James L. Nicewander, “died”, “passed away”, “crossed the Jordan”, “kicked the bucket”, “bit the bullet”, “bought the big one”, joined his Lord and Savior for all eternity on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at the ripe old age of 68 years.
Born as James Lee Nicewander in the Township of Lind, Waupaca County, Wisconsin, on June 11, 1948, Jim was a farm boy whose family moved off the farm in 1960, but who never abandoned nor forgot his rural roots. He attended elementary school at his neighborhood’s one-room Lynwood School until the family moved closer to Waupaca where he attended Junior High and High School at the city schools. He was a member of Waupaca High School’s Class of 1966. He then attended the University of Chicago on a four-year academic scholarship, earning his degree in psychology in 1970.
After college, Jim was employed first as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Wausau, and then as production supervisor and subsequently plant manager at a woodworking manufacturing factory in Stevens Point until he began his 30-year career as an administrator with the Stevens Point Public Schools in 1978.
He worked as that district’s Director of Transportation until his retirement in 2007, bringing his skills and experience in private sector management to run the school district’s transportation department as a safe and efficient business operation. His success there led him into management consulting with other school districts, taking advantage of the successful policies, programs, and procedures he had developed over the years.
Jim married the love of his life Sue Ann Steinmetz of Waupaca in 1973. They and their two beloved children, daughters Jenni (Yang) and Jodi (Jewell) enjoyed extensive road trips together, many of them in conjunction with writing research or to trade and memorabilia shows connected to their mail-order hobby card business.
From 1974 to 1986, Jim was a firefighter on the Plover Fire Department, and he served as a Trustee on the Village Board for six years. Jim was a member of Berea Baptist Church in Stevens Point, where he ministered by presenting special music and teaching Sunday School, especially enjoying teaching young people.
Jim was a zealous baseball fan his entire life. He was crestfallen when his beloved Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn and to Los Angeles after the 1957 season, and he became a Milwaukee Braves and then Brewers follower. Throughout his youth, Jim loved playing baseball and fast-pitch softball. He earned a varsity letter in baseball his senior year at the University of Chicago.
Jim always enjoyed writing, his first compensated writing job being as a correspondent for the Waupaca County Post during his junior and senior years at Waupaca High School, under the tutelage of his editor, L.E. “Wormy” Nelson. In addition, over the years Jim wrote more than 300 published articles and columns for magazines and other periodicals. At the time of his death, Jim was again writing for the County Post, penning a regular column called Waupaca Nostalgia for that paper.
Jim was an avid camera bug for many years until the advent of digital photography. He had many published photographs and often used his camera to augment his writing efforts.
Jim enjoyed shooting sports, specifically handgun shooting, taking a second place at the Wisconsin state tournament in the early 1980s.
Jim also taught himself to play the banjo, becoming a unique anomaly, a left-handed banjo player. He and his brother Dan enjoyed travelling to and participating in the Tennessee Banjo Institute in he late ’80s and early ’90s during that event’s last two gatherings.
In the 1990s, Jim and Sue the Bluegrass Gospel Band, a family music group presenting uplifting gospel music at churches, camps, fairs, and senior gatherings; their most distant “gig” was for a week of presentations at Higher Ground Bible Camp near Sterling, Alaska, on the Kenai Peninsula.
In 1997, while taking a course in Raptor Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point from world-renowned Cooper’s Hawk authority Dr. Robert Rosenfield, Jim had the unique and fortuitous opportunity of studying up-close a family of Cooper’s Hawks which nested that Spring in a large white pine in the backyard of his home in Black Forest. His observations and documentation of the juvenile birds led to a published paper co-authored by himself and Dr. Rosenfield, as well as a presentation at the annual meeting and conference of the International Raptor Research Foundation.
Continuing his writing activities into retirement and using the pen-name of “James L. Pope.”, Jim authored the historical non-fiction book Everyday Adventures of a Farm Boy in the ’50s, a collection of true tales of growing up on his family’s small dairy farm, Upon his retirement, he established the Rural Heritage Reading Project, a not-for profit educational endeavor in which he would go into select central Wisconsin elementary schools and speak to students about their rural heritage and what things were like in their area half-a-century earlier, prior to so many of today’s technological conveniences. He would read to the students from Everyday Adventures… and give each participating pupil a free copy of the 269-page, hardbound book to keep for their own, encouraging them to read and to have fun doing it. Over the course of the last several years, Jim spoke and gave books to over 3,500 students.
In late 2013, Jim was felled by a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side and confined him to a wheelchair. That necessitated moving from their two-story home on two acres carved out of the gigantic white pines in Black Forest subdivision in the Village of Plover, in which Jim had spent countless enjoyable hours developing and maintaining walking paths for taking his much-loved dogs on pleasant walks every day. He also enjoyed transplanting native wildflowers along those paths.
Jim is survived by his wife (Sue), daughter Jenni (Tom Yang) of Stevens Point and their daughters Olivia and Megan, daughter Jodi (Matt Jewell) of Eau Claire and their children Asher, Lydia, Caleb, and Faith. He is further survived by his dog Maddy, by his brother Daniel (Lynn) Nicewander of Shakopee, Minnesota, and by several nieces and nephews. Jim was preceded in death by his parents Melvin and Lucia (Pope) Nicewander, older brother William Nicewander, and younger brother David Nicewander.
Jim wrote his obituary out of love for writing and his family.
A Time of Visitation and Sharing of Memories will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016 at Boston Funeral Home from 3 PM until 7 PM. A Memorial Service and Celebration of Jim’s Life will be held 11 AM on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 at Woodlands Church in Plover, with a time of visitation preceding from 10 AM until the time of service.
Online condolences may be made at www.bostonfuneralhome.net.