Jim Sursely, a nationally celebrated veterans advocate and real estate professional, died May 30. He was 73.
A native of Rochester, Minnesota, Jim enlisted in the Army in 1966. While serving with the Americal Division's 17th Armored Cavalry on a combat mission in Vietnam in January 1969, an enemy landmine claimed his legs above the knee and left arm above his elbow.
Following his medical retirement from the military, Sursely returned to Rochester and attended college before moving to Florida where he earned his Associate of Science degree from Seminole Community College. In 1977, he began his career in real estate. At the time of his passing, he was one of that industry's most successful professionals in his community in Florida. In 1982, he connected with the love of his life, Jeannie Thompson. They married in 1985. He was a father of five and a grandfather of 12, two of whom, Brianna and Clara, he was helping to raise at the time of his passing.
The same year he started his real estate career, Sursely began a new mission when he joined DAV (Disabled American Veterans). He was named DAV's 1993 Disabled Veteran of the Year and the 2001 DAV Freedom Award recipient at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado.
In 2004, at the DAV & Auxiliary National Convention in Reno, Nevada, he was unanimously elected national commander by his fellow veterans.
A close friend of actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise, Sursely helped establish DAV's partnership with Boulder Crest Retreats and the Gary Sinise Foundation's RISE Program in 2015. Through this initiative and outdoor sports, Sursely and many others have mentored and touched the lives of hundreds of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sursely also served on the board of directors of the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. He was featured prominently in DAV public service announcements and through other outreach initiatives.
He was preceded in death by his son, Jimi, infant daughter Mary, mother Genevieve Hellen Sursely and father Edward James Sursely, a WWII Army Air Corps veteran. In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Dax (Marcia) of Billings, Montana, and Ryan of Apopka; daughter Mary (Robert) Sharkey, an Army spouse; sisters Sandy (Dave) Gordon of Gig Harbor, Washington and Diana (Ron) Hollihan of Rochester, Minnesota; and brother Richard (Michele) Sursely of Rochester.
Ceremonies will be held in Apopka, Florida on June 10 and 11.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to DAV (Disabled American Veterans) at www.dav.org/honorjim
Published by Orlando Sentinel from Jun. 7 to Jun. 8, 2021.