James ‘Jim’ Lee Mans, 68
Any time you ask someone to tell you about his motorcycle accident and he asks you which one, you can be sure he’s lived every day of his life. Jim Mans received a diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer and was given six months to live. Eleven months after that, he crossed off a bucket list item — sky diving with his son, Kristopher. By the way, if he were here, he would tell you, “Jump. Do it. It feels more like flying than falling.”
Then he would make sure every person who made his jump possible was mentioned, from Tiffany Walker of One More Time to every single person at Auburn Crest Hospice, to each employee at Skydive West. If Jim were here, I’d need to list them each out by name, as well as his and Katie’s dear friends, Patty and Scarlett, who brought a basket of steak dinners to the family when they returned home.
That was Jim Mans. He saw people. He was grateful. It is one of the many ways he and Katie left every person they met better off: they acknowledged them. Even when lifting a cup of coffee to his lips required concerted effort, Jim still sat up to give a guest a hug when they left.
Jim led a very successful career as a cadastral surveyor, where he charted boundaries by the lay of the stars. His work helped preserve petroglyphs, old growth cedars and fossils. He worked to make the Hiawatha Trail and the Pulaski Trail a reality over a decade before we started to use them. He served as an expert witness to honor boundaries: mining retracement in the Silver Valley, trespass cases and stolen timbers. He wrote computer programs still used by the Forest Service today, brought GPS and GIS to his staff and led five national forests.
But these aren’t the things that he’d tell you mattered most. He’d say it was his family; his wife, Katie Mans and his two sons, Jared Travis Mans and Kristopher Schuyler Mans of Coeur d’Alene. He’d tell you that the most important thing was being there when his sons were born, and then he and Katie would look at one another and laugh. He’d tell how she wounded him when she was delivering Jared. And Katie would back him up with, “Trim your nails before you go into labor!” Then there would be more laughter. They were always sharing the same memory without a sound.
James Mans, born on April 30, 1951, in Great Falls, Mont., left his body behind on Aug. 15, 2019, in the comfort of his own home, receiving the loving care of his wife, Katie.
He gained his love of music from his father, Clifford Mans, of Great Falls, and his Native skin from his mother, Mary Louise Mans of Fort Belknap, Mont. He is survived by his wife; two sons; brother, Rick Mans of Modesto, Calif. and many loved cousins, nieces and nephews all over the country.
It’s impossible to write this obituary for Jim without including Katie, and he wouldn’t want it to be without her. A listener could tell they’d spent many nights talking the daylight up; they would have celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary this September. Their eyes would lock and giggles preceded every great story: twice high-siding Tim Callahan’s Volkswagen beetle on a Montana log as a teenager; when he was 5-years old and the family’s German shepherd brought his little brother home in her teeth; “helping” his grandfather clean out the barn by shooting all the swallows when he was about nine; Katie breaking her leg while peeing at a barbecue in Prichard.
He was always full of good advice. His high school years in Malta, Mont., consisted of a series of adventures sometimes lasting a few days in the woods, staying alive on a can of peaches. I asked him once if they ever took any girls with them. He said, “You don’t impress girls by making them walk until they can’t stand.”
He learned to want to play guitar from his father. He told of his dad’s huge hands flying across the fret. Jim wanted to learn the bar chord; it was more rock and roll. So, he taught himself and learned by ear. His dad introduced him to Buzz Evans, a jazz musician from New York. He learned everything from him he could. He played in bands all through high school, working gigs at bars and local dances. When he left college for a job with an oil company, he took his guitar with him. He kept playing and saw all the greats: Santana, Air Supply, Iron Butterfly, Electric Light Orchestra, ZZ Top, Cream (when Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were with them), Peter Frampton, BB King and Three Dog Night.
When Katie came along, she taught him how to read music. They shared this passion, along with many others, playing for each other, for their church, for the boys. He was curious, interested and engaged; the one everyone asked when they needed to know how to work something because they knew he’d read the manual.
His masculinity reverberated throughout every space he inhabited, but it was always tempered with tenderness. One of his favorite stories was taking the boys camping up the North Fork. In the middle of the night, Jim woke to Jared burrowing beneath him, “Protect me, Dad.” Jim quickly recognized the shadow and noise as a bear. They waited quietly while the bear nosed around, satisfied his curiosity and ambled on. The fellows identified the mystery bear attractant: Jared had poured out his unwanted pop beside the tent. But, the boys were having no more of the tent camping. So, they climbed into “Tommy Toyota” and watched the stars fade and the sun come up to Walt Disney music.
Jim Mans — also known throughout his life as Jimmy Lee when he was in trouble, Golden Child when he wasn’t but everyone else was, and Toes because he was so fast — left this earth while living every moment. Whenever a plastic spider pops out from a visor or Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” comes over the radio, Katie will know Jim is there. She will always see him in the kindness of others.
A wake will be held at a later date because Jim would want you to finish out your summer.
In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association - Inland Northwest Chapter, 1042 W. Mill Ave., Suite 101B, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814, (208) 666-2996, where Jim and Katie have served as lifelong volunteers.
Yates Funeral Home is entrusted with final arrangements. Please visit Jim’s online memorial and sign his guest book at www.yatesfuneralhomes.com.