James Allen “Jim” Howell passed away Sept. 11, 2009 at home.
Jim was born Jan. 18, 1937, in Portland, Ore., to James A. Patterson and Lorraine Shaffer. His mom later married Bill Mitchell (deceased) and Arlin Laverne Howell.
His family mined in Idaho, in Atlanta, Yellow Pine, Idaho City, Butte, Mont., and finally in Fry Canyon, Utah.
Jim was the oldest of 10, saying he was an only child of 10 – two Mitchells and seven Howells and him. He had his name legally changed to Howell. Verne had taught him to hunt, fish, mine (starting at age 6) and be a Jack-of-all-trades.
In Butte, Jim learned to work hard, selling newspapers and collecting egg cartons and bacon grease for sale. The ladies would only save those items for Cowboy Jim.
On the mine’s paydays, he’d get his shoeshine kit and go from bar to bar, mostly shining the men’s diggers (rubber boots). He’d polish and spit-shine them to a high gloss. They’d pay him very well. He’d usually make more than his stepdad and helped his mom make ends meet, having such a large family.
At 12, he ran off with the Clyde Beatty Circus for almost a year. He’d help set up and tear down the tents, loading them on the train. He also fed and cared for the animals. His favorite was the horses, riding them and keeping them in shape. At 13-and-a-half he went to California and delivered telegrams for Western Union.
On his 17th birthday, Jim was sworn into the Navy, having to eat and drink all the bananas and water he could hold to make his weight the 100 pounds needed for him to join.
Jim spent most of his next four years stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was a sonar tech. He watched eight hydrogen bombs go off in the Marshall Islands and it was his job to monitor the distance of radiation in the water, going in circles with a probe in the test sites.
Jim married Bonnie Swartzwelder, a widow, in Winnemucca, Nev., on Friday, May 13, 1988.
Jim drove an 85-ton dump truck in the open pit mine in Florida Canyon (Apollo Gold) for 14.5 years. In October 2000, he retired, moving home to Moab in June of 2001.
That’s when the real work started and, as the saying goes, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, in which he did quite well.
In November of 2004, Jim suffered congestive heart failure. It really slowed him down, but it didn’t stop him.
In October 2007, he had to care for his wife, who had cancer, spending most of his time with her in Grand Junction until late in 2008. It was hard on him.
In January of 2009 Jim learned that he had cancer from radiation. He was doing quite well until it just got the better of him.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie; stepsons, Bob Swartzwelder (Tina), Bill Swartzwelder (Teressa) and grandchildren, Gavin, Kalia and Amber, of Payson, Utah, and Melinda and her family of Las Vegas, Nev.; his daughter, Jimi Jean Howell and granddaughter, Rebecca; stepdaughter, Becky Heard (Dave) and family of Almacera, Calif.; sister, Verna Roache (Ron); niece, Rhonda Bibson (Ken) and family of Florida; nephew, John Roache (Chris) and family of Capitola, Calif.; sister, Bonnie Hunt (Wayne) of Boise, Idaho; brother, Raymond Howell, of Boise; and nephew, Jeremiah Howell, of Reno, Nev.
Jim said many times that he forgot the boys weren’t his own.
Jim was preceded in death by his mom, dad, two stepdads, brothers, Richard and Mike Howell of Boise, Idaho, Ronny Mitchell of Grand Junction, Colo.; sisters, Joan Davidson and Myrna Gallea, of Boise, Idaho; and a wife, and twin daughters of Moab.
Jim was cremated and will be laid to rest in Sunset Memorial Cemetery at a graveside service on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. Honorary pallbearers will be John Lillibridge, Lynn Carter, Bob Swartzwelder and Bill Swartzwelder, who will return from Afghanistan in late October. A potluck wake will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 24 at Frankie D’s Bar and Grill.