James Leinen, 89, of Williston, passed away at the Bethel Lutheran Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center on January 5, 2019.
James Theodore Leinen was born on July 31, 1929 to Jacob and Nora (Gebhart) Leinen in Breckenridge, MN. Though born in Breckenridge, he was raised in Wahpeton, ND and was a "WOP" through and through. Jim was educated at Wahpeton High School where he became a basketball star for the Wahpeton WOPS helping lead them to a state championship as a freshman in 1944. Jim went on to play ball for a year at UND in Grand Forks, but ultimately found his home at St. John`s University in Collegeville, MN. St. John's and its sense of community was something Jim cherished and took with him through the rest of his life, even teaching the Johnnie Fight Song to family and friends.
After college, Jim entered the military in 1951 and earned his wings as a paratrooper during the Korean War. Though he was never sent overseas, he served his country proudly in both active military and the reserves and was honorably discharged in 1953 in order to care for his ailing mother as his father had passed suddenly and earlier in Jim`s life. Family was always paramount to him.
Once Jim came back to ND, he took a job as a traveling salesman specializing in tractors and farm equipment. During his travels, he spent time in Williston and through friends, was set up on a blind date with one Darlene Forseth who happened to be home for the holidays from college. Jim fell hard and fast for Darlene, writing letters to her daily while she was back in school at Missoula, MT and taking trips to Billings, MT so they could spend time together. It was on one of their weekend meetings that Jim proposed and Darlene said yes, marrying in Williston on November 6, 1954.
Jim and Darlene made Williston their home. He was very active in the Williston community in many ways; as a business owner of Manger Insurance, the song leader of the Rotary club belting out his rendition of many tunes for all to hear, and as an educator on the school Board for 18 years serving as not only a member, but also as president. Jim was a founding member of the coffee club that met in the basement of American State Bank, moving over the years to various locations, the most recent being the deli area at Cash Wise. If you've been there around Christmas, you have likely heard the caroling. Jim was a devoted member of the Catholic Church at St. Joseph's as faith was always a very important part of his life. He kept active by volunteering his time on the chain gang for Coyote football games, announcing for the high school basketball and baseball games, as well as serving on the original baseball committee. Jim always had a warm smile on his face for friends and strangers alike. His boisterous approach to life was contagious drawing in those he met.
Jim and Darlene had spent the last few years at Bethel home, where they touched many lives with their love and affection for each other, simply happy to be together. Jim is preceded in death by his beloved Darlene, his son Mark, his sister Eleanor, his mother Nora and his father Jacob. He is survived by his many loving children, grandchildren and great-grandchild: daughter Jami (Bill) Bourguignon, grandchildren Jake Oyloe, Bryan (Shelly) Oyloe, Stephanie (Les Lokken) Oyloe, Christen Bourguignon, Corrie Bourguignon, great grandchild Aryan Wold; his son Chris (Sharon) Leinen and grandchildren Chloe Leinen, Elliott Leinen, & Noah Leinen; daughter Kate (Arron) Manecke and grandchildren Eleanor Adams, Caleb Manecke, Abbot Manecke; daughter Murphy (Chris) Lund and grandchild Kingston Lund; and, daughter Michala Klein and grandchildren Ethan Klein & Marli Klein.
We would like to extend a very special thanks to Tiffany, Sydney & Marla as well as all of the nurses and staff at Bethel Home for the wonderful care and attention given to our father.