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James “Jim” Joseph McDonald

July 18, 2019 | 7 comments

James “Jim” Joseph McDonald died at his home on Friday, July 12, 2019.  He was born March 25, 1953 in Wisconsin Rapids to James Joseph McDonald and Mary Jean (Dolan) Stimack.  He attended Catholic school through 8thgrade and then graduated from Lincoln High School in 1971.

Jim had a passion for all things winter.  In Wisconsin Rapids he was part of the Tri-Norse Ski Club where he began his ski jumping career as a very young boy. Jim often referred to himself as the “peanut butter and jelly” crew because he had no official sponsors and had to make do the “old school”way: hard work. He continued to hone his ski jumping talent when he moved to Westby, WI. and lived next door to the Snowflake Ski Club jump. Jim travelled to all parts of the country to compete and was successful on the circuit.  After retiring from competition, Jim worked around southwest Wisconsin in construction. He loved and respected the people of Vernon County.

Jim’s other passion was music.  As a young man, Jim lived for a time in Memphis, Tennessee.  He and his father would often frequent Beale Street and had an opportunity to see firsthand the rebirthing of the historic area’s musical talent. Back home, Jim rarely missed an evening to strum his own guitar. He found great joy and inspiration in all kinds of music. He was especially drawn to what he referred to as back porch music like bluegrass and country.

In his early 30s, Jim began to explore his cultural heritage.  Jim’s indigenous name is Towodi” (Spirit Hawk) of the Tsalagi tribe (Cherokee) He participated in many Sundance ceremonies and embraced the traditional way of prayer the elders taught him.  Jim was blessed to have many elders who worked with him to lead a principled, traditional Native American life of prayer. Gratitude goes out to all who assisted Jim in this journey, especially to his elder, Nowitchigeezhic (Joe Buck, Sr.); his Cherokee friend, Palakohteh (Michael Morris); and all of his inipi (sweatlodge) brothers and sisters.

In 1995 Jim started his 20-year successful career as ski patrol and instructor at Christmas Mountain Village in Wisconsin Dells. He really enjoyed teaching literally thousands of young people to love skiing and was devoted to his career.  He also worked at Parson’s Indian Trading Post in Wisconsin Dells.

Shortly before he retired, he met and married Jamie Pinski and moved to their cabin on the hillside. Jim loved nothing better than to work with Jamie to build on and improve his and Jamie’s homestead in the woods.  They enjoyed simple living and took great joy in nature’s wonders.  Jim was also a great story teller.  He would always tell anyone—whether he knew them well or not—to stop in for a cup of coffee.  He always made time for phone calls from his sisters or his friends.  Retirement also allowed Jim to volunteer with the Westby Snowflake Ski Club. An 1800s era cross-stitch sampler hanging on their wall embodies Jim’s kind and gentle heart.  It reads, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Jim is survived by his wife, Jamie Pinski and her sons Andrew, Troy (Jen), Jordan (Sarah); his dog, Little Thunder; his father-in-law, Bob Huff; mother-in-law, Marilyn Nieckarz; two beloved sisters, Jeanne (Wayne) Smith,  Amy McDonald (Robert) Lazzel; and his many adored nieces and nephews; his extended family who welcomed him with open arms, LP Pinski;  Jill (Tom) Schee; Lynn (Peter) Sullivan; and numerous friends who held Jim in their hearts as a brother and friend for a lifetime; Angie (Paul) Screnock; Bobby (Donna) Blackburn; Paul (Mary) Thiemen; Doug (Smitty) Smith.

Jim is preceded in death by his parents James Joseph McDonald and Mary Jean (Dolan) Stimack; and his brother, Terry James McDonald. As Jim always said, “As above, so below.”

You will always dance in our hearts, Jim. Now it is time for you to soar like Wohali (the eagle).

Please mark your calendars and join us in a celebration of Jim’s life on Saturday, September 21stfrom 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the Vernon County Renz-Memorial Park in Esofea.  If you are inclined, a scholarship fund is being established in Jim’s name for youth around the Westby area who would like to try ski jumping.



  1. Randy J. Lunde

    So sorry to see this! Jim and I lived together for a time in Westby. The jumps are always in perfect condition and the wind is perfect where you are now!

  2. Trygve Thompson

    Jim & I worked together at Snowflake when he lived in the house next door to the club house. Always hi Tryg when I saw him while digging for his homemade cigarette. He was a good friend and I will miss him.

  3. Cindy Schini

    Such a loss for our Westby ski jumping community. Jim was Augie’s biggest supporter and mentor! He always had positive feedback to share. Hugs to you Jim! (And you too my dear friend Jamie)

  4. "LP" Pinski

    We will all miss this guy. He brought a new light to our lives. I’m sure he will continue to watch over our “Farm”.

  5. Jill and Tom Schee

    We will miss you Jim. You were such a strong friend and member of our family. Always there to help when anyone needed it and always kind words. May you soar with the eagles.

    • Tony Benzie

      So sorry for your loss, Jim always was at the jumps when I was around in Westby as a young jumper and as a masters competitor. He will be missed be all that knew him.

  6. Tina Wackerlin

    So sorry for your loss, my prayers to Jim’s entire family. Our family met Jim at Christmas Mountain. Jim taught all three of my kids how to ski at a very young age of 2.5 years old! He was a wonderful guy with lots of love for skiing and tons of patience for kids. Every year we went to CMV for 6 weeks and Jim was always the first person my kids went back to see right away and to say hello to him! Jim will be greatly missed. The Wackerlin Family

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