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James “Jim” Albert Kuchenski

James “Jim” Albert Kuchenski

James “Jim” Albert Kuchenski, 82 of Eureka, passed away Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, in Eureka.

He was born March 17, 1930, to Felix and Zoa Kuchenski. He grew up on a silver fox farm at Big Creek until 1947, when his father passed away and the family moved to Eureka.

He attended elementary school in old Rexford and in 1948 graduated from Lincoln County High School, where he played football and basketball and worked for the railroad.

In 1949 he went to Spokane to telegraph school and in 1951 enlisted in the Air Force.  Jim was in the Air Force for four years.  He started out in Texas, then went to Maryland and Wyoming for teletype school and was shipped to Germany for the remaining three years of his service.

When he returned home to Eureka he worked in the logging industry.  Jim met his wife, June Olson, at the Whitefish hospital after sustaining a crushed hand that he had endured while working at the Osler Mill.  One time in true “Big” / “Uncle” Jim humor and in the most loving sense he was quoted as saying “June caught me after 30 years when I couldn’t defend myself.”   They were married Feb. 13, 1960, and he stayed happily caught for 52 years, and they raised three children, Vincent, Victor and Katie Sue.

Jim then went to work for the Eureka Creamery and later worked for Kalispell Equity (Dairy Gold) delivering milk from Olney to Eureka and old Rexford for 35 years, retiring from the company in 1995.  Jim went on to work for the Forest Service under the senior program, where he took care of 16 campgrounds in the Murphy Lake Ranger District for seven years.

Jim’s leadership and involvement in the community started while he was still in high school.  He was the freshman and senior class president and the advertising manager for the yearbook staff.  He was a devoted Christian, an active member and leader in Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church and The Knights of Columbus.  He was extensively involved in the VFW post and was the commander of VFW Post 6786 for 16 years.  He then became the District 1 commander of 16 posts for a one year term.  He continued his VFW service as a trustee and chaplain for many years.  Jim was also involved in the founding of “Hands Across the Border” with our veterans to the north.

In the summer Jim volunteered at the Historical Village, where he manned the old Fewkes store, gave tours and told stories in the old school house for countless field trips.  The elementary kids in Eureka, especially his grandkids, as well as many VFW friends, will dearly miss Jim dressing up as the world’s tallest, most jolly, lovable leprechaun on his birthday every year.  There was no better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than with the Big Green Leprechaun eating corn beef and cabbage at the VFW.

He was a hardworking man, but he enjoyed time off to have fun as well.  As a young family there were many picnics at various creeks, his sister’s house at the Purdy farm and in his own yard surrounded by his huge vegetable garden and beautiful flower beds.  Ultimately, his favorite place was at the cabin on Glen Lake that Jim, June and their family have taken care of for over 30 years.  He enjoyed horseshoes, cribbage and pinochle but most of all he enjoyed fishing with his grandkids and being surrounded by his family.

Jim was preceded in death by his father, Felix Vincent Kuchenski, and mother, Zoa Copp Kuchenski.

He is survived by his wife, June Olson Kuchenski, and sons Vincent – grandson Alexander; Victor, wife Maggie – children Shanna and Logan; and daughter  Katie, husband James Brown – grandchildren Felecia, Hunter and Tanner; by his sisters Geraldine “Jerry” St. Peter, of Chandler, Ariz., and Marie Purdy of Eureka; many great grandchildren, numerous nieces, nephews and many relatives along with  countless customers, friends and acquaintances that too will fondly miss this pillar in the community who had such a big heart, great sense of humor and a loving charismatic nature.

Public viewing was Oct. 22 at the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church.  Rosary followed. Church services were Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. at the Catholic Church, with military service following at the Tobacco Valley Cemetery.  A reception followed at the church and a 6 p.m. gathering at VFW Post 6786.

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