In loving memory of
JAMES DONALD WILLEMS
A big life that mattered to many
This site was created in memory of Jim -
Husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, good neighbor.
This is a space to honor Jim and support one another by sharing our cherished memories
A Celebration of Life is planned for Spring 2022. We invite you to become a member of this site so that we can keep you apprised of event details.
Born in California
FEBRUARY 5, 1942
Jim was born to Isaac and Anna Willems in Reedley, California on February 5, 1942. He and his family moved to Whatcom County, Washington in 1948 where he spent the remainder of his childhood attending Mennonite Church and helping his parents and their neighbors with farm chores and tending to livestock. Jim attended school in Custer and his Ninth Grade classmates were especially important to him – they reunited each summer throughout their lives. Jim graduated from Ferndale High School in 1959 and moved to Seattle with his older brother where he was employed as a messenger boy, later taking a job with Standard Oil (which later became Chevron Oil Company). Jim served in the United States Army from 1963 – 1969 after which he returned to his job at Chevron and remained with them for the next 38 years. In 1971, Jim became the youngest manager in Chevron history when he moved to the valley to take over management of the 5th Street Chevron Station in Wenatchee. Jim quickly became part of the Wenatchee community, joining the 20/30 Men’s Active Club and the Applarians.
In 1974, Jim married Janet Jennings. Jim purchased the Strohm Farm in Brender Canyon, Cashmere and he moved to the farm with wife and stepson Wes where they grew cherries, planted pear trees, and raised cattle. Jim went on to purchase the Leavenworth Chevron, which was renamed Jim’s Chevron Service & Cascade Towing and quickly became an integral part of the Leavenworth community as he actively promoted the Bavarian Village he grew to love. Jim had a servant’s heart, meeting needs big and small, near and far for all of his life. He was an active member of Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce, was a founding member of Project Bayern, chaired countless local events and traveled throughout the state with the Leavenworth Autumn Leaf Float. Jim was passionate about community service, so much that he dedicated 45 years to the Leavenworth Rotary Club, acting as Rotary President in 1985-1986. Jim and Janet were married for fifteen years until her passing in 1989.
Jim enjoyed a variety of hobbies including reading, mapping out trips to new places, Husky football, motorcycling, Nascar, snowmobiling and, most of all, his Corvettes. Jim loved to sing and shared this through the Mennonite Church Choir as a boy and later the First Methodist Choir and the Village Voices. He loved this country and had a deep respect for the American Flag and all it stood for. You’d often see him in his favorite hat - it read Stand for the Flag and Kneel for the Cross. Jim also loved to travel. He traveled all over the world – Australia, Siberia, Bavaria, China, Mexico, and Hawaii with his many friends and colleagues. He loved going to new places, meeting people, and made new friends wherever he went.
In 1997, Jim purchased his first two Haflinger horses, authentic Bavarian harnesses, and his very first carriage. The following year, Jim drove his team in the Autumn Leaf Parade – their first parade of many and began breeding Haflingers.
In 2005, Jim married Siegrid Prey. Jim had always wanted to live in a new house, so in 2008, he and Siegi designed a new home and barn and had it built further up the Canyon. They spent their years together sharing a love of horses and farming, continuing to drive their horses in Leavenworth Parades year after year. Prompted by his wife, Jim finally went ahead with a long-time dream of driving a four-up in the 2013 Autumn Leaf parade. In 2019 he was awarded the position of Grand Marshall and led the Autumn Leaf parade in a carriage pulled by his four Haflinger horses.
Jim and Siegi enjoy travelling together; they took yearly trips to Daytona during race week, visiting Ukraine, Mexico, Bavaria, Germany, Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska and Canada, as well as road trips by car and on their Harleys around the United States and Canada. They made friends wherever they went. Jim was a cowboy that loved Bavarian culture. On trips to Bavaria, he always wore his cowboy hat and he and Siegi were greeted by their Bavarian horse friends with “Hello America!” Perhaps, most of all, he and Siegi shared a love of church, friends, and family. They regularly opened their home for many holidays, special events, and the yearly family campout each fourth of July weekend and enjoyed attending many reunions, birthdays, weddings, and cherished get-together with school friends and festival buddies. Jim will be missed by many.