J.C. "Jim" Westbrook

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J.C. "Jim" Westbrook June 10, 1920 – June 6, 2010 Longtime Grand Junction resident, James Curtis Westbrook died peacefully shortly before his 90th birthday on Sunday, June 6. He forged a well-lived life not only long but fruitful, and leaves a large and loving family and a host of younger friends for whom he will be unforgettable. A loyal if sometimes ambivalent son of the South, Jim was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on June 10, 1920, the second son of Robert B. Westbrook and Willie May (Wood) Westbrook. He grew up in Stuttgart, Arkansas and Little Rock, and spent many summers with relatives in Mississippi. He attended Little Rock Central High School. Like many Americans of his generation, Jim's life was profoundly shaped by World War II. Enlisting before Pearl Harbor in the Army Air Corps, he served his country from 1941 to 1946. Happily, he suffered wounds no more grievous than frostbite on the periphery of combat in Alaska, and finished the war in the sunnier climes of California. It was there he met Nancy Lee Gillam, herself transplanted to the west coast by wartime mobilization. They were married on December 28, 1946 in her hometown, Austin, Minnesota. Theirs would be a union of distinctive temperaments and unflagging love of over 63 years. The war continued to affect Jim's life in the postwar years. One of millions of veterans who took full advantage of the GI Bill, he enrolled in the University of Denver in 1947. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in finance. After working briefly as an accountant for Pillsbury in Minneapolis, Jim's life again intersected with the legacy of the war in 1952, when he was enlisted by the federal government in the uranium mining boom in western Colorado and eastern Utah and began a long career as an administrator for the Raw Materials Division of the Atomic Energy Commission in Grand Junction. Jim retired from the AEC (now part of the Department of Energy) in 1979, having risen to the position of acting manager of the local facility. But Jim was too restless for retirement, and he began a distinguished second career in 1980, first as finance manager of Mesa County and then as office administrator for the law firm of Younge and Hockensmith. Finally, Jim retired for good in 1988 (though he could not resist part-time employment as a ranger at the Adobe Creek Golf Course). Jim compiled a distinguished record of service to his community. He was elected to the School Board of District 51 in 1966, and served for six years, including a term as Board President. He was also a longtime member of the Board of the Coloramo Federal Credit Union. For many years, Jim was an active member of the Grand Junction Lions Club. After retiring, he volunteered his services as an accountant to the gift shop of St. Mary's Hospital. A not unaccomplished athlete on basketball and volleyball courts in his younger years, Jim learned to ski in his late forties. Golf was, however, his deepest recreational passion, despite an unorthodox swing and an often wicked slice. He was as well a talented dancer, photographer, and fisherman. In his later years, as his spirit began to write checks that his body could not cash, he rested content with avidly listening to jazz, expertly solving Sudoku puzzles, and fervidly rooting for the Broncos and the hockey team of his beloved alma mater. Jim was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Robert Westbrook, Jr. and William Westbrook. He is survived by his wife, Nancy; sister, Margaret Alves of New Braunfels, Texas; brother, Thomas Westbrook of Aurora, Colorado; daughters, Jane Westbrook and Julie Thurman (Doyle) of Grand Junction; sons, Robert Westbrook (Shamra) of Brockport, New York, and Barrett Westbrook (Margaret) of Seattle, Washington; granddaughters, Emily Westbrook of Danbury, Connecticut; Lee and Laurel Westbrook of Seattle; grandsons, Robert Westbrook, Jr. (Kellee) of Hughson, California; J. Charles Westbrook of Albany, New York, and William Westbrook of Seattle; and great granddaughters, Grace and Claire Westbrook of Hughson, California; and many nieces and nephews whose lives he also brightened with his wry smile. A memorial service will be held Saturday, June 12, at Callahan-Edfast Mortuary. Memorial donations may be sent to Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado.
Published in The Daily Sentinel on June 11, 2010
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