Judy James, formerly of Dowagiac

Published 9:33 am Thursday, March 2, 2017

Aug. 15, 1938 — Feb. 28, 2017

Judy Margaret James, 78, of South Haven, and formerly of Dowagiac, passed away Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, at home surrounded by her loving family.

She was born Aug. 15, 1938, to Leo and Edith Rasmussen in Chicago. Leo moved his family to Dowagiac before Judy started elementary school.

Although they were friends in high school, she had her first date with Frank James while both were home from college between their freshman and sophomore years. They enjoyed a play at the Sister Lakes Playhouse followed by a thrilling midnight ride on Magician Lake in the “Flying Flivver.” She married Frank on March 28, 1959, and they shared 58 years of marriage.

Judy James

As a registered nurse, she had a rewarding care-giving career. But her nurturing nature went far beyond people. As a licensed DNR animal rehabilitator, she nursed back to health just about every animal native to southwest Michigan. Her home was filled with children, (three of her own as well as neighborhood kids), dogs, cats, deer, opossum, raccoons and birds of all sorts. She quietly and continuously gave to Al Van Humane Society through donations, gifts and adopting animals into her own home. Her love of people and animals lives on in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Judy was an artist. She would choose a medium and work at it until she had it mastered and then move on to a new medium and master that. Although she sold some of her creations, she found the most joy in giving her work away to the people she loved. We will all cherish the sweaters, slippers, drawings, cement leaves, sculptures and gourds we have collected through the years.

She was a lover of nature and the outdoors. Judy loved to fish with her children and grandchildren. Their photo albums are filled with pictures of her with a grandchild holding a stringer of fish. She loved to be outside digging in the dirt and planting seedlings of hope. She taught her kids and grandkids to appreciate Mother Earth and to be kind and gentle to all living things. Any visit with her would always include a stroll through the gardens discussing the wonder all around, and how it may be shared with others.

Judy spent her life nurturing nature and people, and subtly taught her family this important skill. They are all thankful they were able to apply these skills to her through the past couple of years as her health declined. Her gift to them became their gift to her.

Her family would like to thank the health care professionals who cared for her, as well as hospice. These people came into the lives and homes of them family and made this difficult time a little more manageable.

She is survived by her husband, Frank James of South Haven; children Vicki Wardlaw and Edward James, both of South Haven, and Andy James of Cedarville, Michigan; four grandchildren, Leo and Harry James, and Christopher and Zachary Wardlaw; two great-grandchildren, Frank and Ivan James; and one sister, Betty McWilliams (Jim) of Dowagiac.

Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 5, 2017, at Filbrandt Family Funeral Home of South Haven. Memorial services will follow visitation at 2 p.m. at the funeral home, with Tom Jansen officiating.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Judy’s memory to the Al Van Humane Society, P.O. Box 421, South Haven, MI 49090.

Judy will join her mother and father in South Wayne Cemetery near Dowagiac.

Kindly share your thoughts and memories on the family’s online guestbook at FilbrandtFFH.com.

The family is being helped by the Filbrandt Family Funeral Home of South Haven: (269) 637-0333.