his father, Clifford Mans of Great Falls, MT and his Native skin from his mother, Mary Louise Mans of Fort Belknap, MT. He is survived by his wife, two sons, brother Rick Mans of Modesto, CA, and many loved cousins, nieces and nephews all over the country.

It’s impossible to write this obituary for Jim without including Katie and he wouldn’t want it to be without her. A listener could tell they’d spent many nights talking the daylight up; they would have been celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary this September. Their eyes would lock and giggles preceded every great story: twice high siding Tim Callahan’s Volkswagen beetle on a Montana log as a teenager; when he was five and the family’s German Shepherd brought his little brother home in her teeth; “helping” his Grandfather clean out the barn by shooting all the swallows when he was about nine; Katie breaking her leg while peeing at a BBQ in Prichard. He was always full of good advice. His high school years in Malta, Montana consisted of a series of adventures sometimes lasting a few days in the woods, staying alive on a can of peaches. I asked him once if they ever took any girls with them. He said, “You don’t impress girls by making them walk until they can’t stand.”

He learned to want to play guitar from his father. He told of his dad’s huge hands flying across the fret. Jim wanted to learn the bar chord; it was more rock and roll. So, he taught himself, learned by ear. His dad introduced him to Buzz Evans, a jazz musician from New York. He learned everything from him he could. He played in bands all through high school, working gigs at bars and local dances. When he left college for a job with an oil company, he took his guitar with him. He kept playing and saw all the greats: Santana, Air Supply, Iron Butterfly, Electric Light Orchestra, ZZ Top, Cream (when Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were with them), Peter Frampton, BB King, Three Dog Night.

When Katie came along she taught him how to read music. They shared this passion along with many others, playing for each other, for their church, for the boys. He was curious, interested and engaged; the one everyone asked how to work something because they knew he’d read the manual.

His masculinity reverberated throughout every space he inhabited but it was always tempered with tenderness. One of his favorite stories was taking the boys camping up the North Fork. In the middle of the night Jim woke to Jared burrowing beneath him, “Protect me, Dad.” Jim quickly recognized the shadow and noise as a bear. They waited quietly while the bear nosed around, satisfied his curiosity and ambled on. The fellows identified the mystery bear attractant: Jared had poured out his unwanted pop beside the tent. But, the boys were having no more of the tent camping. So, they climbed into Tommy Toyota and watched the stars fade and the sun come up to Walt Disney music.

Jim Mans, also known throughout his life as Jimmy Lee when he was in trouble, Golden Child when he wasn’t but everyone else was, and Toes because he was so fast, left this earth living every moment. Whenever a plastic spider pops out from a visor or Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion comes over the radio, Katie will know Jim is there. She will always see him in the kindness of others.

A wake will be held at a later date because Jim would want you to finish out your summer.

In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association (Inland Northwest Chapter, 1042 W. Mill Ave., Ste. 101B, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho 83814, 208-666-2996) where Jim and Katie have served as lifelong volunteers.

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Event Information

Services will be set for a future date to be determined.

Memorial Contribution

Alzheimer's Association - Inland Northwest Chapter

1042 W. Mill Ave.
Suite 101B
Coeur d' Alene, ID 84814

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