Jim McKellar passed away peacefully while watching the sunset at La Jolla Shores on June 4, 2014. Jim lived his 94 years without ever slowing down or retiring. He was genuinely interested in other peoples' lives. Beyond family and friends, he would effortlessly engage complete strangers in deep conversation, grilling them about their interests and life stories. He kept in contact with even his earliest friends and acquaintances. He recently remarked sadly that he was the last of his Stanford fraternity brothers still living. Always interested in world politics, Jim was never shy in voicing his strong opinions. Even so, he always kept people smiling. He loved life unceasingly. Indeed, when asked recently to describe his life in one word, he said, "Wonderful!"|
Jim McKellar was born in Pasadena, CA, on July 18, 1919. He was the son of Dorothy Scripps Kellogg and James Henry McKellar, and the great-great nephew of Ellen Browning Scripps. It was Jim's grandparents, Frederick W. Kellogg and Florence Scripps Kellogg, who founded the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club in 1935. Jim had two siblings, Doug and Ellis. His brother, Doug McKellar, passed away in 1967, and his sister, Winifred Ellis (Pooh) Wyer, resides in La Jolla.
A lifetime passion of his was cruising the high seas, which for Jim began at a young age. He was only 11 when taken by his grandparents on a 133 day world cruise aboard the SS BelgenLand. This experience was certainly a contributor to his elegant demeanor and "big picture" view of the world (and his place in it). At 17 years old, on another voyage with his grandparents, he attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He witnessed Jesse Owens win four gold medals and 100 feet away, Adolf Hitler storming out of the stadium in a rage. His love for travel continued throughout his lifetime. A consummate Bon Vivant, Jim McKellar voyaged over 150 cruises, always insisting on eating unheard of local foods and dancing 'til dawn. His last and final cruise was on the Mississippi River just one month ago.
Jim graduated from high school at Menlo School in Menlo Park, CA, as a boarder, and received his undergraduate degree from Stanford with the class of 1941.
While at Stanford he was declared BMOC (Big Man On Campus). It was at Stanford where he met a cute sophomore from Honolulu, Suzanne Biven. After a brief courtship they married in December of 1941, two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Jim joined the Navy, first stationed in Baltimore and later in Boston. The Navy gave him a scholarship to attend Harvard Business School, and there received a Master's degree. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Jim returned with Suzanne to Palo Alto, where he attended Stanford Law School and earned his Doctorate of Jurisprudence degree.
At Stanford Law, his building career began. Jim could not find a house for his family that he could afford, so he decided to build his own. Before he finished it, a Colonel returning from duty made him an offer that he couldn't refuse. He started another, which also sold before completion. He decided to then build four at a time to assure he would end up with at least one. That was the beginning of a 30-year home building career. During this time they had three children, James Jr. (Kim), Suzanne, and Chris. Divorced in 1954, Jim married his second wife, Evelyn Mudra, in 1959, and in 1961 their daughter, Tahnee, was born.
As a home builder, Jim McKellar began in Palo Alto and then ventured into Fresno, Las Vegas and San Diego. His professional career didn't stop there. He also started a dance studio company, sponsored a prizefighter, bought oil rigs and cattle, and helped to start two banks in Las Vegas and La Jolla. Although not a career move, Jim even made an appearance in a short Hollywood film.
In 1959 he was chosen by F.W. Kellogg to serve as one of three Trustees to manage the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club properties. When the Trust expired in 1986, Jim served as a director until 2012.
Jim first attended St. James-By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla with Florence Scripps Kellogg in the summer of 1924. One of his fondest memories of his childhood was hearing the chimes ring from the St. James bell tower. Later in life when he began attending St. James By-the-Sea again, he was dismayed that the chimes were in disrepair and had been in that condition for years. He decided then to sponsor the repair so the chimes would once again ring out their distinct timbre for all future congregations and passersby.
Jim McKellar left this earth as he had lived his life, a vital, dynamic personality, known by many, loved by all.
He is survived by his long time devoted companion, Mary Carrion; four children, James Jr. "Kim" McKellar (wife Orlene), Suzanne McKellar (husband Warren Densley), Christopher McKellar (wife Lorna Alksne), and Tahnee McKellar (husband Joerg Kruse); 14 grandchildren; and 8 great-grandchildren.
Memorial Services will be held July 3, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. at St. James-by-the-Sea, 743 Prospect Street, La Jolla. Reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the "James McKellar Keep the Bells Ringing Fund" at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037.
Published in La Jolla Light on June 19, 2014