Upper Texas Coast, April 2006
James Kepler Wilson
  • 67 years old
  • Date of birth: Jun 22, 1948
  • Date of passing: Jul 15, 2015
And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make

This memorial website was created in memory of our friend, James Wilson.  He will be missed.  We are grateful for our time with him and for the legacy he left.

Celebration of Life:

Date: Sunday, August 2, 4 pm - 8 pm

Place: Mono Lake County Park

More information can be found on the "His Life" tab above.

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Andy Selters on 16th July 2016

"Hoooowwuuuullll! a big, long, coyote howl under a bright moon"

This tribute was added by Steve Jan on 15th July 2016

"With all the discussion right now about forest plan revision, I am reminded of James almost daily.  I think it was he who first characterized the White Mountain Wilderness boundaries at the Inyo County line as the "line of shame."  It would be a fitting tribute to James to try to erase that line of shame in final Inyo NF plan revision."

This tribute was added by Gretchen Schumacher on 15th July 2016

"James, I still see you heading out Reata on your morning bike ride as I walk. We smile & wave at each other.
Hope you are having a great ride! Miss you."

This tribute was added by Diana Cunningham on 22nd June 2016

"Happy Birthday, James.  Kay gave me five species of your garlic to plant and I harvested it last weekend. Thank you for everything, always."

This tribute was added by Kathryn Erickson on 22nd June 2016

"Happy Birthday, James.  We miss you sorely."

This tribute was added by Rosie Howard on 8th September 2015

"This is the poem I read at James's Celebration of Life on Sunday, August 2, 2015.

In James' Garden

I bent down to pluck a weed
Gently nudging aside the watermelon vine
Thinking of the hand that planted the seed
Seeing the smile that presented to friends
Succulent melons at Midsummer feasts.

Might there be his footprint here
To treasure among the vines and interlopers?
That footprint I so often saw
On days and miles of mountain meanders
As I was always behind you.
So many of us
Behind you on so many things.

How many times DID
Your foot fall upon a wild footless place?
Crashing through chigger infested rain forest
In search of Three-wattled Bellbirds.
Climbing as Dan said, "Some obscure pinnacle."
Thrashing through "high hat willows," Swiss army knife poised.
Wading thigh high Secret Creeks
Pygmy Kingfishers laughing overhead.
Walking impassioned and measured the mire of meetings
Finding a path through opposing minds.
Passing through many souls leaving only good effects.

What wild creature continues to live because of your care?
What bird continues to fly having been seen by your eye?
Oh, my kingdom for a map of your footprints
Lit with your delight as if you soaked up
The energy of the planet through your feet
Up through your veins to inspire your heart
And your marvelous mind! That consciousness
That cared and inspired actions that made a difference.
You had the uncanny ability
To draw others to unwonted connections
With broader effect than acting alone.
If only we could see the footprints you
Left on minds and hearts.

My thoughts have wound and weeded me through the
Melons and on to the squash and the beans.
No wonder the lovely garden has weeds -
You were busy tending the planet whole."

This tribute was added by Larry Nahm on 30th August 2015

""His passing has eclipsed the gaiety of nations", Dr. Johnson famously and exaggeratedly wrote of a friend.  Perhaps I join you in feeling my  gaiety eclipsed.  So many memories have now taken on a new value, a poignancy, and a renewed sense of the fragility of easy pleasance.  Have you too been given the sense that you were loved, appreciated and cared for?  For example: for some years I'd walk into his store with ill-covered feet (sometimes he'd pull a sock out of the front of a boot while I wearing it). He kept me supplied with remedies  I sorely needed in so many ways.  Before I was flown to Renown Med. Ctr. in Reno in 1983 James and one other caring person lifted my spirits with a visit.   Eclipses recede--onward now with gratitude toward James and the wondrous things which enriched him and continue to enrich us"

This tribute was added by Julie Zela on 12th August 2015

"Employer, boss, business owner extraordinaire – remarkable inspirational human being."

This tribute was added by Todd Vogel on 11th August 2015

"Ok, How 'bout when Kay and James, Denise, Chris, Marti D; many others and I were working in Saline Valley, tamarisk, the fall of 2006. The mid term elections had just happened. Conservative US representative from California Richard Pombo had finally been defeated in the election. Over the din of Beverage Canyon's creek I heard James yelling "Pombo!!! Pooommmbbbooo!" As a large tamarisk fell. Baked dutch oven enchiladas for dinner that night. Bean was a pup. Good times."

This tribute was added by Tom Andrews on 8th August 2015

"I have known James for 40 years, ever since I first moved to Bishop as a wildlife biologist. We spent many days hiking, crosscountry skiing, and hanging out together.  Kay and James invited me into their home many times.  Even though I have lived in Colorado and elsewhere for many years, my memories of the Sierra Nevada, James' passionate love for the wilderness and our easy laughter will stay with me for years to come.  I miss him dearly, and I know his passing leaves a large hole in the larger Owens Valley community."

This tribute was added by Pat Cone on 7th August 2015

"I met James in Bishop when I was flying for work out of the airport in the early 1980s, and really appreciate all he's down for the Valley and the Inyo. Always an excited, and solid, voice of reason. I had the chance to go to his Celebration of Life last night at the Summer Outdoor Retailer here in Utah, and it was a good chance to tell stories, and hear new stories about this good man."

This tribute was added by Rosanne Catron on 5th August 2015

"This is the poem I read at my dad's celebration of life:


Go. Go on joyfully round the next curve.
For we will till the garden, pick melons,
Cradle the first ripe tomato,
Thrill at every green tendril and shoot.

Dad, go on joyfully over the summit.
We will walk amongst the piñon and juniper,
Amongst the granite boulders and scree,
We will seek out expanses of ocean and desert,
Under skies both sun baked and stormy.
We will look for bears, squirrels, snakes,
Lizards skittering in the dust.
And of course, we will watch for the dusky winged,
Bright eyed flickering of birds.
We will do all this and feel awe, as you do.

Dad, I’m not saying there isn’t sadness in our hearts.
My hands and feet feel so heavy these days,
It’s as if they are rooted in the earth.

But we will eat good bread and good cheese,
Talk with our neighbors,
Drink tea and wine,
Turn anger and sadness into energy,
Be kind,
Read books whenever possible,
And of course love family and friends.

So dad, go on joyfully through the next grove.
That perfect view is waiting.
You know the one.
With a big slab of granite to warm your back,
The Sierras as far as you can see,
And just the sound of the wind through the trees.

So go on dad. Go on joyfully round that next curve."

This tribute was added by Kris Morris on 2nd August 2015

"James was a family member that I got to see only every one to three years. I knew he was a really terrific guy – someone I admired, and would have loved to spend more time with. Through all the tributes to him since his passing, I have learned that he was even more amazing than I knew. I’m sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to know him better. The world has lost a great treasure."

This tribute was added by Darla Heil on 1st August 2015

"For James

James lived life with gusto; fighting for what he saw was worth fighting for, reasonably and with respect; loving, always loving – Kay, Rosanne, Bayard, and Ansel – his family and his friends, wilderness and all things wild, the land, open spaces, his community, creatures large and small…  James was willing to work hard for his vision of progress – a good place to live, providing support when he could and inspiration for those sharing that vision.

He’s gone – passed on – merged back into the great mystery.  I’ll miss him so – always someone willing to lend a hand or lead the way for a cause worth struggling for, but also with the good sense to take time away from those struggles for himself, his family & friends, for exploration and enjoyment, for the pure love of life.  

James, knowing you was a blessing and an inspiration.  I’ll miss you and wish you well in the boundless mystery awaiting us all.  

My sincerest condolences to Kay, Rosanne, Bayard, and Ansel for your loss."

This tribute was added by Andrew Schurr on 1st August 2015

"James was a great friend, mentor, and example of a life well lived. During my time with Friends of the Inyo and since I moved to the Eastern Sierra in 2008 he was a constant force in my professional and personal life. He was a great man who inspired me, and all of us to live more fully.  Below is an excerpt written on my travel blog as a tribute when I found out about his death while cycle touring in Mongolia posted here at the request of mutual friends. His encouragement helped me to take the leap to have a great adventure. His example and life of adventure and conservation is a model. Work hard but play hard too, something James always did.

"James Wilson, whom I knew as friend and board member of the organization I used to work for, has left for the next adventure. He was a great man and one of the fittest nearly 70 year old guys I have ever met. His passing and hours of riding has given me reason and a chance to reflect. Life is short and nothing is certain. You can be here one day and gone the next. I have a bad habit of getting caught up in the small stuff, giving into stress too often, and putting off the fun for an over developed sense of obligation. James, although very hard working and an avid conservationist, loved a  good hike, a good adventure, and a good time. He, and his memory, will remind those who knew him to get out and get after it, to work hard but also have a good time. Take a minute to soak in the beauty of the world and revel in the moment of whatever you are doing. Just like pushing my bike through deep sand under the desert sun, sometimes life sucks, but when you step back it is all just part of the big picture that is life in general. Enjoy every moment, make it your own, live it to the fullest, and go down fighting and laughing. James, this one is for you man. You were a huge influence on everyone you knew me included and I will try to live more fully thanks to you and your example. Until the next time man, journey well."

Farewell James. See you on the otherside my friend. You made life more full and were an example for all of us. We can only hope to live up to it. Thanks for everything."

This tribute was added by Lynne Foster on 1st August 2015

"It's so hard to think of what to say when we know we'll never see our friend James again. I knew James since Friends of the Inyo was first formed and will always miss his wise counsel on matters environmental as well as his personal warmth, humor, and "trueness." We can all only hope that each of us will leave behind even a fraction of what James has left behind -- for his family, for all who knew him, and for the environment."

This tribute was added by Keiko Ishikawa on 1st August 2015

"We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn,
to grow, to love…and then we return home.
(author unknown)

I have been thinking of you, James, every day since I got the news of your stroke and subsequently the passing. I have burnt several Japanese incense to pray for your peaceful trip back to where you originally had come from.  I have also lit small Japanese candles with summer flowers on them, with a sense of deep sorrow, but also with the gratitude that I was fortunate to know you in my life.  

I first met you in your store in 1983, and got to know you, Kay and Roseanne better after you moved to the first floor of Smoke’s house on Willow Street. I always loved your quiet yet very profound statements.  You have been and will be a special person in my life, who will bring the surrounding sense of peace, comfort and justice.   Thank you, James, for sharing your life with us."

This tribute was added by Dave Herbst on 28th July 2015

"James was such a humble and wise man.  He provided council and perspective and sympathy when needed in matters of work and life and the passions we bring to those.  Coming to belong to the FOI Board, after he'd been there so long, I was at times anxious to see change, frustrated when it did not happen, and impatient.  He wrote this to me:
"While I feel we all would like the most "natural" public land, politics is the art of the possible, and we need to get the most for bighorn, collared lizards, and mayflies. So sometimes we are going to have to take half a loaf, hoping that there will be enough bread to feed the creatures. To mix up my metaphors to the point of confusion perhaps."

To at once be funny and deep in his thoughts was a hallmark of James Wilson.  He was calm and kind, self-effacing and generous, delighted in the magic of nature and observing the glory and beauty around him.  At times I forget, and then it hits me, and I just shake my head again in disbelief.  Is he really gone?  No, he's just ahead of us, down the trail, around that next bend or beyond.  That's how I like to think of the paths he has walked, and how he led the way.  The way along which we may continue and carry on with the passions of caring for and reveling in the wild of nature.
What a great guy!  Blessed to have shared time with him."

This tribute was added by Julie Zela on 28th July 2015

"I greatly appreciate Todd Vogel's comparison of birding with James being like going to Disneyland with a small child. When you guys spotted a cool bird and James would start going  “oh oh oh oh my god it’s a Caspian Tern!” “oh oh oh! Todd! Todd! Get on this bird I think it’s a Barrow’s Goldeneye!!!” You could plug in just about anything James was excited about and he would respond with that very same enthusiasm, fervor and eagerness! Todd's story absolutely perfectly illustrates exactly how excited James could get. It was always totally contagious and always made me laugh.
Much love to Kay, Rosanne, Chris & Todd and everybody touched by this inspirational, very special man. Farewell James, with very fond memories and deep deep respect."

This tribute was added by Todd Vogel on 28th July 2015

"I remembered another story: James told me long ago about an incident in his back yard, back when they lived on Willow Street. It seems he was hanging out in the yard, reading a book. His over the fence neighbor, an elderly woman, noticed him and, over the fence, asked him what he was doing. He replied "I'm reading a book." To which she replied "I have a book!" Now pretty much any time I go to start a new book I think to myself "I have a book!" Maybe you had to be there but I think it's funny."

This tribute was added by Diana Cunningham on 26th July 2015

"We were stunned at James' passing and the loss of such a wonderful person. We will miss seeing him and Kay in the Brewery, his wise and compassionate voice, his strength of character, his generous spirit.  Eastern Sierra landscapes and habitats that he worked so tirelessly to protect are lasting monuments to his life:  his gift to all living things and future generations. We will miss you James. Thank you for all you gave. The world is truly a better place for having you here."

This tribute was added by Dick & Di McKinney/Sly on 26th July 2015

"To Kay, Roseanne (& Bay and Ansel, whom we look forward to meeting) & all of James' friends on the Mythical East Side & elsewhere,

Di and I were as stunned as the rest of you when Sydni Scott called us out of the blue and told me Kay had asked her to let us know that James had passed. We had just driven through back in mid-April, where we fed James and Kay breakfast in our little travel trailer there at Brown's Town. These two were obviously comfortable with each other and still deeply in love.

When someone so vital suddenly drops away, it is just hard to believe he is gone. Since that fateful call, so many memories of James have come flooding out of my mind and even now I am learning more interesting things abut him - like his middle name: Kepler. Kay, is this a family name, or was James' father (or mother) an astronomer?.

I first met James when I began working winters as the ski mechanic at the Ski Hut in Berzerkeley back in the early '70s. His personal integrity was already legendary there. The walls of his Mail Order department were filled with cards and letters testifying to the friendly, straight forward, efficient and utterly competent way he ran the show there. Later we all saw the same commitment to excellence at Wilson's Eastside Sports.

His sense of humor wasn't far behind: I once saw James and Peter Noone chasing each other around the store in a knock-down, drag-out shoot-out with those little plastic pistols that shot tiny Frisbees instead of water. I was still finding those little plastic discs around the shop months, even years later. And I always thought it was James who, when the restroom walls had been repainted (several times), started the next round of graffiti with the words: "Clean Walls?"

James and I did not see each other very often, but always followed each other's careers with interest: mine at Sawyer Paddles and Oars (James loved wood working); his at Wilson's. We always made time to see each other at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show in Salt Lake City. James turned me on to a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant there, to which we returned year after year. He loved seeking out well run small businesses with special offerings. He especially appreciated honest, capable, committed people. Every time I saw them together, James would brag openly about his manager Chris, saying his business wouldn't be what it was without her. He was seven years younger than I, but he was still a mentor when it came to fostering and maintaining enduring relationships. That's the kind of guy he was.

I have loved the Sierra Nevada since my first back packing trip out of Mineral King in 1945 at age 4 and I took my bride Di on her first back packing trip into the Virginia Lakes, but James was In Love with the Sierra. I doubt if he could have lived anywhere else. Just imagine the number of trails he knew back in the fastness of those mountains. We mainly saw James & Kay when we passed through Bishop on that incredible route 395. Showing up at Wilson's for a visit became even more important than standing outside Schat's with a quarter pound of butter waiting for the bakery to open. Once we had the pleasure of showing James & Kay around our own corner of paradise: Ashland, Oregon (in The Mythical State Of Jefferson) when they were passing through looking at colleges for Roseanne. The four of us loved swapping stories about boots, paddles, teaching, climbing, nursing, gardening, daughters, nieces & nephews, and of course, the back country out yonder.

We never joined James & Kay on any of their trips, but we all enjoyed hearing about the others' adventures. We shared a few of them - like time in Death Valley and canoeing Labyrinth & Stillwater Canyons on the Green River, just not at the same time.

James' family, his friends, his colleagues, the desert, the birds - and the mountains- we're all going to miss him, but as long as we live we will hold him close in our hearts.

We are honored and blessed to be counted among James' many  admirers,
Dick & Di McKinney/Sly
Ashland, Oregon"

This tribute was added by Lynn Peterson on 24th July 2015

"Last year on an Audubon morning at the COSA, there was a little boy who knew how to use binoculars. He ran around very excitedly pointing out crows and doves, not understanding why no one was very interested in his sitings. After an hour he stated "I'm bored".  James asked him "What are you going to do about it?"    The boy looked surprised. Then he ran off to play king of the mountain on a little dirt pile. After a while his grandfather (not James) called to him "Let's go".
The child yelled out "No. I'm having too much fun". I thought "Wow,
what a good father James must have been".
      Lorraine Masten"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrington on 22nd July 2015

"James was one of the first people I met when I first moved to Bishop in '78.  Rick Wheeler and I rented the downstairs apartment of a duplex and James and Kay lived upstairs.  We quickly became close friends, climbing, hiking, skiing, and working together at the shop. I remember so clearly holding Rosanne the day she came home from the hospital.

Last weekend, camped in the wilderness, of course I thought a lot about James because he was such a foremost wilderness lover and advocate.  At sunset, as the lakes turned dark and the sky bright, there was a lovely view of Red Slate Mountain, a fine route James and I climbed many years ago.  Moments later, Hermit Thrushes called their music from the hemlocks below my viewing ledge, and I was reminded that James taught me that most beautiful of birdsongs.  James was a great mentor to me in matters of natural history, and in that way, he enriched my life greatly.

Stunned, bummed, shocked -- it's inevitable of course, but so unexpected.  James had a quiet confident integrity that served him so well in all of his endeavors.  He was such a model of how to conduct oneself in a way that held strong to one's beliefs and values, but respected others and their perspectives.  I'll miss his humor, wise counsel, broad knowledge of so many things, and love for his family and friends."

This tribute was added by Elin Ljung on 22nd July 2015

"Mono Lake and the Mono Basin owe their protection in part to James' efforts and vigilance. We at the Mono Lake Committee will miss seeing James birding in the area, and will miss his steadfast support for Mono Lake.


This tribute was added by Olaya Spearman on 22nd July 2015

"Dear James, I have such a vivid memory of walking over the hills of Mallarauco with you and Kay, so vivid your conection with nature and the birds, I´m very sorry you have left us and I won´t see you again, but it just reminds me that the biggest mystery of life is death."

This tribute was added by Joe Szewczak on 22nd July 2015

"James shared his joy of all things natural so infectiously. Gentle and radiant. Emptiness with his passing, but enduring inspiration for how we can all live better."

This tribute was added by Andy Selters on 20th July 2015

"Few people I've known have tied together so many people, places, and ways of being as James. From business to environment, personal achievements to successful family life, community unity to advocacy politics, science and art, large vision and personal attention, philanthropy…I recall a quote from Jules Eichorn about Norman Clyde being so thoroughly adapted to his chosen environment--the high mountains; James was thoroughly adapted to the natural, economic, political, and social environments of the Eastern Sierra."

This tribute was added by sue martin on 20th July 2015

"Sue Martin and Family;

Your cup was not only half full, it was brimming over.

If there is a heaven, I hope you meet John Muir there. You would have
so much to talk about!

It was a privilege to know and work for you for the past 15 years.
Your spirit will live on with Kay, Roseanne, Bayard, & Ansel, and  all
those whose lives you touched.

We'll miss you so much..."

This tribute was added by Molly McCammon on 20th July 2015

"I knew James and Kay while working in Berkeley at the Ski Hut and kept in touch with them through our mutual friend Roman. I last saw James about 5 years ago while passing through Bishop on the East Side.  That twinkle and sense of humor......I know why he will be missed.  My heart goes out to Kay and family."

This tribute was added by Joy Fatooh on 20th July 2015

"James' passing is like a great, spreading, deep-rooted tree falling: it shakes you whether you are close or not, and leaves a huge gap in our community. That gap will fill because of the many seeds he planted. I knew him as fair and generous business owner; wise and eloquent Audubon president during my tenure as newsletter editor; and essential liaison between the conservation and climbing communities. I remember his soft voice and kind, level gaze creating an island of calm in my day whenever we chanced to meet. The Eastern Sierra without James Wilson will only resemble the place it has been with him because his legacy will live on."

This tribute was added by Roman Motyka on 20th July 2015

"I will miss James, he was truly an exceptional person and I loved him dearly.  My heart goes out to Kay and Roseanne for their loss.  We met many decades ago while working at Ski Hut in Berkeley and forged a deep friendship through hiking and climbing together. His love for nature, the mountains, and of course his birding skills were unsurpassed.  I have great memories of his visits to Alaska and my visits to Bishop. We both loved the Sierras and all else that is wild.   I am glad that we were able to stay in touch through all the years and that James remained a true friend.  His memory will live on in my heart."

This tribute was added by Connie & Claus Engelhardt on 20th July 2015

"We moved to Bishop 15 years ago drawn by the nearby Sierra Nevada and desert lands.  Naturally, we soon met James and Kay, shopped at the store, birded together, shared meals, and became fast friends.  James was valued by his family and friends and made a lasting contribution to the Bishop community and environment.  We will all miss him greatly!"

This tribute was added by Roanne Mayer on 20th July 2015

"I just heard about James passing and was so saddened. I met James while working with Wilson's as a member of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance. James was always such a positive person and always brought an air of kindness, joy and patience with him in every interaction I had with him. I will miss him and hope his family will always be able to recall the joy he brought to everyone."

This tribute was added by Losang Rabgey on 19th July 2015

"On behalf of everyone at Machik, we wish to express our deep sorrow at the passing of James.  He embodied the kind of care and compassion that the world most urgently needs....the genuine capacity to hear and connect to the needs of people half a world away. His long-term support for rural students in a mountain village in Tibet has been truly inspiring. We remain ever grateful to and greatly miss James's gentle spirit and kindness.  - Losang & Tashi Rabgey, Co-founders, Machik and Team"

This tribute was added by Lori Gable on 19th July 2015

"As so many of us can attest, James truly was such a bright light; living a life in line with all he believed. And he so clearly enjoyed it all- such happiness emanated from him whenever I saw him.

I will forever carry with me the kindness, wisdom and generosity of spirit he bestowed on me and my family, especially our daughter, as well as his incredible ability to extend his energy to other beings and this land we all love so much.

Thank you, James, for all that you have done and the inspiration that will continue to flow in your wake."

This tribute was added by Jeanne Walter on 19th July 2015

"James I am so sad. Remembering Berkley, the Ski Hut, climbing weekends in Yosemite. Making the decision to move to the East Side.
You and Kay staying with us until you found a rental, Hanby I think?  Mostly I will miss your amazing skill at dealing with opposing views and not losing your cool, I want to do that someday.  You are loved by so many. The mountains and birds will continue to sustain you."

This tribute was added by Gail Koske-Phillips on 19th July 2015

"James always represented the best of Bishop to me.  The Baniff Film Festival was such an unexpected treat for my family every year.  He added to the community with projects but also with consistently treating individuals with kindness and respect. He left such a deep imprint on Bishop, he will never be completely gone."

This tribute was added by Tom and Jo Heindel on 19th July 2015

"The James Wilson and Heindel family tapestry

In 1972 we moved to the Owens Valley and very quickly heard of James Wilson, a Renaissance man and lover of all things wild and bringing people together to make it even better. Our paths began crossing at Eastside Sports and in the field. We were always awed with his intellect, compassion, and persuasive ideas. We moved overseas for a decade and returned, back into the fold with James at the helm. We grew closer and relied on each other for ideas and support of various environmental and conservation projects. The 25 years since our return has sped by like a bullet for all of us, and while some judge the accomplishments as highly successful, many of us feel that we've only just begun. James had so much he wanted to do.
So many have done so much for so long for the Eastern Sierra that to single out one person, or one couple, for recognition seemed to us to be undeserved. We were coerced by Barb Kelley and Mike Prather to accept such an award for our avian contributions. Then we were told that James would be making the presentation. We are so grateful that it was our decades-long friend whom we adored who would make this embarrassment bearable. We are equally grateful that Skandar Reid videotaped the entire afternoon and has edited out James's powerful and poetic presentation for all to enjoy (See Gallery:video). While James gave us countless gifts, this speech and the long hugs that came afterwards gave us love that you usually only get from some family members! A beautiful giant has fallen but his echoes will reverberate as long as there is an Eastern Sierra."

This tribute was added by Jeff Cook on 19th July 2015

"Mountain-lovers who find a way to live in Bishop are very fortunate.

Because of James, I was able to move there and stay for many years. While traveling through the Eastside in 1980, I lost my boots at a trailhead. When I was shopping for new ones at the old Eastside Sports store location, I asked James and his partner Rick Wheeler for a job. They hired me, and so began my long acquaintance with James.

To support his own love of wild mountains and deserts, he (and wife Kay and present-owner Chris) built the original small store into the institution that it now is, argueably one of the best mountain shops on the planet. He acheived this, and worked hard to preserve wildlife and natural places, while spending more time hiking and climbing and skiing and biking than anyone I know.

His imprint on the Eastern Sierra, and the influence of his personal example on those of us who knew him, will last."

This tribute was added by Jan Rhoades on 19th July 2015

"I juat can't stop thinking how I will miss James -- I often said hi as he and Tim passed me on a bike ride out to Round Valley -- He and Kay shared guffaws in dancing class with Sophie and me.  What a ready smile and a kind word for all -- a true pillar of the community.  My deepest sympathies to Kay and the family.  Much love to all of you."

This tribute was added by Patricia Ellis on 18th July 2015

"I will miss James..his wit,  support and encouragement through his community service, his kindness when I would go into "Wilson's" in helping me find just the right item I was looking for. He is and will be missed."

This tribute was added by Ryan Spaulding on 18th July 2015

"I only recently came to know James and Kay through birding out and about here on the east side. I am new to birding, and I am unable to describe just how much my life has changed- for the best- since I became completely fascinated by our feathered friends. I am forever thankful for my short time birding with James, which includes a very special memory of us both witnessing a female American redstart adorably digging through leaf litter whilst looking for food. James' excitement in that moment was intoxicating....

I will miss James immensely, and his influence on me will not be forgotten. James helped remind me that my love for the Range of Light will never stop growing. My deepest condolences to Rose, Bay, Ansel and Kay. Thank you so much, James."

This tribute was added by roy wetzel on 18th July 2015

"The friendship that developed with James soon after arriving at Berkeley in 1969 is a precious standout experience of my life.  Having arrived from New Jersey without words such as backpack or taco in my vocabulary, James nonetheless shared his unreserved friendship which opened the door to having a life abundant with hiking, climbing and birding.  Moreover, he introduced me to many warm and caring people.  James’ varied successes, whether personal, business, philanthropic or other, result in part due to his caring values and innate wisdom about what is important in life, and reflect the best of humankind.    James - Thank You for All"

This tribute was added by Robin Barrett on 18th July 2015

"We enjoyed James dropping into our business and we enjoyed dropping into Eastside Sports as well.  For the past 10 years I have dropped his Inyo Register to him and his wife, being the paper delivery person for that area.  I will continue to remember him as I drive by and feel the loss.  My condolences to Kay.  His love for her was very evident."

This tribute was added by Lynn Peterson on 18th July 2015

"I wanted to share this with everyone.
Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans
Denim blue fading up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will
You know they never will
And the patches make the goodbye harder still
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
There'll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you?
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven?
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
You know you never will
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still
Will you carry the words of love with you?
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You're only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?

This tribute was added by Gary Nelson on 18th July 2015

"Back in '81, I was a Helitack Crewman at Independence. When we weren't careening through the Sierra in well-used helicopters we would head into Bishop in search of burritos, beer, and gear, inevitably ending up at Wheeler and Wilsons. I thought that James was the coolest guy. He had hiked the trails, done the climbs and got to live in this outrageous place by selling us the gear we wanted. After I started working with the Mono Lake Committee I began to get the bigger picture about James. I saw how much time and effort he devoted towards conservation efforts in Inyo and Mono Counties. While many need diplomas or certificates to chronicle their accomplishments, James would need a satellite photo, because his efforts really helped change the face of the earth... for the better. Deb and I send our respects and most heartfelt condolences to Kay and Rose."

This tribute was added by Bill Lefever on 18th July 2015

"I have, and always will have, a tremendous amount of respect for James Wilson, as a person and as a business person.  I will truly miss hearing his stories of birding not only in the Eastern Sierra but far flung places.  You will be greatly missed James. RIP"

This tribute was added by Mike Gable on 17th July 2015

"I got to hang with James on cleanup duty at the soup kitchen over the last couple of years.  He’d say things like “man, I love doing dishes…there’s always a tangible end product”.  It made me realize that people like him who consistently involve themselves in their community through various modes of service (Friends of the Inyo, Rotary, Machik, Mammoth Medical Missions, etc., etc., etc.) have to have this realization that most of the time there are no shiny goal end products to what you’re doing.  Most of the time you don’t know how it’s going to work out…if the kitchen is going to be clean by the end of the day.  Once you decide that something is worth it, the fact that it’s going to be easy or hard no longer matters…you dive in and take one dish at a time.
Then he’d talk about his trips with Kay and their friends or how psyched he was to see Rose, Bay, and Ansel or about these obscure climbs he’d put up and adventures he’d had with the old-schoolers.  There seemed to be such a beautiful balance to his life.  Business, service, family, friends, community, humor, presence.  My wife says he was a “quiet, gentle force”.  I like that…a quiet, gentle force of inspiration against apathy and monotony."

This tribute was added by Dan Connor on 17th July 2015

"James was a giant in our community.  A leader - solid and reliable.  He could talk when he wanted but was always ready to listen.  He was soft spoken and respectful.  His opponents were as lucky to be dealing with him as his friends were to be represented by him.  We are so blessed to have had him for as long as we did."

This tribute was added by Inyo Council on 17th July 2015

"The board and staff at Inyo Council of the Arts are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of James Wilson.  Our hearts go out to Kay, Rose, Bayard, Ansel, and all of those who were touched by James.  In addition to James’ love for wild places and the Eastern Sierra, he was also a champion of music and art.  James and Kay brought the Banff Film Festival to Bishop 20+ years ago as a fundraiser for the Millpond Music Festival.  We don’t know if Millpond would be celebrating its 24th year without their efforts.  We were proud to dedicate the 2007 Millpond Festival to James and Kay.  In addition to the many thousands of dollars donated over the years, James shared our passion for bringing world class music and film to our remote area that he loved so much.  James loved that his support brought performers from around the world to all of our local schools to share their art and cultures with Inyo County students.  His easy approach to life, love for his family and community, and generous spirit inspire us all.  His impact on the Arts Council, and the entire Eastern Sierra is immeasurable.  Thank you Mr. Wilson, we love and will miss you immensely."

This tribute was added by Don Lauria on 17th July 2015

"Undoubtedly the nicest person I've ever known. A gracious, thoughtful, and compassionate example of what we all should aspire to."

This tribute was added by Bruce Licher on 17th July 2015

"I will truly miss getting to know James better.  His dry wit and obvious love for Kay made the room brighter each time I saw him.  Much love to a wonderful man, Kay, and family."

This tribute was added by LeeAnn Rasmuson on 17th July 2015

"James lived life with purpose, passion and love.  I always had the utmost respect for all he accomplished as a business owner, a protector of the environment, a supporter of the community, a Rotarian and besides being an avid birder, rock climber and hiker he was a darn good ballroom dancer.  The world lost an incredible human being.  Thank you James for all you did."

This tribute was added by Christine Eyer on 17th July 2015

"I remember running into James at a yard sale at which there were hundreds of books for sale.  James looked like a kid in a candy store as the pile of books in his arms stacked higher and higher until it covered his face and he finally had to start a pile on the floor."

This tribute was added by Linda Emerson on 17th July 2015

"Thank you, James, for your enduring friendship, kindness and generosity.  Thank you for all you did to preserve and protect our beloved Eastern Sierra.  Thank you for inspiring me.  

Farewell, my friend.  I will miss you so much."

This tribute was added by christine kozoski on 17th July 2015

"I didn't see James that much but was always delighted when I did. I am sorry he died so young. No one said life was fair but this stinks."

This tribute was added by Lynn Peterson on 17th July 2015

"It was always so obvious to me how much James loved everyday in every way and greeted the world with a wonderful sense of humor, awe, never-ending curiosity and respect. He loved his family first and foremost. What a void this community will face.... Friends of the Inyo, ESLT, Banff, ICA, Audubon and so on. Fly Free, Fly Like a Bird."

This tribute was added by Debbe Eilts on 17th July 2015

"I will remember the smile and the twinkle in his eyes when James told me that he was going to be a Grandpa! James has touched so many people throughout the years. Thank you James, you will always be a great part of this amazing place that you love."

This tribute was added by Margy Verba on 17th July 2015

"James, I am sending you so much gratitude...for what you contributed to my life personally (I am one of the many who considers you both a friend and mentor), to the community of the Eastern Sierra, and to the wild places for which you worked so tirelessly. You leave a HUGE mark as well as a HUGE hole. I feel so blessed to have shared time with you adventuring in the great outdoors, attending many FOI meetings, as well as the generous time you spent mentoring me as a business owner. Tearfully: thank you, miss you."

This tribute was added by Norma Booth on 17th July 2015

"Many years ago, I asked about when the store was open. His response still makes me smile.
With a twinkle if his eye, he said, "Nine to nine, nine days a week.""

This tribute was added by Dean Rosnau on 17th July 2015

"James was such a driving force for our east side environment, advocating on behalf of the wilderness he so loved. He leaves behind a legacy that all of us are better for....as well as a huge hole in our hearts. Forever Missed...indeed. Journey on, James...."

This tribute was added by Steve Jan on 17th July 2015

"More than any person I have ever known James lived the philosophy of Aldo Leopold's land ethic.  His passing has left a huge hole in my life."

This tribute was added by kay ogden on 17th July 2015

"James was a true Champion for the Eastern Sierra. His passing will be deeply mourned by many, for a long, long time.
James helped me prep for a year-long trip, and I'll never forget his wisdom, sparkling eyes, humor and live for his family. Blessings on this next journey...."

This tribute was added by Gretchen Schumacher on 17th July 2015


This tribute was added by Sharon Connor on 17th July 2015

"I first met James in Wheeler's Boot Repair--a dark little hole in the wall, but the guys behind the counter had big smiles on their faces which kind of lit up the place.  Dan and I and my dog Luke had the pleasure of sharing a little backpacking trip in to the Whites (Cottonwood Canyon) with James, and a hike up Grouse Mountain one winter.  I know there are photos of those trips, but they're in the form of slides in a box somewhere--and forever in our hearts.  Bishop won't be the same community without him.  It's a profound loss.  We were lucky to have him for many good years."

This tribute was added by Ian Bell on 17th July 2015

"I'm not a believer in reincarnation, but when I heard of James' passing this morning, I thought instantly about a lone white pelican for some reason. Driving out towards rocking K a couple hours later this morning, I saw a flock of of them soaring in the sky high ahead, winking in and out of sight in the morning sun. A coincidence, surely, but it helped me grapple with the loss of a man who I admired greatly, imagining him like the birds, migrating onwards."

This tribute was added by Sharon Martinson on 16th July 2015

"James was on the board of directors for the Friends of the Inyo, and I first recall meeting him when I interviewed for a job there. He was clearly such a strong advocate for the environment and the places that he (and we all) loved, and put action to his passions. We also played music in Bishop in front of his store, one of the very first times we performed out in public. He was a real supporter of community."

This tribute was added by Kelley Doyle on 16th July 2015

"James always had the sparkle of a child in his eyes~ Like he had some mischief or secret held inside~ The last time I saw him was at the gorge~ it was a while ago and he was reminding me that every time he did yoga he thought of me~ and this made me smile~ I can't help but reflect on how his youth and adventurous spirit always managed to be transparent~ as if he was living all of his adventures in each moment collectively~ his bright spirit shining~

I worked for James for 2 years at Wilson's when I became a single mom 14 years ago~ I was so grateful~ he encouraged me to open my first yoga studio and even brought me to the rotary one day on our lunch break (not exactly the place I would usually find myself!) to help me gain a broader audience~ I will never forget as we sat there, our nation on the edge of entering into war and I was beginning to speak about how clearly this was not a good idea~ he leaned over and whispered discretely "by the way, most of the people in this room are in support of the war" I just nodded and finished my sentence in a whisper and sat back until I offered my presentation~

I had a vision of my dad and James at Kava, laughing, my dad behind the register and James at the counter~both with that same sparkle like children in their eyes~ They are together now~ and I am living the sweet Beatles quote~ "And in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make"

Sending love, light & peace all ways~"

This tribute was added by Kathryn Erickson on 16th July 2015

"Such a remarkable man; he will be sorely missed forever"

This tribute was added by Skandar Reid on 16th July 2015

"I had to deliver a video I had made to James/Kay mid-morning a couple of weeks ago at their house. They had this beautiful glow about themselves, having interrupted them practicing ballroom dancing at 10 am in the morning....Simply precious, pure love . His leadership in our community was and still is like that of the Bristlecone tree, strong yet gentle, forever  still....."

This tribute was added by Mary Newton on 16th July 2015

"I will truly miss James....the thing I loved most about him was his true love for Kay, Rosanne, Bayard, and Ansel. He always spoke of them with such sincerity!"

This tribute was added by Jim Wilson on 16th July 2015

"When I moved down to Bishop from Mammoth, I became the third James Wilson in town. We would routinely bring each other mail we had mistakenly received. I'll miss you, James."

This tribute was added by Pat Jack Labo-Crowther on 16th July 2015

"I will miss talking about birds, books, plants , and the Lakers with James.
Jack Crowther"

This tribute was added by Sydney Quinn on 16th July 2015

"James sent me a card when my best friend passed last year. It says:

"We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake.  How I wish we could make time stand still....""

This tribute was added by Chris Lombardo on 16th July 2015

"I worked for James & Rick (and later just James when the shop became Wilson's Eastside Sports) for a few years in Bishop. James was such a pleasure to work for. He inspired a strong work ethic and earned loyalty and respect without ever raising his voice. He was quiet and gentle, but every once in awhile you could see sparks from the strong fire within that fueled his passions for adventure, the environment, business and so much more. He was one of the few people that showed me, through fine example, how to walk through life, and how actions and deeds speak so much louder than words and bombast. I truly regret that I was never able to tell him that."

This tribute was added by Todd Vogel on 16th July 2015

"He just loved being outdoors, climbing, skiing, road bicycling, and especially birding. Birding with him sometimes was like going to Disneyland with a small child. We’d see some cool bird and he’d start going off “oh oh oh oh my god it’s a Caspian Tern!” “oh oh oh! Todd! Todd! Get on this bird I think it’s a Barrow’s Goldeneye!!!”."

This tribute was added by Todd Vogel on 16th July 2015

"I remember – I think it was his fortieth birthday or thereabouts. I had to climb the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney, which I had never done before but had to guide the next week. Somehow I convinced James that he and I should go do it in a day, car to car. We did it but at his birthday party neither of us could walk down stairs because our legs were so sore."

This tribute was added by Tricia Lew on 16th July 2015

"James was always so kind to my family. Our son thought of himself as James' personal helper during the raffle at Banff - a small job that gave our boy a lot of confidence and pride.

James gave me a hug on my first hike after I got two new hips. It was so generous and so human. I was really touched by and so grateful for that interaction.

His love for Kay, Roseanne, family, and the Valley was wonderful to behold.

We will miss his gentle spirit."

This tribute was added by Brian Stange on 16th July 2015

"I enjoyed knowing James for most of my life. I thought of him as a role model for aspiring business people, conservationists and those who love all things wild and natural. A typical conversation likely included economics, fishing (known passion of mine), knives, finely crafted objects, coin collecting, travel, recent bird sightings, kids, planned hikes, and some wry humor jokes mixed in."

This tribute was added by Pat Jack Labo-Crowther on 16th July 2015

"My favor moment in James' life, several Plein Artist were having dinner with Kay at the Seasons in Lone Pine. When James came quietly across the floor and placed his arms around Kay and kissed her sweetly on her head. I will always remember this action of love.
Pat Crowther"

This tribute was added by Denise Waterbury on 16th July 2015

"“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”- Buddha

James lived wisely, dedicated to what he believed in, sharing what he believed in and living a life he believed in. His humorous, feisty, curious, and compassionate character will live on vicariously through all of those who were lucky enough to know him. Although he is gone, his spirit will always be here, in the places he loved and shared."

Leave a Tribute:
Invite your family and friends
to visit this memorial:

Subscribe to receive e-mail notifications when others contribute to this memorial.

This memorial is administered by:

Barbara Kelley
Chris Howard


Have a suggestion for us?

We are waiting for your feedback!