Jim was born April 25, 1934 in Superior, Wisconsin to John Christian Arlew Smith and Lillian A. Haiden Smith. The family moved to Bayfield in 1943.
He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1953-1957 serving overseas and earning campaign ribbons for both the Korean and Viet Nam War. Jim was a lifetime member of the VFW Post 8239 in Red Cliff.
He attended college in California, often speaking of his trips to the countryside and sleeping under the huge redwood trees. It was here where he picked up his first guitar to pass away the time, thus beginning his journey into the world of music that he came to know and love.
In 1958, Jim returned to Bayfield where he met the love his life, Karen, who he affectionately referred to as “Sweet Thing”. Jim and Karen were happily married in 1959 where a lifetime of adventure, family, precious memories, and solid dedication soon began.
In the early 1960’s, they moved to Kenosha, WI where he worked for American Motors, but the love for Bayfield, an area he often referred to as “The Lodges of his People” brought them home where they settled and went on to raise a family of five.
Jim became a carpenter upon his return and started a construction company known as Salmo Construction with his good friend Jerry Carlson. Their partnership, one focused on quality and trust, endured for years with many accomplishments along the way.
His talent and love for music served him well, playing in several local establishments on weekends to earn extra money in helping to support and raise his family. Many of these weekend adventures brought him to Northern Minnesota where he had the chance to play with his brother Bob, whom he often spoke of when the focus of music entered his thoughts.
In 1980, he put together a band called the “Apostle Islands Sound”. Members of the band included Jim, his sons Kevin and Randy along with Mike Schultz and Danny Gordon. They produced three records at Sound 80 in Minneapolis with songs such as “Until Then”, “Wild Wind”, “Someone to Love”, and “Party”. His recordings could often be found on Jukeboxes from Bayfield to Florida and as far west as Arizona.
Following his wife Karen’s death in 1997, Jim wrote and produced a ten song religious CD called “The Messengers”, which he dedicated to Karen. Favorite songs included “Walking with My Lord” and “Mr. John”. His love for music inspired many family members and friends, some of whom have launched their own musical endeavors.
While the love for his family filled his heart and his music soothed his soul, the call for the outdoors could not be ignored. Many moments were spent hunting, camping and fishing with family and friends while creating memories that are far too many to tell. Memories that will be shared for years to come, especially at our annual “Deer Hunter’s” breakfast. He often said to us kids “You were born with a fishing pole in one hand and a rifle in the other”. A mental illustration to the many skills he taught and the adventures we shared throughout our time together. His teachings of the outdoors added an essential value to our lives as we grew to appreciate and respect the finer details in not only our own lives, but in the lives of those around us. These lessons he proudly handed down will be paid forward to our own families for generations to come.
Any daily visit to his cabin during the spring would introduce you to his world of gardening. In his final days, it was important to him that he passed along the knowledge of his skills. Daily visits with his “Friday Girl” allowed him to once again be that teacher to the world of living things. Jim loved gardening and would often hold classes for the “Coffee Clutch” at his home every morning. His dear friend and cousin Harvey became his favorite student. Though Jim often claimed he was continuously late for class, thus labeling him as “The Block Head”, the two shared many rounds of coffee, pleasant insults (Did we say Pleasant?) and a special bond that lasted a lifetime.
The song “My Way”, one he knew well and often sang during karaoke at our many family events, was not just a number to showcase his voice and talent, but a true testament to the way he lived his life.
Jim was preceded in death by his lovely wife Karen, his parents John Christian “Arlew” Smith and Lillian A. Haiden Smith and brothers Bob and Bill. He is survived by his five children Kevin, Randy, Kenny (Cathy), Laurie (Steve) and Darren (Bobann), his brother Carl(Eleanor) of Ashland along with several grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A private burial with full military rites will take place at the Bayfield Cemetery with Deacon Roger Cadotte officiating.
A celebration of Jim’s life is currently being planned for a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please address all memorials to the VFW Post 8239 in Bayfield.
To view this obituary online, sign the guest book or express online condolences, visit us at www.bratleyfamilyfuneral home.com