James Gander of East Grand Forks, MN, passed away at home on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at the age of 91.
James was born April 3, 1925, to Frank and Ethel (Hoffman) Gander, deep in the spring green hills near Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. The youngest of five brothers, Jim attended the North Clayton Methodist Church, a one-room school and worked the family dairy farm until he was a teen, when he began working part-time as a mechanic.
At seventeen, Jim joined the Navy where he served from 1942-1946. He was a member of a naval flight crew where he was navigator, photographer, and tail gunner in the South Pacific during WWII off the aircraft carrier USS Fanshaw Bay. Later, he taught aviation mechanics in Chicago, IL.
On June 16, 1946 he married Phyllis Windahl in Viking, MN. They would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this summer.
The couple started their family while living near Madison, WI where Jim worked as an automotive mechanic. They later moved to Fargo-Moorhead and finally East Grand Forks in 1958, where Phyllis and Jim completed their family of seven children and Jim worked in auto sales and repair. Finally, Jim and Roger Nienas opened Champion Tune-up and Auto Repair on North 3rd Street in Grand Forks, ND. Their business has thrived for years and continues on under ownership by their longtime associate Jim Johnson.
Jim’s many late nights working on cars and snowmobiles forged lifelong friendships and resulted in record runs at the Bonneville Salt Flats and the International 500 Winnipeg to St. Paul snowmobile race with the Simonson family. Jim was also active in racing at the Grand Forks Speedway, building engines and working in the pits for Gordy Hanson, Don Mack’s family and several other local racers for many years.
Jim served as Alderman on the East Grand Forks City Council for twenty-two years, serving as its President the majority of those years.
His garden was his pride and joy, producing enough to feed his family and anyone who dropped by. Together, he and Phyllis grew and put up the best food to last through the winter.
As an avid outdoorsman, Jim loved to hunt and fish. With the Ristaus, Linds, Sorensons, and the whole gang, he participated in every Newfolden deer hunt and Lake of the Woods fishing opener of the last 50+ years including 2015. And he loved going to the farm near Newfolden to “work” or to do whatever else needed to be done.
Upon his retirement from Champion Tune-up, Jim grew restless, being used to hard work as his way of life. He went on to work for his son, Dr. Steve Gander at Opticare where he performed eyeglass lens finishing. He said it was a lot like grinding valves. He was their all-around fix-it guy and resident jokester.
Jim was also a great story-teller and could recall tales from the war, his childhood and converse on most any subject. We never figured out how he knew so much.
Jim’s devotion to his wife, Phyllis, was evident to all who knew them as a couple. From the affectionate cuddling of their younger years, to the love and respect we witnessed in their later years, they were role models for us all. In some of his candid moments, Dad was known to admit that he was lonely when Mom went to visit her sisters. Through everything, Jim always kept his wry sense of humor, as well as his curiosity and quiet love of life. He has earned our greatest respect and we will miss him terribly.
Jim is survived by his loving wife Phyllis (Windahl) Gander, East Grand Forks; Larry (Schela) Gander, Portland, ND; Patricia (Terry) Rich, Boise, ID; Bruce Gander, Apple Valley; Cindi (Jeff) Olson, Blaine, MN; Becky (Bassam) Banat, Lakeville, MN; Diana (Jay) Ostrander, Andover, MN; and Steve (Ros) Gander, East Grand Forks, MN. He is also survived by eighteen grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents and by his brothers Winston, Milton, Arthur and Melvern Gander.
Pallbearers for his funeral are his 10 grandsons. Honorary pallbearers are all of his hunting and fishing buddies.
Memorials can be sent to Christ the King Lutheran Church, East Grand Forks, MN.
Funeral Service: 10:30 AM on Saturday, April 23, 2016 in Christ the King Free Lutheran Church, 1913 3rd Ave. NW, East Grand Forks, MN.
Visitation: 5:00 to 7:00 with a 6:30 PM Prayer Service on Friday, April 22, 2016 in Dahl Funeral Home, 2029 Central Ave. NW, East Grand Forks, MN.
Interment: Bethesda Cemetery ~ Newfolden, MN
Graveside Service: 1:30 PM on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at Bethesda Cemetery, Newfolden, MN.
Online Guestbook: www.dandahlfuneralhome.com
Arrangements By: Dahl Funeral Home ~ East Grand Forks, Minnesota