Nature 14

James Lorren Heath

September 18, 1939 ~ July 5, 2023 (age 83) 83 Years Old



Jim Heath was born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on September 18, 1939, the youngest of four sons, to Alma Jane Hand Heath and Harry Heath, both of whom have predeceased him.

Like most other youngsters born in Steamboat Springs, Jim learned to ski at the ripe old age of three years, and although skiing did not become a major part of who he was, he enjoyed both alpine and Nordic skiing during his lifetime.

Jim graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1957, along with many classmates with whom he remained close friends; John Sauer (deceased), Carmen Howley, Suzie Harris Crowner, Fred Duckles, Jo Semotan, Sandy Sherrod, and others. While he barely made it through school, it was because of an alert high school principal and testing by the State of Colorado that he was
honored with a full ride scholarship to enable him to attend college. He began his higher education at Mesa Junior College (now Colorado Mesa University), where he attained an Associates decree, then went on to graduate from Western State University in Gunnison, Colorado, with a major in history, a minor in English. Having taken enough hours to enable him to be able to teach, he applied at several places, including Medford, Oregon, where he took a position teaching history and English to juniors and seniors at what was then one high school, Medford High School. He would teach in Medford during the school year, then go home to Steamboat Springs to either buck hay or work with the Forest Service in the summer where he had many wonderful experiences.

It was during his early teaching years that he met the love of his life, (Norma) Kay Johnson. They met at auditions for the play, “The Gazebo,” at what was then the Footlighters Theatre, an old barn at the old fairgrounds in Medford (both got parts). After a brief courtship, they were married at the Medford Friends Church on September 24, 1965. At that time, Kay was working as a policewoman at the Medford Police Department, so Jim was married standing between two police personnel, his soon-to-be bride and his best man, Dean Hirst, who was at that time a San Francisco Policeman. Just after their marriage, Jim completed his Masters Decree in General Studies at what is now Southern Oregon University.

In the spring of 1968, his mother, Alma Heath (Deceased), who lived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, fell and broke a hip. About the same time, Jim learned that there was an opening for a social studies teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, so they packed up their belongings and moved to be with Jim’s mother. Jim taught at the upper high-school level there for nine years, teaching
such things as AP European History, Sociology, Maco Economics, History of the Far East and History of the USSR. In 1969 he was granted a Hayes-Fulbright scholarship to study Indian History and Culture. He and some other 20 teachers from across the nation traveled 6,000 through and around India, visiting shrines and other important cultural features of India.

While teaching in Steamboat Springs, Jim picked up a side occupation as manager of the Routt Schools Federal Union, which at that time consisted of a set of ledgers, an adding machine, a typewriter, and a filing cabinet. However, this led to what would become a second career for him.

In 1978 Jim and Kay moved from Steamboat Springs to Arvada, Colorado, and after three years as a consultant for the Colorado Credit Union League in 1981 they moved to Brookings, Oregon, where he took another teaching position. After finding out that teaching was no longer what he wanted to do, in 1985 he took a position as manager of Klamath Public Employees Federal Credit Union and the couple moved to Klamath Falls. He was very popular with his staff and made many personal friends while working there. He retired from that position in 2000.

Jim was very active in many ways. He served on one of the initial boards of director of the Ross Ragland Theater. He was on the board of directors of the Klamath Rails to Trails group until just before his death. In the 1900’s, he made three Cycle Oregon trips with Kay. During the permit season (May 15 through October 15) of 2001-2006 he and Kay volunteered for the US Forest Service, living in a remote guard station at Brushy Bar in the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue River (six miles from the nearest road), where they maintained trails, cleaned out-houses, and became the face of the Forest Service on that section of the river. They even managed one of the first fire camps during the Blossom Fire. He did another stint in 2008-2009 alone, Kay being unable to go with him.

After they no longer were volunteering for the Forest Service, Jim found he needed another challenge, so he studied for and became a license tax preparer. For the next 17 years, he worked for H&R Block, ultimately obtaining licenses as a tax consultant as well as an Enrolled Agent with the IRS. He also became a teacher again, teaching and preparing students for the initial examination as a tax preparer.

He had two other loves besides Kay, hiking and reading. Almost every weekend during the summer, he and Kay were either cycling or hiking (mostly hiking). All of the trails in the Sky Lakes Wilderness, the Mountain Lakes Wilderness, from the top of the Greensprings to Pilot Rock and back, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Lava Beds National Monument, the Gerhart Wilderness, and many more. They backpacked the Rogue River Trail from the Graves Creek Bridge to Foster Bar several times. Until he was no longer able to hike, he enjoyed many hiking trips with members of the local BOG group. He was a voracious reader and was very proud of his very large collection of books on history (particularly English, Medieval and Russian), political science, biographies, and others.

In 2015, Jim and Kay traveled to the British Isles to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It was during this trip that Jim contracted a viral pneumonia that filled his entire lung system. The disease caused scar tissue, which caused his ultimate demise. Their visit to the Tower of London was the highlight of the trip for Jim.

He was preceded in death by both of his parents and his three brothers, Jack Wayne Heath, Everett Neil Heath and Larry Dale Heath. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Kay, nieces and nephew, Shirley Brickner (John) of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bruce Heath of Silverthorne, Colorado; and Mary Pond (Stanley) of Midland, Texas, and many, many cousins, including members of the Hand family who live in Klamath Falls and the Heath family who live in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Jim had a very sweet soul and will be sorely missed by many.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Klamath Rails to Trails Group and to the Klamath County Humane Society would be welcomed.

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Memorial Gathering
August 5, 2023

11:00 AM
O'Hair-Wards Funeral Chapel
515 Pine Street
Klamath Falls, OR 97601


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