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James "Jim" Wilkinson '67 November 10, 2020 4:37 PM updated: November 11, 2020 9:11 AM

James Craig Wilkinson
July 11, 1945 ~ October 23, 2020 (age 75)

In Loving Memory of James Craig Wilkinson

On July 11, 1945, Jim came into this world at 6:36 a.m. as the first-born child of James Curtis and Patricia Geraldene (Presnall) Wilkinson in Chicago, Illinois. His family and he moved to Texas when he was a baby. He died October 23, 2020, at home, in Grand Junction, Colorado, at age 75.

Jim graduated from Kenedy High School in 1963. On a full scholarship, he attended Texas A&M University, graduating in 1967, with a major in Geology. Like his father, he joined the Navy, but Jim had the aspiration of becoming a Naval Aviator. He was one of the chosen few (only the top one percent of Navy pilots are permitted to train in the program, and not all of them graduate) to be part of an accelerated learning Fighter Weapons School at the Naval Air Station at Miramar, California, later to become known as TOPGUN School. He also trained at Fallon, Nevada. He realized his dream when he graduated after his landings on the USS Independence, flying the A-7 jet, as well as F-9's & T-2's. When stationed in Beeville, TX, he would buzz his parents' house. Jim was extremely proud of his TOPGUN training and even though he did not fly jets after leaving the military, he kept his flying license and flew many weekends while working in Alaska. In later years, he did his flying on the simulator, landing jets on the aircraft carriers, too.

After his military stint, he began working for the Bureau of Land Management as a Geologist, working in Arizona, Alaska, Montana and Colorado. He retired after more than 36 years of service, with additional titles of 'Certified Mineral Examiner' and 'Certified Review Mineral Examiner.'

He married Sharon E. Garman in 1972 and together had two children: Heather Lynn Wilkinson of Glenwood Springs, and Sean James Patrick Wilkinson of Grand Junction. Jim has one granddaughter: Stella Rayanne Wilkinson, one brother, Rick Wilkinson of Highland Village, Texas, and nieces, nephews and cousins. Jim was preceded in death by his parents.

Jim met Kathleen Chapman in 1997.

This is an excerpt from Jim and Kathleen's written love story, "Destiny," the beginning mostly penned by Jim, and in the format he penned it.

1997

Destiny: It was a dark (but not stormy) night, Wednesday, Jun 04, 1997, about 9:00pm. J first met K at the Rose and asked her "Do you Cha Cha?" "Yes, I do." "I'll be back." K was sitting with David and Vonnie but they left early. Just as K was ready to go sit with some ladies, J, who was coming "back," appeared and asked, "You aren't leaving are you?" "No, I was going to find someone else to sit with." "If you would like, I'll sit with you." "OK." And then they talked and danced a lot. Of course, she was really not herself that evening, as she was somewhat ‘overwhelmed’ with the 25 ‘named’ dance steps he was trying to show her all at once.

J was going to Shabby's in Rifle Saturday night, so he asked K if she would consider coming Friday to dance, in spite of her obvious disdain for the Friday night crazies. However, she was apparently so in awe of him that she didn't understand a single word he was saying or she would have mentioned that she already had made plans for that night. He then asked for her phone number, however they settled on him giving her his instead, because she was being coy and hard to get. The next day J had lunch with Dave L and he told him all about K. In the conversation J said, “I could marry that girl.” Dave was noticeably worried that J had lost his senses.

Friday rolls around, K doesn't show up at the Rose, so, disgruntled, J danced with another lady all night. J had lunch with Dave L the next Monday and said he guessed the girl that he thought was "of his dreams" was apparently not to be at that time.

Wed, Jun 11: Wednesday is Ladies Night at the Rose. K's sister, Kelly, was coming into town so K planned on them going to the Rose. K perceived J's request above was to call him the next time she was going to the Rose. She knew the phone number J gave her was his work voice mail so she called at 7:00 a.m. just to leave a message. "Hi Jim, this is Kathleen. I am the one you met last Wednesday at the Rose. You asked me to call you the next time I was going to the Rose (her impression) - I'll be going tonight so maybe I'll see you there." However, subjected to intense peer pressure that day, by that evening, K had another date for the Rose (Skpr). When she saw J, K introduced Kelly to him and invited him to sit at their table. However, J felt K was just rounding up people to sit/dance together, so declined. J had not heard K's phone message yet. Somewhere along the line, J had the impression that K was with Skpr, so he just left the area, mostly dancing with another lady or generally fighting off the other women waiting to dance with him.

Thurs, Jun 12: J listened to K's voice mail about 8:00 am (and was noticeably bewildered). K waited until she knew J was probably in his office then called at about 10:00 am. She apologized for having made the confusing phone call the day before. At the time she made it, she did not realize that she would be on a date by that night. "I wouldn't do that." Being a gentleman, J eventually accepted her apology and said, “Well, thanks, I'm glad you called." Encouraged, before the conversation was over, K then asked J if he'd consider being her dance partner and take ballroom dance lessons for 6 weeks beginning the next Wednesday. Coyly, he hesitated for a short while, {paused for effect, he later said}, then said (to her surprise), "I'd love to." Before composing herself, she squealed with noticeable delight, "you will?" At lunch with Dave L the next day, J said, "the girl of his dreams" was back.

From the time Jim and Kathleen took the ballroom dance lessons, they were inseparable.

First Kiss: Fri., Jul 18: It is now after midnight, making it the 18th of July. After driving to the Blue Angel, J & K talked briefly. K was in awe of J flying such jets and said, "To think that I know a real person who flew these things!" J didn't want to sound proud or boastful so said, "You could fly one, too." After a short period of silence, J tenderly caressed K's face with both of his hands and gently kissed K on the lips with a long, soft kiss, then hugged her. K's tummy did another flip. She was so happy, so ecstatic, so wonderfully joyful.

Fri, July 25: Destiny. This is the 23rd day that J & K have seen each other. In the evening they went to the Rose. While they were dancing, J asked K, "Will you be my dance partner for the next 50 years?" She paused a moment thinking that this was a figure of speech and that he wanted someone who was a "princess" of a dancer to be his regular partner, then she said "Sure." After dancing and on their way to K's house, J was playing an Anne Murray song "Could I Have This Dance For the Rest of My Life?" While he was driving he was singing that song and looking at K a number of times. After it was over and as they sat in the car in front of her house, J asked K, "May I have this dance for the rest of my life?" K knew he was serious this time. There's definitely more to this than dancing. She did not hesitate very long and said, "Yes!" They went inside. As the evening went on and as they talked about a number of things, J asked K outright, "Will you marry me?" K was so excited she immediately said, "Yes, I will!" with great enthusiasm.

They married on September 12, 1998, at the Palisade Veteran's Memorial Center and, of course, there was much dancing at the reception. Jim choreographed their opening waltz to "Could I Have This Dance For The Rest Of My Life?" ending the dance with a bow and him kissing her hand. The next four dances were 2-Step, 3-Step, Cowboy Cha-Cha, and West Coat Swing, with attendee participation, so that Jim could show off his new bride and all the dance steps they knew.

Jim was a great teacher of dance and of golf. He was patient, kind and understanding. He loved to see others enjoy his two favorite activities. 1) He would help them learn dance moves and invite them to join him and Kathleen to various places to dance. 2) And he helped others learn how to swing a golf club and golf together. He told Kathleen early on during a golf lesson, "If your swing isn't accurate, you need to at least look good."

After several years of marriage to Kathleen, Jim rekindled his love for music and began singing again. He brought out his microphone and amplifier and Kathleen was still in awe of his voice that sounded like Elvis. Sean gave Jim the gift of a Karaoke program for his computer. Through golf, they found a lady, Melody, who was a Sweet Adeline so invited her and her husband, Larry, to sing at their house. They sang every week for a couple years, until that couple moved to Florida.

Shortly before that couple left, Jim and Kathleen met Ken and Carla when they came to the door delivering a tomato plant from their financial advisor, Ryan. While at the door Jim asked, "Do you sing?" Carla said, "He does." Well, they both sang and very well; thus, another chapter began of singing every week, until that couple moved to Longmont. By then, Jim had been losing his voice slowly to Parkinson's so their leaving was timed as it should have been.

Last Kiss: Oct. 19, 2020, Parkinson's and dementia had taken it toll on Jim's life. Kathleen was getting help from caregivers getting him into the shower. She was in with him and said, "See Babe, I'm helping you have privacy with this apron and I'm the one giving you the shower, I'm taking good care of you, because I love you." He understood and puckered his lips for a kiss.

Cremation has taken place. His immediate family gathered under the Blue Angel Jet for a remembrance. Internment of his ashes "With Honors" will take place in April at the VA Cemetery. A short obituary will be published at that time with details.




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