James E. Wolfe was the first born of John and Lila Wolfe in 1923. The next year his beloved sister Rena was born and the two enjoyed an idyllic childhood with extended family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With great support from his Mother he enjoyed Boy Scouting, attending the first BSA Jamboree in 1937. Jim loved time spent in the family cabin overlooking Grand River, summer vacations with his Mother and her sister Rena in the Colorado mountains, and helping on the farm north of Collinsville which was established by his father in 1926. Jim attended Eliot Elementary, Wilson Junior High, and graduated from Central High, all in Tulsa. The highlight of high school was playing the tuba in the all-male marching band with his best friend Bill Bearden who played the piccolo. He loved bumping into classmates the rest of his life and would get reacquainted with "I don't remember your name, but we went to school together."
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Two of his most life changing events came in quick succession – his mother died in 1941 at the end of his senior year as he was preparing to attend Oklahoma A&M (OSU). The second was his 1942 enlistment in the war effort. His enlistment group finished their semester bivouacked in a Stillwater firehouse and was known as the "Firehouse Gang" throughout their years of reunions. Jim shipped to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth and joined the 5th Division in France serving as half of a machine gun team before, during and after the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded in March 1945 when a German 88 mm shell exploded a building his patrol was in, resulting in shrapnel burns from head to toe. He spent seven weeks recovering in a French hospital earning the Purple Heart for his injuries. After his discharge he rarely talked about his service experience until he was in his 80's.
In 1945 he enrolled once again at Oklahoma A&M (OSU) along with many friends from his service days. Those veterans who gathered and worked at the cattle barns provided his social network. Many were also in his college fraternity, Farmhouse. He graduated with honors in 1947 with an Animal Husbandry degree and headed to the farm. Excitement ensued early in his senior year when he met his future wife Virginia Saxon on a double blind date. They were each with "the other one". Eventually, shared pints of ice cream thrown to her 2nd floor window and a Sadie Hawkins Dance invite sealed the deal and they were married in 1947 at the First Presbyterian Church where Jim had grown up. After a honeymoon in Colorado they headed to their home where they celebrated 65 years of marriage this past October.
During his sixty-six years of farming the family raised cattle and laying hens, sold eggs, and produced pecans, as well as three children. He found the quiet of his life good therapy post war and never met a stranger for the remainder of his life. In 1956 Jim was named Outstanding Young Farmer in both Washington and Tulsa counties. Over the years Jim served on the boards of several groups: Collinsville Tri-County Fair, Verdigris Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, Farm Credit Services, Soil and Water Conservation, Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association, and in 1952 helped initiate the Rural Fire Department. He held an elected position on the Collinsville Board of Education, serving as chair for several years. He was a long-time member of his beloved Collinsville Community Church and served the membership in many capacities.
Jim is survived by his wife Virginia, son John (Debbie) of Collinsville, daughters LeAnn Slater (David) of Trumbull, Connecticut and Lynette Bedford (Gary) of Pryor and seven grandchildren – Matthew Wolfe (Amanda), Kendal Wolfe, Gayle Wolfe, James Slater (Megan Chirby), Joel Slater, Harrison Bedford (Brooke), Nathan Bedford, sister Rena Olschner and her four children and extended family.
A Memorial Service celebrating Jim's wonderful life will be led by Rev. Rick Brinkley at 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 28 at the Collinsville Community Church. Prior to the service the family will receive visitors at 3:30 p.m. in the church social hall. A private graveside service with military honors led by Dr. Bill Haynes was held earlier at the Memorial Park in Tulsa. Those wishing to make a memorial contribution in Jim's name may send it to Collinsville Community Church, 1400 West Oak, Collinsville, OK 74021.
Published in Examiner-Enterprise from Sept. 22 to Oct. 21, 2013