James (Jim) Robert O’Donnell, age 74, passed away peacefully, after a long battle with chronic pain and health complications. He passed surrounded by his family, at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, MT on Nov. 2, 2019.
Jim was born in Baker, MT June 6, 1945. He was the first child of Robert and Erna (Koenig) O’Donnell. Jim spent his early childhood helping his father and attended the local country school. Later, the family moved closer to town, and Jim and his siblings attended and completed public school. In his high school years, Jim worked at the local Baker Creamery, where he regularly taste-tested the ice cream. He would later tell his grandchildren that he started working at 14 years old. Jim earned the title of Prom King, in 1964. He credited his win to his good looks and school smarts. After graduating in 1964, Jim left for Albert Lee, MN to pursue an education at the Vocational School of Drafting.
In 1966, Jim was drafted into the Army. After his training at Fort Sill, OK, he served in Vietnam. Upon return, Jim decided to continue his education at Dawson Community College in Glendive, MT. He studied Civil Tech Engineering and Surveying. During the weekdays, Jim studied hard, and worked at a local bowling alley setting up bowling pins. On the weekends Jim would go out with his friends. On the dance floor, he met the love of his life, Jane.
Jim and Jane were married on Aug. 22, 1970. Jim was offered a position with the Soil Conservation Service in Broadus, MT. They lived in Broadus for nine years and were blessed with two daughters: Jamie and Janelle. The family relocated to Miles City, MT in 1980. A few years later they were blessed with their third daughter, Allison.
Jim worked for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. He was passionate about his job. It combined his favorite elements: the open outdoors and helping others. He enjoyed the day to day challenges of his assignments. Some of his assignments took him to different areas where he used different skill sets. He met many friends during his career. Jim retired after thirty-five years of service with the NRCS. Before he retired from his career, he was in a bicycle accident. The accident left him with chronic pain for the next seventeen years and forced his hand at early retirement. Even in retirement one of his last projects was helping to design and manage a Fish-Bypass at 12 Mile Dam.
Jim enjoyed the outdoors where he spent time hunting and fishing. Both Jim and Jane went on many trips, with friends, to Jan Lake, Canada. He refinished many antiques and liked woodworking. He refinished the Sacred Heart gymnasium floor, which can be found in his man cave. When he wasn’t spending time with friends, family or his grandchildren, you would find him reading many books, magazines and local newspapers. Often, Jim was the first to suggest playing cards on holidays and gatherings. He volunteered his time and enjoyed working with the Knights of Columbus
Jim is survived by his wife Jane, of forty-nine years, daughter Jamie Treu (Dean and children Kail, Rylee and Lauren) of Miles City, MT; daughter Allison Stabio (Matt) of Dayton, OH; brother Raymond O’Donnell (Mary Ann and children Carrie and Kelly) of Glendive, MT; Karen O’Donnell-Davis of Dayton, MT; Susan Cox (Doug and daughter Danae) of Baker, MT.
Jim is preceded in death by his father and mother, Robert and Erna O’Donnell, daughter Janelle O’Donnell, brother-in-law Lou Davis, nephew Robby Cox, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Funeral Mass was Nov. 7, 2019. Burial with Military Honors was held after the Funeral Mass.