Jimmie J Justice, 90, an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, native of Colorado, and forty-plus-year resident of Victor, City of Mines, died in his sleep on April 28, 2019, in his apartment in Cañon City. He was born the third child of Pearl Clara Spears and Jesse Jake Justice on December 22, 1928, and raised around Ordway, Colorado, just at the edge of the Great Depression that shaped so much of his early life experiences. His parents divorced when he was a boy; the much-loved Pearl died in a tuberculosis hospital when Jim was just 14, and he grieved her early death all his life. He was preceded in death by two sisters, Alice, who died in childbirth, and Alverta (Justice) Fay, who died in Davenport, Iowa, in 2007; the whereabouts and fate of his half-brother, Larry, remain unknown. He was married four times, but spent his final 50 years with his fourth wife and greatest love, Deanna Kathline (Kathy) Fay, who cared for him throughout a lifetime marked by struggle and laughter alike, and who nursed him back to health after a near fatal illness in 2005. Jim did not graduate high school, but spent many years working as a long-haul truck driver, as well as a miner, a bulldozer operator, hunting guide and outfitter, and, for twenty-three years, as the summer caretaker for Victor’s Gold Camp Fishing Club.
Jim loved guns, hunting, hiking, and sitting around swapping stories and jokes over coffee with close friends and family. He was a loving and supportive father who accepted his children’s own unique ways of being in the world and celebrated their victories just as he shared their hurts. Although he did not always have a vocabulary for his feelings, he was never afraid or ashamed to say he loved his family, and he did so every day. Yet he was also a private man, and nothing pleased him more than to be at home or in the hills with those he loved most, especially in his final days, when time alone with his wife was his greatest joy. He enjoyed going out and shooting his rifles, gambling at the nickel poker machines in Cripple Creek, or just sitting watching the sky and commenting on the unusual cloud formations. He could be ornery and bracingly honest, but he was never intentionally cruel, and would generally just prefer to not say anything than to say something mean. His voice was cracked and gruff, the legacy of a terrible truck wreck from the 1960s that nearly killed him and resulted in massive injuries to his throat and face, but he aged comfortably into his scars by middle age, and they added to his character. Jim laughed loudly and often, and was a popular figure in Victor and then, later, in the Royal Gorge Manor in Cañon City, instantly recognizable by his big grin, distinctive features, and weathered old fishing hat. In his later years at the Manor he was known for his love of slow dancing, his penchant for hugs, and his three “I love you” kisses to Kathy. Even in his last night he got those three kisses.
Jim is survived by his wife, Kathy, and children Gifford Dean Justice and his wife Elizabeth, Jimmie Jake Nelson and his wife Charlene, Deborah Jean (Nelson) Costa, Becky Max, and Daniel Heath Justice and his husband Kent Dunn, as well as chosen daughters Melissa Williams and Barbara Tracy, along with over a dozen grandchildren and chosen grandchildren across the U.S. He is also survived by multiple nieces and nephews, including Nancy Donovan and her husband Mark, David Gleisner, and Sally Fay.
Jim was the grandson of Amos Spears, an original Dawes allottee in the Cherokee Nation and student at the Cherokee Male Seminary, and was a lineal descendant of James Spears—Ross Party partisan, National Council member, and signatory of the Nation’s 1839 reunification constitution—and Elsie Foreman, of the celebrated Scots-Cherokee Foreman family; they survived the northern route of the Trail of Tears and established a large family in Indian Territory, with descendants today living all over the world. He was also a descendant of Old Settlers who had traveled west before Removal. In spite of facing anti-Indian prejudice in his most formative years and on occasion throughout his life, Jim was a proud Cherokee Nation citizen and closely followed Nation news and politics in Oklahoma, even though he spent the majority of his life in Colorado.
There will be no formal burial service, as Jim requested that his body be cremated and scattered in a private ceremony at Bison Reservoir for family and friends at a later date, but an informal remembrance of life potluck will take place on Saturday, May 4th, from 2-5 in the Rec Room of the Royal Gorge Manor. For questions or more information, please call Daniel at 604-345-0080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in honor of Jim’s love of wildlife, hunting, and Colorado’s magnificent wilderness heritage, or, in tribute to his closely-held Cherokee roots, to the Cherokee Nation Foundation, which supports educational opportunities for Cherokee people.
And if you’re wondering about his condition in the hereafter and whether or not he’s doing okay without us, just remember the twinkle in his eye when he’d repeat his constant reminder: “If I was any better there’d have to be two of us!” Even in this time of sadness, his unceasing love of life continues to enrich our own. Arrangements entrusted to Harwood Cremation & Funeral Service. Online condolences at Harwoodfunerals.com
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
P.O. Box 8249, Missoula MT 59807
Cherokee Nation Foundation
800 S. Muskogee, Tahlequah OK 74464