Van Campen

March 4, 1929 — Dec. 3, 2021
Thursday, December 16, 2021

Marion James “Jim” Van Campen, 92, passed away on Dec. 3, 2021 in Billings, Mont., at the Jensen Cottage at Saint John’s while in hospice after suffering a bad fall at his home at The Crossings in Laurel, Mont.

Jim was born on March 4, 1929 to Marion and Alice (Guthrie) Van Campen in Columbus, Mont. They lived on a ranch north of Columbus until Jim was 4 when they moved to a ranch south of Reed Point. Jim enjoyed the ranch immensely. At 4, he went hunting for a coyote den with his father and Uncle Frank. No luck, so the next day he went out on his own. A lone rider saw the 4-year-old and thought he was lost. He put Jim in the saddle and when he got on the horse bucked them off. The rider cussed and Jim instructed him to say “my stars” instead of all of those colorful words.

Jim attended school in Reed Point, Mont., and always joked about graduating valedictorian (he was in a class of one). He boarded the train for college at Western Union College in Lemars, Iowa, a week after graduating high school.

He attended there that summer and the school year following. He then transferred to Eastern Montana College for the summer sessions in 1947 and started teaching on an emergency certificate in the fall at a rural school named Fairview School. He graduated from Eastern and became a full time teacher.

Back in those days it was common for ranch kids to stay in town with a family during high school and Bonnie Kay Hicks came to live with Jim’s parents in Reed Point.

Jim would come home on breaks from school and work. Bonnie was musical and always had hard music for Jim to play when he visited. He could never be stumped. The two fell in love and after Bonnie went to the University of Montana in Missoula for a year, Jim proposed.

Jim and Bonnie K. Hicks were married at the Reed Point Evangelical United Brethren Church on Aug. 15, 1956. With this union they had five children. Jim was a school teacher and they enjoyed living in many small towns in Montana including Opheim, Glasgow, Chinook, Missoula and eventually ended up back at the ranch near Reed Point. They were both very active in their church and held leadership positions in the Rebekah/Odd Fellows Lodge.

J i m h a d s e v e r a l j o b s throughout his years but the bulk of his career was in education. He was a ranch hand, a sheepherder, a store clerk, a teacher, a principal, a suit seller, a business owner and travel agent.

Jim and Bonnie were both very musical and always had a piano in the house (and sometimes up to 3!). Jim could play any instrument placed in his hands and always played by ear. He taught accordion and guitar lessons when they were living in Missoula.

When he had a travel business in Missoula, he always brought his accordion with him on tours so he could entertain his clients.

They also loved to play cards. They even played 2 handed pinochle while on the ranch to decide who made lunch, did dishes, etc. Jim was still part of the regular card games with the residents at The Crossings and always looked forward to “beating some old ladies in cards”. He was known to say when he won “Well, you did the best you could do.”

Jim and Bonnie moved into The Crossings in Laurel, MT in 2012 and made very good friends there that felt like family. They really enjoyed their time there and felt at home.

Jim will always be remembered for his quick wit and sense of adventure. He always had a quick comeback or a joke to tell. He was loved by everyone he met.

Jim is survived by daughter Sandy (Mike) Smith of Washington; daughter Marilyn Owns Medicine of Alaska; son George

(Thea) Van Campen of Colorado; daughter Laura Christey (Pete Hernandez) of Laurel; grandchildren Rhiannon (Shane) Coburn of Missoula, Anya Smith of France, Kayla (Aaron) Youngren of Idaho, Nicolas Van Campen of Colorado, Matthew Piedalue of Bozeman, Kyle Van Campen of Colorado, Elise Christey of Washington and Ashlee Hamilton of Alaska and nine great grand children in Montana, Idaho and France.

James was preceded in death by his parents, Marion and Alice Van Campen, wife Bonnie Van Campen, brother Morris Van Campen and son James Earl Van Campen.

The family would like to thank all of the staff and residents at The Crossings who enriched their lives immensely.

A service will be forthcoming in the spring.