Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

James Leifer

Aug. 21, 1945 - Jan. 19, 2019


January 24, 2019

James “Jim” Thomas Leifer

James "Jim" Thomas Leifer

James "Jim" Thomas Leifer, 73, long time St. John resident, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at his St. John home. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on Friday, January 25th, at 1:00 pm at the Christian Life Assembly in St. John. Jim will be laid to rest in the Pine City Cemetery.

Jim was the third oldest of 10 children to bless the home of Clyde and Helen Gordon Leifer. He was born August 21, 1945, in Colfax, but grew up on the family farm near Pine City. He learned at an early age about life on the farm and helping with chores. He learned to love the dirt, work in it and respect it. Jim carried this love of soil his entire life.

He attended school in St. John where he excelled at every sport. After graduating in 1963, he attended the Montana School of Mines in Butte, Montana, (now Montana Tech) where he received his degree as a petroleum engineer. In college, he played on the basketball and football team and served as ASB President. Jim spent some time working with his petroleum engineering degree within multiple companies before returning to St. John to begin a farming career. His drive and passion coupled with his hard work ethic, straight as arrow honesty and his determination gave him the ability to join in the farming process on the Philpott farm.

His life had changed in 1969 with the birth of his son, Lance, and life changed again with Lance's passing in 1998. In December 1983, Jim met Janet Mitchell at the Stockyards in Spokane and after three dates they eloped March 5, 1984, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and soon after moved to their farm near St. John.

Due to tough times in farming, Jim looked for an alternative crop. In 1991, Jim and Janet started the Iris Test Garden that bloomed into 2,500 varieties of iris on twelve acres. This was an intense labor of love and one that he took great pride in doing alongside his family while teaching his children a strong work ethic. We've already established how much he loved the dirt. He loved Janet just as much and was her number one fan and cheerleader. Whatever endeavor she wanted to take on, Jim was right behind her, supporting all the way - they were a team.

For the past 25 years, they have been foster parents to 60+ children. It would be easy to conclude that God planted many of the needy right where he knew they would be nurtured, strengthened and loved – just as Jim did with everything in his life. He was an avid sports fan, whether this was his ability to recount all play by plays or feeling the need to "actively participate" rather than spectate during games, in later years "helping" the refs make calls while sitting in his recliner.

The Leifer family were fixtures in St. John and often seen at events their kids participated in and in years to follow, active in their church and community. Later in life, he became an insurance agent and sold crop insurance for several agencies. Because of his knowledge of farming and his ability to relate as a farmer, he was successful, made lasting friendships and honestly enjoyed working as hard as he did. Jim retired three months ago and he and Janet were looking forward to the next chapters in their lives to have the opportunity to be involved with their grandchildren. Whether this meant traveling to see them, baby sitting or just loving on them.

He will be missed by many in the St. John community and wherever he was known, but especially by his wife of 34 years, Janet Mitchell Leifer; his three children, Larissa (Curtis) Lilly of Kirkland, Wash., Litney Layne (Daniel) Gallagher, Spokane, and Logan Leifer, St. John; by Misty Skelton of Vancouver, Wash., who chose Jim and Janet to be her honorary parents; by two precious granddaughters, Judabean Phoenix Gallagher and Zia Blaise Lilly of whom he was so proud; and by his siblings, Joe (Patty) Leifer, Margaret (Dale) Oliver, Marie (Ron) Hahner, Laura Bonner, Clyde (Joyce) Leifer, Ed (Brenette) Leifer, Daniel (Kelley) Leifer and Dolores (Dave) Hove. In addition to son Lance, Jim was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, John. The family suggests memorial gifts in his memory be made to the Christian Life Assembly Church or to the St. John-Endicott Schools Foundation. On-line guest book is at http://www.bruningfuneralhome.com

Bruning Funeral Home of Colfax is caring for the family.


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